Robson de Souza, better known as Robinho, was sentenced last week by Italian justice to nine years in prison for gang rape. In Brazil, the public will not forgive him. If he is not yet behind bars, the former great hope of Brazilian football has already been ostracized from society. Journey of a criminal, former footballer.
Should we erase, like a defilement, the traces of its passage? In Santos, his training club, Robinho is present everywhere: from Memorial of Achievements, a kind of club trophy museum, to the team’s locker room, the former star even gave his name to one of the training center pitches. Today, some supporters are asking to remove any reference, not wanting to associate their club with Robinho, a criminal. Other fans explain that we must keep the name, and add an explanatory plaque above it with these words: “A shame for football. »
“No one has ever dared ‘the new Pelé’, but the youngster, coming out of Santos, who is technical, fast, the similarities were there. » Luciano Ribeiro, journalist for Expresso Popular at the time
Robson becomes Robinho
If the player is present at this point in the history of Santos, it is also a will of the supporters. Because before descending into hell on his own, Robson de Souza had been extolled. He had become Robinho, one evening in December 2002, an evening in the championship final where he had shone. A goal, a decisive pass, dribbling galore, he offered Santos FC a title that had eluded him for 18 years, his age. “He was not considered the crack of the team, it was Diego, but there, overnight, we spoke of Robinho as one of the best players in the country” , says Alex Sabino, journalist for the Newspaper, already a follower of Santos in 2002. “At that time, Brazil had just won the World Cup, and the general discourse was that a very talented generation was coming to take over, Robinho became the symbol of that” , adds Luciano Ribeiro, another follower, of the newspaper Popular Express at the time.
Coming from an ultra-poor neighborhood, from futsal, he is simple, popular, spectacular. The fans love him, we compare him to the best dribblers in the history of the country: Garrincha, for example. “No one has ever dared to ‘the new Pelé’, but the youngster, coming out of Santos, who is technical, fast, the similarities were there” , recalls Luciano Ribeiro. In the following years, Robinho confirms, in Selection like Santos, who continues to win: he becomes the idol. “In life, he only wanted to have fun, he loved playing football, but with the money, he discovered outings, he went on to win” , says Alex Sabino. The followers find a childish side to him, not serious. Fans loved him, then hated him when he went on strike to force his departure from Real Madrid in 2005.
“He was not focused on alcohol, but rather on women. For me, he never had a solid structure, be it family, education, he was not taught anything, neither football nor fame. » Alex Sabino, journalist for Folha de São Paulo
“The One Who Didn’t Make It”
When he leaves, he declares that he wants to become the best player in the world. “Quickly, we saw that something was missing. Maybe not in the field, but in the serious, professional, obsessive side” , analyzes Luciano Ribeiro. It does not impose itself in the long term either at Real or in the national team. “He gradually becomes in people’s minds ‘the one who didn’t make it’, he should have become much more than he was” , adds Alex Sabino. Leaving Madrid for Manchester City, Robson hopes to get back on track for success, but he is floundering. A woman accuses him of rape one night at a nightclub in Leeds. The case, revealed by the tabloids, is closed without further action. Robinho denies.
At home, he is not yet an outcast, but history confirms the reasons for the failure. “He was going out too much for the high level, note Luciano Ribeiro. He always liked to have fun. At first he only liked football, then with the money he found other hobbies. He did not have the necessary seriousness of those who made history at that time, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi. » After a successful 2010 World Cup on an individual level, but missed collectively (elimination in the quarters), Robinho is still not the announced crack. Rumors about his unsavory entourage spread. “He had bad company, assure Alex Sabino. He was not focused on alcohol, but rather on women. For me, he never had a solid structure, be it family, education, he was not taught anything, neither football nor fame. » Robinho ruins his own career, very little compared to what he is about to do. He transferred to AC Milan in 2010.
From footballer to criminal
In Italy, on the ground, he alternates between excellent and average. Then, like everywhere else, it slowly fades away. In the country, the advent of Neymar has already taken place, Robinho has long since lost his label of “future” of the Selection. “The fans speak of it as a waste” , sums up Luciano Ribeiro, now in the daily edition of the São Paulo newspaper. The player left Milan in 2013. The following year, the Courier of sport the information comes out: Robinho and four other Brazilians are being investigated for gang rape, at dawn on January 22, 2013, at the exit of the Sio Cafe, a nightclub. In 2017, he was sentenced at first instance to nine years in prison. During the confirmation of the sentence in the Court of Appeal, in 2020, the immense Brazilian media Globo Sport reveals the transcription of a telephone recording, a key piece of the trial. The entire country can read on its screens the sentence spoken by the player: “The girl was totally drunk, she doesn’t even know what happened. »
In the first instance, he had spoken of a consensual relationship. Robinho became Robson de Souza again. If the leaders of clubs not really embarrassed by morals had continued to give work to the player after 2017 (Sivasspor, Başakşehir), the revelations of Globo end up pushing the player into public opinion. “From the moment we were certain that he would be sentenced, that he would go to prison, his career ended” , summarizes Alex Sabino. Santos, however, signs a 5-month lease with his former crack, in the fall of 2020. Faced with threats from groups of supporters, the contract with the player is broken. The final conviction last week by the Court of Cassation in Italy brings the subject back to the center of conversations among Santos supporters. Delete it so as not to glorify rapists. Or keep track to give lessons to those who will follow? “All I know is that it’s sad. He must pay for his crime. Nobody hopes to see his idol become a criminal. » Despite the three convictions, Robinho has always denied the crime he was found guilty of, refusing to apologize to the victim.
The sentence pronounced at first instance against Robinho and his friend Ricardo Falco, nine years in prison, was confirmed by the Court of Cassation in Italy. This is the highest instance, he can no longer appeal. Italy does not have an extradition agreement with Brazil. A law normally provides that a Brazilian convicted abroad serves his sentence in his country, if this crime is also punished in Brazil (which is the case for gang rape), BUT an Italian-Brazilian cooperation agreement dating from 1993 prevents this situation for the time being. According to Brazilian experts quoted by the press, the most likely is a new trial of Robinho, in Brazil, for the same facts.
By Alexandre Berthaud, in Brazil