Last Tuesday (28), the defender Flávio, who plays for Bahia, entered the pitch wearing a jersey featuring number 24. An apparently simple action, but that is still risky in the world of Brazilian soccer due to a taboo that is long updated and in need of revision.
The stigma surrounding the number was originated in the Animal Lottery, launched in 1892, which turned “24” as the number of the deer into a synonym of queer, a derogatory way to refer to homosexuality in the country. Historically, the number does not exist in men’s football in an implicit statement of segregation.
The omission also takes place in other spheres of society. In 2015, Bureau 24 seized to exist in the Senate and became number 26 without any explanation. In an environment mainly male, with low representation, the fact highlighted the institutionalization of the prejudice. With the new term in 2019, the sequence of rooms went back to the regular numeric order.
The movement led by Bahia became even stronger when received the support of Brahma Brewing Company, a long-term partner of Brazilian soccer. The brand invited other soccer teams to wear the #NumberOfRespect and some of them already accepted to join the initiative, including 4 of Brazil’s most popular teams: Botafogo, Fluminense, Santos and Flamengo.
Created by agency Africa, the action soon became trend topic in the media and transcended the soccer universe, starting a conversation about prejudice and inspiring people to break the taboo around the number 24 in Brazilian soccer.
“We started this project last year, but we kept it on the shelf until we had the right partners, the biggest soccer teams in the country, their respective players, managers, fans, national and international journalists on our side. Only then we could start a global and ambitious movement capable of raising the level of discussion that the theme requires”, Africa’s copresident and CCO, Sergio Gordilho.
The 24-jersey entered the pitch in the three matches in which Bahia participated last week. In Bahia, Flávio has already said that from now on he will always wear number 24: “The prejudice surrounding the number 24 is silly and it’s way past time it ended. We need to reverse this notion and discuss intolerance in soccer”, said the midfielder Flávio.
“This is a campaign in favor or respect for all of those who want to experience soccer without barriers. Brahma is a partner of Brazilian soccer and also of the biggest teams in the country. The brand joins Bahia in the fight to make all teams perceive this movement as the first step to end the prejudice”, said Gustavo Castro, Marketing Director at Brahma.
“Soccer is a channel that can serve to highlight the worst in our society, such as racism, aggression, violence and intolerance, but it can also play a different role: one of spreading culture, affection, sensitivity, improvement in human relationships. We believe that football teams must choose if they wish to be a channel of love or hatred. We’ve chosen love”, states Guilherme Bellintani, Bahia’s president.