As Brazil recovers from its loss at the World Cup, the soccer crazed nation is dealing with a much more serious soccer-related issue than the play on the field -- one of the biggest players in the country is suspected of murdering his missing ex-girlfriend.
Although 25-year-old Bruno Fernandes das Dores de Souza was not on Brazil's World Cup team, he is the captain and goalkeeper of the Rio de Janeiro team Flamengo, the current national champions. With 40 million fans, it's the country's most popular soccer club.
Last year the married Bruno had an affair with a student named Eliza Samudio. She got pregnant, much to Bruno's alleged dismay. According to an interview Eliza gave to the Rio tabloid Extra, in October 2009 while four months pregnant, she claimed that she was coaxed into Bruno's car where he and three of his friends forced her to take the illicit abortion drug Cycotec.
"If I kill you and throw you somewhere, you're not going to be found," she says Bruno told her. She claims Bruno then persuaded her to meet him the next day at an abortion clinic. Instead, she went to the police.
The police officer who registered the complaint requested that Bruno be legally prohibited from coming near Eliza. This request was never fulfilled. Eliza gave birth to the baby in March, naming him Bruninho, or little Bruno.
About a month ago the 25-year-old Eliza vanished. Somehow Bruninho ended up on Bruno's ranch, hundreds of miles from his mother's home. Brazilian media report plane tickets in Eliza's name and baby diapers were also found on the ranch. Witnesses claim to have seen her there, with cell phone records backing up those accounts. And traces of what might be blood were said to be found in one of Bruno's cars.
Eliza's father believes his daughter is dead. So do police. "According to denunciations," officer Alessandra Wilke from the Homicide Division conducting the investigation told reporters, "he and two friends attacked Eliza, who probably came to die, and hid the body."
Yet Bruno has not yet been arrested nor questioned. Since the allegations surfaced, he has been separated from his soccer team and trains alone.
In a television interview this week, Bruno said, "I leave it in the hands of God. I am hoping that she will appear, that this situation will soon end, because it is annoying. I'm sad about it. I saw her father's interview, I'm hoping she appears."
A friend of Eliza is fearing the worst. He wanted her to get rid of the baby, abort it. She didn't want to. She was against abortion," Milena Baroni tells The Daily Beast. She says Eliza told her that Bruno "kidnapped her and tried to force her to abort. Including he put a gun in her face. She went to the police about this." Baroni adds: "In my opinion, something has happened to her, I wish it wasn't so."
Milena says she met Bruno once, and wasn't impressed. "He didn't seem to be well-balanced. He was tense, he was arguing with her."
When asked why she thought Eliza would agree to meet Bruno at his ranch, Milena said, "She believed that he had changed since the child had been born, that he was happy about the baby. And because she liked him, she believed it."
Much has been made in the Brazilian media of comments Bruno made to journalists in March after witnessing an argument between one of his Flamengo teammates and that teammate's on-off girlfriend.
"Which one of you who is married never argued with your wife?" Bruno asked reporters. "Who has never got into a physical fight with the wife?
Words that could come back to haunt him.