Largely forgotten British punks The Adverts once simultaneously snarled and pondered the prospect of looking through the eyes of executed double murderer Gary Gilmore. The American put his eyes forward for a transplant before being sent to the chair, and the London natives imagined the fear and anger upon rising from a hospital bed to learn that you’re using the eyes of a monster. Predictably but stirringly, a light is smashed and concerns over whether the new organs could reawaken the same grisly vocation of their old proprietor are brewing.
If the same fate happened to killers’ eyes in Brazil, however, it could serve up an entirely different prospect altogether. You could be benefitting from the vision used by a celebrated professional – and perhaps soon international – goalkeeper.
Bruno de Souza, who ordered the murder of his child’s mother, dismembered her body, and fed it to his pet rottweilers, was officially unveiled as a Boa Esporte player on Tuesday after serving seven years of a 22-year sentence. He confessed his guilt to the disgusting charge in 2010, but left the shackles of Belo Horizonte’s law enforcement disconcertingly early. The ex-Atletico Mineiro and Flamengo star was laughing and celebrating when he was freed.
He’s 32 years old, so has time on his side as a goalkeeper, and the national team competition between the sticks is questionable. A revived top-level career is disturbingly plausible for Bruno.
His second chance may be partly down to the support from his hometown. Out of the places in Brazil the Guardian writer Barney Ronay has rolled up in, he found Belo Horizonte “gave me the creeps,” and that it had “an unusually large number of men lurking in bushes.” If misogynists and degenerates can skulk in corners of this otherwise fascinating country – this could be one of those dark places. Ronay saw as much in the comments under stories relating to Bruno’s imprisonment and premature release.
There’s also the desperation for clubs to acquire silverware, making a successful end to Bruno’s career possible. Boa Esporte is a modest second-tier side yet to appear in the top flight of the Brazilian pyramid, and the chief representative of Varginha, a town which desperately tried to boost tourism in 1996 by hoaxing the capture of an alien. Bruno would undoubtedly be one of the most talented players in Boa’s history, and the board has ignored supporters’ reservations and sponsors retracting their deals because it’s believed the shot-stopper could significantly boost the outfit’s profile anyway. No team in the Mineiro 2 has conceded less than Boa this season, so it’s not like a goalkeeper is needed.
There is precedence of ex-convicts returning to the English game in recent times. Both Lee Hughes and Luke McCormick forged relatively successful careers after causing death by dangerous driving. The latter, a goalkeeper who killed two children when erratically driving his Range Rover over the alcohol limit, played all 180 minutes and conceded just one goal in the FA Cup third round’s two-timer with Liverpool.
Obviously their returns to the professional game – Hughes after serving three years of a six-year sentence, McCormick’s seven-year incarceration lasting under four years – were contentious. Oldham Athletic was roundly slammed for hiring Hughes, and McCormick worked back up through the non-league system before returning to Plymouth Argyle, but both were guilty and fairly faced their (reduced) time.
In a high-profile case in 2012, Ched Evans was sent to prison after being convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman during a drunken night out. When Sheffield United was prepared to re-sign Evans upon his release two-and-half years later in 2015, Olympic great Jessica Ennis-Hill removed her name from the Bramall Lane stand that was named in her honour for barely seven months. The public condemnation of the club was huge.
The events at the Rhyl hotel that night were certainly sordid – an ex-teammate and his own brother were in close proximity, trying to film what was going on from outside the room – but a contentious retrial acquitted Evans of rape in October 2016.
He was in the finest form of his career for Sheffield United when he was imprisoned, but is now struggling for goals at third-tier relegation-candidate Chesterfield, will never play for Wales again, and is often subject of calls and chants from the stands reminding him of the crime from which he was absolved.
The harsh reality of the judicial system is that sometimes it’s wrong. In the case of Bruno, though, someone who had empirical evidence and his own admission of guilt proving that he committed the heinous crime, his reinstating into the professional game surely has to be reviewed. Perhaps football should follow the length of the previous sentence when judging a player’s return to the game, rather than the oft-derisory terms that criminals serve when they haven’t been a nuisance to prison guards.
In that initiative, Bruno wouldn’t be able to return to football until he was 47.
But that would be hard to implement, so all that football needs to do is make a human decision. It shouldn’t be one made through the eyes of a killer, nor through the hungry ogling of the trivial cups and titles. Instead, a decision on whether to allow a former inmate into the sport should be taken completely through the eyes of the victims.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)