SAO PAULO, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Brazilian footballers are famous for their imagination and flair. Now their administrators are showing the same kind of creativity.
Soccer authorities the world over routinely hand out suspensions and fines to players who are sent off but Brazilian players are also getting the chance to perform community service instead of clicking their heels on the sidelines.
The latest victim - or beneficiary - to be given the unusual punishment is Corinthians striker Emerson.
He was punished with a six-match ban last month for insulting the referee in a first division game against Atletico. The ban was reduced to five matches, provided he spend a morning visiting sick children at a Sao Paulo hospice.
The Superior Court of Sports Justice, the legal body that oversees Brazilian football, also ordered him to pay a 10,000 real ($5,000) fine to the institution.
The controversial striker turned up two hours late to meet the children but left declaring the idea a success to reporters.
“You can’t call this a punishment, it’s more like a life lesson for us all,” said Emerson, who could end up facing Chelsea in December’s World Club Championship in Japan.
“We can bring a little bit of joy to people who are going through a very tough time.”
Emerson is the third big name to receive this kind of punishment in as many months.
Palmeiras’ Chilean midfielder Jorge Valdivia and Luis Fabiano, the former Brazil and Sevilla striker who now plays for Sao Paulo, were the first.
Valdivia was ordered to spend his 10,000 real fine for insulting a referee on food and other aid for an orphanage in Rio de Janeiro while Luis Fabiano was sentenced to visit a rehabilitation centre for handicapped children.
“This type of visit is educational as well as being punitive,” said Flavio Zveiter, who heads the court that metes out punishment to footballers in Brazil.
“These guys are heroes to lots of people and this helps them reflect about their position and responsibility to society. They sometimes live in their own little world and they don’t realise that what they do has repercussions in society as a whole.”
Zveiter said he was moved after seeing Luis Fabiano interact with the disadvantaged kids and vowed to hand out more alternative punishments in the future.
“It think the repercussions were positive, the player himself said he was touched by it and that was the main thing,” Zveiter said. “I intend to use this policy more.” (Editing by Mark Meadows)