Sources: Flamengo fire coach for punching player

Brazil’s Flamengo fired assistant coach Pablo Fernández on Sunday after he punched the team’s striker, Pedro, in the face, sources have confirmed to ESPN Brasil.

The player has also filed charges against Fernández as a result of the incident that took place in the dressing room following Flamengo’s 2-1 win at Atletico Mineiro on Saturday.

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Fernández confronted Pedro about his poor attitude after the player sat on the bench unhappy about not coming on as a substitute during the Serie A match, sources said. Following the attack in the dressing room, Flamengo determined that Fernández’s position had become untenable.

Sources later told ESPN Brasil that Jorge Sampaoli would remain as the club’s manager following a meeting with vice president Marcos Braz and director Bruno Spindel on Sunday evening.

Pedro, who was in Brazil’s squad for the 2022 World Cup, said on social media that Fernández punched him on the mouth in the aftermath of the Brazilian championship match. Minas Gerais police said in a statement that the coach slapped him three times before the punch.

Pedro confirmed on social media he had filed charges against Fernández and added he has had difficulties with Sampaoli’s assistants. Sampaoli — who has previously managed Argentina, Sevilla, Chile and Marseille — took over at the defending Copa Libertadores champions in April.

“The physical cowardice came after the psychological cowardice I have endured in recent weeks,” Pedro said. “May God forgive a person who believes, in 2023, that a physical assault will sort out any problem.”

The fitness trainer apologised on social media Sunday, acknowledging the incident and explaining that he reacted in a “high-stress situation.”

“I could start these words in a thousand ways, but the only one that really makes sense is to apologise. To Pedro, to the team mates, to the workers and to Flamengo,” said Fernández.

“I went into the dressing room very upset, wanting to resolve the situation right away and I did it wrong.

“High competition often has things that make us sick. High-stress situations that make us react and think badly. I don’t mean to put this context as an excuse but as an explanation.”

Fernández was suspended by France’s Ligue 1 in August 2021 after he punched a fan during a brawl at a match between Marseille and Nice.

His boss, Sampaoli, said in a another statement that the altercation made him “very sad.”

“I don’t believe in violence as a solution. It gets us nowhere. Not in life, not in football,” the Argentinian coach, who has worked with Fernández since 2019, said.

“What happened yesterday made me very sad. We overshadowed an impressive victory with an internal dispute whose reasons exist, but at this moment do not matter.

“I am the leader of this team. It hurts me a lot when two co-workers fight. Coaches don’t just work on tactics, above all, we work to manage groups.

“I haven’t slept thinking about how to help Pedro and Pablo. We have an obligation to look after each other. To be better.”

Flamengo will play the first leg of their Copa Libertadores round-of-16 tie against Paraguay’s Olimpia on Thursday.

Information from the Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.

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