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Football star Dani Alves in court for rape

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Football star Dani Alves in court for rape

A trial is underway against Dani Alves for alleged rape. The precedent shows that something is also changing in the football environment. Even if you don’t want to acknowledge the past.

He faces at least four years in prison: Dani Alves during negotiations before the Barcelona Provincial Court.


At the end of July 1987, the Philips Cup took place in the Wankdorf Stadium in Bern. In addition to YB, Xamax and Benfica Lisbon, the Brazilian top club Grêmio Porto Alegre was also invited. In the team hotel, players from the South American club lured 13-year-old Sandra into her room with the promise of a fan jersey and raped her.

After 30 days in custody, they returned to their homeland and the trial took place in their absence; A psychiatrist reported that the teenager had attempted suicide. In 1989, the Bern district court sentenced three defendants to 15 months’ probation, including striker Alexi “Cuca” Stival, whose semen traces were found on the girl’s body. He became a national player and later began a long coaching career.

In February 2024, this week, the Brazilian Dani Alves sat before the Barcelona Provincial Court. The second most successful footballer in history after Lionel Messi with 43 titles is said to have raped a 23-year-old woman in the VIP bathroom of a nightclub in the city on the night of New Year’s Eve 2022. He has been in custody for over a year and the verdict is expected to be handed down by the end of the month. The public prosecutor’s office is demanding nine years in prison, and the alleged victim, as a co-plaintiff, is demanding twelve years. The minimum sentence if found guilty would be four years.

In Spain “only yes means yes”

Times have changed since the scandalous verdict in Bern, especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Society is increasingly showing the red card to the omnipotence of celebrities. In Spain, self-confident feminism got rid of the invasive football association boss Luis Rubiales. While his kiss on Jenni Hermoso’s mouth symbolized (football) machismo primarily symbolically, Alves is concerned with more serious accusations. But this is also a precedent.

Symbolizes machismo: Luis Rubiales kisses Jenni Hermoso without asking.

The principle “Solo sí es sí” has been in effect in Spanish sexual criminal law since 2022. This does not mean a reversal of the burden of proof, but it does represent a significant nuance. For example, flirting or kissing is no longer automatically interpreted as consent to sexual acts, as was long the practice in proceedings in which testimony stands against testimony. The woman no longer has to actively defend herself against violence, as was previously required despite the situation characterized by fear and intimidation. So not just “No means no”, but also: “Only yes means yes.”

“I don’t care whether my client ‘twerked’,” said the woman’s lawyer during the trial, in response to accusations from the other side that she had previously practiced this sexually charged dance form with Alves: “We are no longer in this debate.”

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Meanwhile, the defense attorney’s strategy, in the traditional sense, aims to interpret the woman’s behavior and her voluntary entry into the toilet as consent to the extent that it was impossible for Alves, especially since she was allegedly drunk, to recognize at what point she said no have. “Social changes cannot justify the violation of other fundamental rights,” she argued.

A reference to the presumption of innocence – which Alves did his best to dismantle himself. During the first interrogation he changed his version of things three times. It was only months later that he admitted the sexual intercourse, and it was only during the trial that the alleged alcohol consumption came into play, which did not prevent him from remembering in all details what he said were consensual sexual acts. “Señor Alves has made so many statements that we can no longer keep up,” said the prosecutor. “I think it’s because he felt untouchable.”

Times have changed – but has everyone noticed? This question arises particularly in the football world, where Hugo Mallo, former professional from Celta de Vigo, groped the – female – mascot before a game at Espanyol Barcelona to an extent that will bring him to court in July. The Alves clan, in turn, put on a show that made the authorities feel like they were mocking them.

His ex-wife moved to Barcelona with their children to demonstrate the lack of a risk of escape and to get Alves out of custody. Contrary to court orders, the mother revealed the identity of the alleged victim. And Alves’ current wife, Joana Sanz, first told the press that she had been with her sick mother in Tenerife on the night of the crime – only to help out in the trial by saying that Alves had come to her home drunk and staggering.

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Sanz then appeared arm in arm with mother Alves and in an outfit that seemed to temporarily transform the provincial court into a catwalk. One of Alves’ brothers also dressed as dazzlingly as the professional himself liked to do in his better days. As if styling and glamor could still make the judiciary freeze in awe of the defendant’s prominence.

The last throes of a declining culture that has so clouded the senses of football stars that they have young women brought to their VIP boxes like drinks on a show of hands via the waiter? That they then force them to say: “I’m your little whore” during sex? According to statements, this is what happened in the Alves case, and the trauma of that night has lived on for the alleged victim ever since.

A number of witness statements illustrated the harsh reality of a woman who fought her way through an extremely media-prone trial. She no longer goes to work, hardly leaves the house and is receiving psychiatric treatment. At the same time, experts hope that the case will have an educational effect for women and a deterrent effect for stars.

Demonstratively celebrated the rapist

The fact that times have changed, at least a little – is something that many in professional football don’t understand, even under pressure from outside. Last year, Corinthians São Paulo signed coach Stival, one of the Bern rapists. Protests from the fan scene and the women’s team soon forced him to resign.

But his players demonstratively cheered him on after his last match, and the coach himself sees himself vindicated by the fact that the Bern regional court recently annulled the trial due to procedural errors. The victim never found out about this. According to judicial sources, Sandra died at the age of 28.

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Stars under indictment

Football stars suspected of rape repeatedly make headlines and face lawsuits. Some of the most prominent cases in recent years involve world footballers, world and European champions.

Cristiano Ronaldo. The record goalscorer in football history was accused by Kathryn Mayorga of rape in a Las Vegas hotel in 2009. In 2010 an out-of-court confidentiality agreement was reached. Starting in 2018, the American tried to challenge the deal and have the process reopened. The courts initially resumed the investigation, but ultimately dismissed the lawsuits.

Out-of-court settlement: Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ahmed Yosri / X07180

Robinho. The 100-time Brazilian international was sentenced by all courts in Italy to nine years in prison. In 2013, during his time at AC Milan, he and other men raped a 23-year-old woman in a discotheque. Because Brazil does not extradite citizens, he lives at large in his home country. FC Santos wanted to sign him in 2020, but withdrew the offer due to pressure from sponsors.

Convicted of rape: Robinho.

Marcelo Machado De Melo / imago

Benjamin Mendy. France’s 2018 World Cup winner appeared in court four years later in England on suspicion of eight counts of rape. Women reported a “panic room” in the Manchester City professional’s villa. During 2023, he was acquitted of all charges due to lack of evidence and has resumed his career with FC Lorient in his home country.

Santi Mina. The scorer of 84 goals in Spain’s league for Vigo and Valencia was sentenced to four years in prison for rape in 2022. He is said to have abused a friend’s sexual partner in a caravan in 2017. Appeals from both sides are currently pending before the Spanish Supreme Court. Mina, 26, is currently without a club.

William Carvalho. In the most recent case, the Portuguese midfielder from Betis Sevilla was questioned by an investigating judge on Tuesday. A woman accuses him of drugging her and raping her in a hotel room last summer. The 2016 European champion emphasizes his innocence.

An article from “NZZ am Sonntag”

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