Corinthians have faced backlash from its women’s side following the hiring of Alexi “Cuca” Stival as men’s team head coach over his conviction of rape in 1987.

Cuca, 59, replaced sacked Fernando Lazaro last week following Corinthians’ 1-0 loss to Argentinos Juniors in the Copa Libertadores.

Cuca was convicted in absentia in 1987 by a Swiss court to 15 months’ imprisonment for engaging in a sexual act with a minor two years earlier while playing for Gremio, a sentence he never served because he left the country before the conviction.

Cuca denied any wrongdoing.

Members of the Corinthians women’s team, including coach Arthur Elias, issued a joint statement with the slogan “Respect women” on their social media on Sunday to express their disapproval.

The statement read: “Being in a democratic club means that we can use our voice, sometimes publicly, sometimes behind the scenes. ‘Respect young women’ is not just any phrase. It is, above all, a state of mind and a shared commitment. Being Corinthians means living and fighting for rights every day.”

A section of fans also gathered outside the club’s headquarters on Friday to voice their discontent.

“I have respect for women. I never touched her,” Cuca said at his unveiling. “I was at other clubs and I was never questioned. My error was to never have defended myself. I didn’t because I did not have money and I didn’t know about it.

“We went to double check and three times, it was not that I was not recognised it was that I was not there. If the victim said that I was not there, I swear to Our Lady of Aparecida, whom I love the most in the world. There is the protest and that is fair. But, why do I owe an apology to society if I did not do anything?”

“I don’t plan to stay at home in hiding. I am innocent and my conscience is clear. I did not even know there was a trial [at that moment]. I found out about the sentencing one year afterward,” he added.

A number of Atletico Mineiro fans protested Cuca’s hiring as their manager in February 2021. He later left the club by mutual consent in November.

He has previously spent coaching spells at a number of Brazil’s major clubs since he began his coaching career in 1998.

Corinthians lost 3-1 at Goias in Sunday’s league game, Cuca’s first game in charge.

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Corinthians hire Cuca despite 1987 rape conviction, draw protest from women’s team