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VARGINHA, Brazil (Reuters) - The president of a Brazilian soccer club that signed a goalkeeper who was jailed for murdering his ex-girlfriend called the decision 'courageous' on Tuesday, although the player could be sent back to jail at any time.
Third division champions Boa Esporte drew widespread derision with the signing of Bruno Fernandes, a former top-flight keeper who was released from jail last month.
He served seven years of a 22-year jail sentence for murdering his ex-girlfriend, who was the mother of his son, and feeding her body to dogs.
Several of the club's sponsors, including their kit maker, abandoned Boa Esporte within days of the deal, and fans have flooded social media with criticism.
But club president Rene Moraes told reporters on Tuesday that Boa Esporte, set to play in the second division this year, were justified in giving the keeper a second chance, although he was out of jail on appeal and could go back at any moment.
"You have to show people that what Bruno did wasn't correct, but that he has the right to return to society," Moraes told a news conference in the club's home town of Varginha, about 315 km (200 miles) northeast of Sao Paulo.
"He needs to do something (and) that is football.
"I am someone who likes a challenge," Moraes added. "Boa is not doing anything wrong, Boa is not a court of justice, Boa is an entity in the world of sports. And Bruno knows how to play football."
Bruno also appeared before the media but he declined to answer questions that were not directly about playing.
The 32-year old, who won the first division with Flamengo in 2009, said he had the backing of God and his family.
"I am very happy to have been given this opportunity," he said. "I don't care what people say. What matters to me is that I am starting again. It's a lot of responsibility."
Reporting by Erwin Oliveira; Writing by Andrew Downie; Editing by Ken Ferris