Belo Horizonte - News
crews from around the world may have flocked to cover Neymar's foot
operation but some Brazilians would rather see the spotlight on the
No-one here doubts the talent of the 26-year-old star of the
Brazilian national team and Paris Saint-Germain. But people are sick of
seeing him treated like a pampered rich kid.
The sport's most expensive player ever underwent surgery Saturday at
Mater Dei hospital in the southeastern city of Belo Horizonte.
The private, ultra-modern facility's tinted windows make it look more
like an office building. The roof boasts a chopper pad, which Neymar
used when he was released from the hospital on Sunday.
Across the street is a decrepit maternity hospital called Odete
Valadares. Like most state-run hospitals in Brazil, it is short on staff
and all kinds of equipment, even beds. The pale pink paint is peeling.
Several windows are broken.
"We need more beds in the neo-natal emergency room. Sometimes
patients have to sleep on cots," said Dr. Klaus Morales on Facebook the
day of Neymar's surgery on a broken metatarsal.
"Fifty meters from here in the Mater Dei hospital, Neymar will
undergo surgery on a toe," Morales wrote.
"Helicopters are flying over
the area non-stop and the news media focus only on this, while our
patients here must wait hours to be treated," said Morales.
The situation was disgraceful, he added.
Dozens of camera crews
staked out spots for hours outside the Mater Dei hospital while Neymar
was inside - the fate of Brazil team at this year's World Cup finals
could rest on him making a full recovery.
And Neymar's team-mates will sorely miss him when they take on Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday.
But no-one was covering the problems that many Brazilians face, said
Priscila Silveira, a 28-year-old government employee in Belo Horizonte.
"The public health system is in a state of crisis and we have major
crime problems that do not get the attention they deserve in the news
media," she said.
Brazil has one of the world's highest homicide rates, and after two
years of recession that is just now beginning to ease, the jobless rate
is almost 12 percent.
"For us it is hard to see a public figure abroad such as Neymar while
we here are suffering because of so many things, such as violence,
muggings every day, a terrible public education system, besides all the
problems with corruption," said Aderaldo Pulquerio, 47, a maintenance
The same gripes are heard in Rio de Janeiro, where Geraldo de Oliveira, a 62-year-old taxi driver, could not disguise his anger.
"It is minor surgery on a toe. If that happened to the rest of us, we
would not manage to be operated on or treated. But since that guy has
money, he can do it," said de Oliveira.
Among the Neymar fans who turned out Saturday at the Mater Dei
hospital was a man in a wheelchair named Sanderson. He carried a sign
that read: "I broke my heel and knee. I need your support and that of
your medical team."
Neymar began rehab on Sunday at his $10 million home on the coast near Rio.
His neighbours include celebrities and politicians accused of corruption.
This does not help his popularity, although the player caters to
younger fans on social media, always with a touch of glamor and
On Friday, the day before his surgery, Neymar published on Instagram a
photo in which he is seen giving his girlfriend Bruna Marquezine, an
actress, a passionate kiss as she sits on him in a wheelchair.