Ronaldinho backs far-right presidential candidate

Ronaldinho is one of the greatest footballers of all time. (AFP pic)

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian football legend Ronaldinho tweeted support for a polarising far-right politician leading the race to be his country’s next president in elections on Sunday.

“For a better Brazil, I want peace, security and someone who brings back joy,” the 38-year-old wrote to his 18 million Twitter followers Saturday above a photo of him wearing a yellow football jersey with the number 17 – corresponding to the electronic ballot number for the candidate, Jair Bolsonaro.

“Thanks a lot Ronaldinho, it’s an honour,” Bolsonaro tweeted back.

More than 10,000 comments followed the footballer’s tweet, some of them congratulating his support and others criticising it.

“I never thought my idol could disappoint me this much,” one fan said in reaction.

Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former paratrooper and long-time member of Brazil’s congress, surged from relative obscurity to become the front-runner in Sunday’s first round presidential election.

His tough law-and-order rhetoric and promise to clean up corruption and boost Brazil’s struggling economy have won him backing from much of the country’s wealthier classes.

But poorer Brazilians and women, fiercely oppose him. He has stirred anger by demeaning women, making homophobic comments and speaking nostalgically of the 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

Although polling comfortably ahead in Sunday’s first round, Bolsonaro’s chances of victory in a likely October 28 run-off election were uncertain.

Surveys suggested he would face off against Fernando Haddad, a former mayor of São Paulo who is the Workers’ Party pick after its popular figure, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in jail for corruption, was disqualified from making a comeback.