Rio de Janeiro: A controversial evangelical pastor`s nomination as Brazil`s new sports minister came under fire Tuesday, a year and a half before Rio stages South America`s first Olympics.
George Hilton, a preacher with the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, replaces communist Aldo Rebelo, who oversaw preparations for the World Cup earlier this year.
Members of the Athletes of Brazil organization, including national soccer coach Dunga and players Kaka and Cafu, have protested the choice of Hilton, a member of a small conservative party within President Dilma Rousseff`s broad coalition.
Hilton, who will oversee the organization of the Rio Olympics in 2016, was arrested eight years ago in possession of some $220,000 in banknotes.
The cash allegedly comprised donations from his congregation, and he was expelled from his former party after the arrest.
Rebelo was posted to serve as science and technology minister for Rousseff`s second term starting Thursday.
Volleyball coach Bernardinho and Olympic volleyball medalist Ana Moser joined the growing storm of criticism against Hilton.
The sports NGO The Athletes for Brazil group criticized the choice of Hilton as "based purely on political criteria."
But the Brazilian Football Confederation expressed "confidence" in Hilton`s suitability for the job.
"We shall await his actions to criticize or not," said incoming CBF president Marco Polo del Nero.
Hilton has never put forward sports-related motions in seven years in Congress, according to Brazilian media.
But he calls the protests against his choice "unfair and disloyal."
"I am honored to be invited to take the post," Hilton said, adding he was "motivated to improve sports in our country" starting from the grassroots.