A Brazilian soccer star has sparked social media controversy after posting a photo of playfully himself kissing another man.
As Yahoo! Sports reported, Emerson Sheik (birth name: Márcio Passos de Albuquerque), who plays for the Brazilian team Corinthians, celebrated a recent victory by giving a male friend a kiss in a moment on Instagram:
Beneath the photo, the player included a caption written in Portuguese. According to a translation provided by Global Voices, the caption read as follows:
You’ve got to be very brave to celebrate friendship and not be scared of what prejudiced people will say. You’ve got to be very free to celebrate a victory like this, openly, with a friend who is always there for you.
The snapshot quickly sparked an onslaught of anti-gay comments, despite the fact that Izac Azar, the man seen kissing Sheik in the photograph and also the head chef of the restaurant where the player was celebrating with his girlfriend at the time, is both married and a father-to-be. Last week, a group of Corinthian supporters reportedly descended upon the team's training site with banners protesting the kiss.
“Go and kiss a woman,” one sign read, according to ABC News. “We don’t accept homosexuals."
Meanwhile, as Samba Foot noted, Sheik called the soccer world "very macho" before firing back, "That was Emerson the person, not the footballer. I have enormous affection for Isaac, who is a very special friend ... I have enormous respect for the fans. That's me off the field. For me, it is so natural that I do not want to talk about it."
Interestingly, Azar offered a somewhat different take, saying the pair were aware of the fact that the photograph had the potential to stir controversy, according to ABC News.
“I’m married. And Sheik was with his girlfriend. We wanted to show that you don’t have to be gay to fight against homophobia,” Azar is quoted as saying.
It isn't the first time that a same-sex kiss has generated a backlash in the sporting arena. After a 2-1 victory over Germany, two French national team players embraced in a passionate lip-lock that set tongues wagging in the blogosphere last year.
Similarly, Tim Tebow shared a male-on-male lip-lock with his Denver Broncos teammate Demaryius Thomas, immediately after Thomas caught a touchdown pass. The Broncos went on to defeat the Miami Dolphins 18-15.