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Atletico Mineiro replace Sampaoli with controversial Cuca

Sao Paulo (AFP) – Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro triggered controversy Friday by naming Alexi “Cuca” Stival as their new coach, despite his conviction for sexually assaulting a minor 34 years ago.

Cuca, 57, will replace Jorge Sampaoli, who quit the team last week to take the reins at French club Marseille.

It marks the second stint at Atletico Mineiro for Cuca, who led them to victory in the Copa Libertadores in 2013.

But his return sparked an outcry among some fans because of his conviction for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in Switzerland in 1987.

“Bringing Cuca back… means ignoring the violence suffered by women, including fans of this club, and reviving feelings we would rather forget,” said a statement from La Grupa, an Atletico Mineiro women’s fan club.

The case against Cuca dates back to his playing days with Gremio de Porto Alegre in the 1980s, when the team were on a European tour.

He and three other players were arrested on charges of assaulting the teenage girl at the team’s hotel.

They spent a month in jail, but Cuca had left Switzerland by the time he was convicted in absentia, in 1989.

He never served his 15-month prison sentence.

Cuca, who coached Brazilian club Santos to runners-up in the Copa Libertadores final in January, denies wrongdoing.

He told Brazilian news site UOL he was “guilty of nothing” and that the case against him was fabricated.

“Concerning the old case involving our coach’s name, the club understands that the matter is closed,” Atletico Mineiro said in a statement.

“Atletico Mineiro trusts in its coach and his words, and, above all, his actions.”

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