Football star Neymar gave his public backing to Brazil’s hard-Right president, sparking bitter exchanges with voters ahead of Sunday’s polarising election.
The Brazil and former Barcelona player, who now earns £3.4 million per month for Paris Saint Germain football club, announced his support to his 8.4 million followers on TikTok.
In the short video, Neymar can be seen dancing and singing along to Mr Bolsonaro’s campaign jingle before calling out the incumbent’s position on the ballot and encouraging voters to rally behind the far-Right leader.
Neymar’s controversial backing is a boost for Mr Bolsonaro, who has been struggling in the polls to former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula.
Known as Trump of the Tropics, Mr Bolsonaro has hinted that he may not recognise the results of the election, raising fears of violence when the results fall on Sunday evening.
Neymar’s show of support came a day after he welcomed Mr Bolsonaro at his charitable institution near Sao Paulo.
The TikTok video was met with a wave of online criticism from Brazilian voters who ridiculed the footballer. In response, Neymar hit back on Twitter, citing his right to express himself.
A Datafolha poll released on Thursday showed Lula, a Leftist who served as president from 2003 to 2010, with a 14-percentage-point lead over his far-right rival.
The survey put support for Lula at 48 per cent in the first round, compared with 34 per cent for Mr Bolsonaro – up from 47 per cent for Lula and 33 per cent for Bolsonaro a week earlier.
The two candidates traded heated blows on Thursday in a final debate before the vote.
Referring to Lula’s corruption conviction, which was later quashed, Mr Bolsonaro accused Lula of being a “liar, ex-inmate and traitor”.
Lula responded by saying: “It’s ugly for the president of the republic to blatantly lie all the time... That’s why the people are going to send you packing.”
Richard Lapper, author of Brazil In The Age of Bolsonaro, said Neymar’s endorsement stems from “desperation”.
He added: “The Bolsonaro camp is pulling all the strings they can, but in terms of public opinion, the die is already cast.”
Tom Long, Associate Professor of International relations at Warwick University, said: “There’s no doubt that football and politics are closely connected in Brazil and that Neymar is one of the country’s most recognisable public figures, but I don’t think it will affect the result of the election.
“Bolsonaro is hoping Lula won’t gain more than 50 per cent of the vote so that he can force the election to a second round.”
This is not the first time Neymar has publicly endorsed Bolsonaro. In 2018, he joined Brazilian football legends Ronaldinho, Kaka, Rivaldo and Cafu in supporting the Right-wing candidate.
The incumbent has a wealth of support among evangelical Christians. Although Neymar has previously been outspoken about his faith, he now has a clause in his contract with Paris Saint-Germain that prevents him from speaking out about any “religious or political propaganda”.
Last year, sportswear brand Nike revealed it ended its endorsement deal with the footballer after he “refused to co-operate” with an investigation into an allegation of sexual assault.