Neymar to play in Copa America, insists Brazil football chief

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) –


Brazil's football chief reiterated Wednesday that Neymar would play in the Copa America despite a rape scandal, a day after a senior official said he was willing to "bet" the star striker would quit.

Neymar has dominated headlines since Saturday after he posted a video on Instagram denying raping a Brazilian woman, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her in a Paris hotel.

In the same video, Neymar posted intimate WhatsApp messages he said he had received from his accuser and photographs of her topless in a bed.

Despite police investigations into the alleged rape and the publication of intimate images on social media, Neymar has continued to train with his Brazilian team-mates for the Copa America, which kicks off June 14.

Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Rogerio Caboclo told reporters Wednesday that the world's most expensive player would take part in the tournament -- the second time in as many days he has made such an assurance.

His remarks came after CBF vice president Francisco Noveletto was quoted by Brazilian media Tuesday as saying he was willing to "bet" that Neymar would quit.

"He doesn't have the psychological condition to face the Copa America and journalists," Noveletto said.

Caboclo responded by saying Noveletto did not speak "for the CBF," said.

Hours ahead of Brazil's friendly against Qatar in Brasilia Wednesday, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro offered his public backing for the embattled player.

"He's going through a difficult moment but I believe him," said Bolsonaro.

But at a news conference Monday, national coach Tite was bombarded with questions about the affair and its affect on the squad.

Attempting to sidestep the issue, Tite said he would "not judge" Neymar, who he said was "indispensable" to the team, but not "irreplaceable" either.

The scandal caps a troubled season for the player, on and off the field. It has ben marred by a recurring injury, two separate suspensions for insulting a referee and hitting a fan, and the loss of Brazil's captaincy in the Copa.

Neymar's father has claimed his son was the victim of a blackmail attempt, which the accuser's former lawyers have rejected.

The lawyers, who dropped their client after she changed her initial allegation of "assault" to "rape" in her police complaint, said they believed she had evidence to support her claim of physical violence.

Adding to Neymar's woes is a police investigation into the publication of intimate information in his Instagram video without the woman's permission. Such an offense carries a maximum five-year jail term.

Neymar's mother Nadine Goncalves posted an emotional message on Instagram on Tuesday urging her son to "forgive that girl" and "return to Jesus".

Neymar was transferred to PSG from Barcelona for a world-record 222 million euros ($248.5 million) in 2017.