Is Neymar black? Brazil and the painful relativity of race

Years before he became the most expensive player in the world; before his Olympic gold medal; before the Eiffel Tower lit up with his name to greet his professional move from Barcelona to Paris, Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, the Brazilian forward known to the world simply as Neymar, faced his first public relations controversy.

The year was 2010, and Neymar, then 18, had shot to fame in Brazil after a sensational breakout season. During an interview for the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, he was asked if he had ever experienced racism. "Never. Not in the field, nor outside of it," he replied. "It's not like I'm black, you know?"

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2018, with the headline 'Is Neymar black? Brazil and the painful relativity of race'. Print Edition | Subscribe