Brazil 2014

Brazil's Soccer Mom Turned Top Lawyer For Stars

Gislaine Nunes, 47, is the most prominent soccer attorney in Brazil. From Pelé to Ronaldinho, she has defended many stars, and her success has earned her as much fortune as hostility.

Gislaine Nunes with Brazilian soccer legend Pele
Gislaine Nunes with Brazilian soccer legend Pele
Nicolas Bourcier

SAO PAULO — First, there is the voice: bubbly with mischief, so deep and convincing it’s easy to forget the surrounding agitation. Her cellphone, also, moving from one hand to the other. And the ashed-out jeans, so unusual for a courtroom professional.

At 47, Brazilian soccer attorney Gislaine Nunes is widely disliked among club leaders, because she succeeds in obtaining rulings against management for the players she represents. She is surprised to constantly have new cases. “If I’m here, it’s because of the incompetence of club managers,” she says. “It’s them, those idiots, those provincial and archaic leaders who created me.”

Nunes does not give in. She has represented more than one thousand players, expressing herself easily and breaking the code of silence in an industry known for its sexism and occasional brutality — two body guards escort her wherever she goes. Nunes is simultaneously confidential and explosive, but here she opens up.

Born in a poor family in the town of Bauru, in the state of Sao Paulo, she met Pelé on several occasions in her home. Then a young rising soccer star, Pelé had lived in the neighborhood for several years and became friends with the family before leaving for Santos and its soccer club.

“Together with my dad, they did guy stuff,” she says, revealing no more.

A soccer player’s wife

Nunes married her childhood sweetheart Evandro in 1988 when she was just 21 years old. He was a fullback on a team in Campinas, a university town located an hour and a half away from Sao Paulo. “His father was a bus driver, like mine,” she says. He played soccer while the young bride attended law classes, but without any precise goals. “To tell the truth, I just wanted to be a soccer player’s wife,” she recalls. “I grew up in an environment where women are there to take care of her husband and children.”

It was when Evandro injured his Achilles tendon during a match that Nunes' career was really born. He was axed from the team, which meant that no money was coming in.

When she pressed him, her husband explained that he was bound by a bizarre and unfair soccer federation rule that dictated he still belonged to the team, even though he no longer had a contract. It's essentially a property right that the clubs and sometimes agents have on the careers of the players, tying a professional to the federation until another club buys him. Such a situation can last years, or even decades, he explained.

Enslavement

The young woman couldn't believe her ears. She told him this system was tantamount to enslavement, and that she wanted to help him — but he refused. “He didn’t want me to get involved in his business,” she remembers. “Sportsmen are like that.”

Faced with financial difficulties, Evandro began selling his possessions, including a small family plot. As for the club, it occasionally loaned him to small local teams. But the situation did not improve. At that point, Nunes was pregnant. She began some research and became informed about the unfamiliar soccer world, studying the law binding her husband. She found out it was created under pressure from the clubs and passed in 1973.

“I won’t give you names, but since this date, several players have committed suicide because of it,” she says.

Nunes insisted once again that her husband let her do something, suggesting they take the case to a labor rights court “to which every employee has a right,” she told him. Evandro eventually agreed.

“Bring dignity back to their home”

She went to the players’ trade union with her father because their lawyer first refused to speak with her. “I don’t give information to soccer players’ wives,” he said. Her father joined the conversation. “It was then that the lawyer told us Evandro won the procedure, but that he now had to wait for his club to be removed from the championship.”

She took the case to a labor court in 1994, and her courtroom speech was implacable. “The Constitution says nobody should be excluded from the rules of justice, and my husband is a citizen like any other,” she told the judge. “Article 5 stipulates that the pursuit of work is free. My husband is a worker who wants to work and, still, my child and I have nothing to eat anymore. We have to ask my parents for money. This is why I am here — to point out two fundamental principles: my husband’s labor rights and my right to live. How many players go through such ordeals? I want this to stop, and no one will prevent me from doing so.”

The judge leaned towards her and told her her husband was free, that he could lead the life he wanted “in order to bring dignity back to their home.” The official verdict was given 15 days later.

“I started being known as the wife of the winger who won before a court of labor justice,” she says. The goalkeeper on Evandro’s team then asked her to handle his case, which she won. Then the players’ trade union called her to help them on their own cases, which she also won. Clients started lining up.

Demanding change

“I broke the dogma,” she says. For two years, she worked with the players’ trade union. “You can’t imagine how hard it was. I didn’t earn any money, but I did self-advertising to get new customers.”

And that's when the winds of change came blowing in. Coincidentally, a friend of her father became minister of sports. In 1998, he put an end to the law binding players with his own “Pelé law.” It allows soccer players to be free and sign contracts that do not exceed five years.

In case of a transfer during this period, clubs receive “training” compensation, limited to 200 times the monthly salary of the player. “Can you imagine, I was the first to apply this law,” Nunes says. “I had a case ready on the day the text was voted!”

In 2001, Nunes raised her profile by representing Juninho Pernambucano against the Carioca club Vasco de Gama. “I was the first to confront the powerful president Eurico Miranda,” she recalls. “I knew it was going to be difficult. In fact, as soon as I got off the plane in Rio, someone verbally insulted me.”

The player won his case, and a photograph of the lawyer standing next to the young midfielder in court made the rounds all over Brazil. Juninho then left to play for the French soccer association Olympique Lyonnais. Nunes recalls him telling her that other players needed her help. “Let them all come, I’m not scared,” she answered.

The “Iron Lady”

Three years later, Nunes opened her own legal office, where she is known as the “Iron Lady” or “Maezona” (“Mother Hen”). In addition to handling labor rights cases, her six-lawyer team also specializes in image consulting and sometimes advises players on their private lives.

“Most of the time, they come from working-class districts and are not prepared to earn so much money,” she says. “It is sometimes necessary to remind them not to sign every contract — or even to use the girls’ condoms, because they’ve planned everything.”

Experience is her weapon. “When I see the players, sometimes they remind me of my husband,” she says. In 2011, she represented the star Ronaldinho and managed to help end his contract with Flamengo.

It was just another victory. “They say I’m expensive, but I win my cases and answer day or night when someone calls me,” she says.

She puts her phone down and counts on her fingers before saying, “I’ve lost five or six cases, at most.” She ends the conversation with a smile. “Some soccer players can also be liars.”

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Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

4.9%

China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.

📈💥  IN OTHER NEWS

​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.


Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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