Yan Couto had his hair dyed pink back in October when playing for Brazil away to Uruguay - but he's chopped and changed since. | Ernesto Ryan / Getty Images

Yan Couto is a right-back with the Brazil national soccer team and one to watch at the Copa America, the tournament that kicks off Thursday in Atlanta.

Couto’s outings in the famous yellow jerseys of the five-time World Cup winners might have been even more eye-catching this summer — but the 22-year-old will not have his hair dyed pink, as he did for most of last season with his Spanish club Girona.

The player, who was on loan to the La Liga third-place finishers from Manchester City, has won four international caps for his country so far. When he made his Brazil debut last October, he had the pink dye in. Other top stars, such as Neymar, have also turned out for the national team in the past with dyed hair.

However, Couto ditched the dye for the Brazil friendlies in March and then restored it when he was back at Girona.

When asked by a journalist whether he would switch back to his natural color once again this summer, he said: “For the national team, I’m going with black hair, I’m going to remove it.

“They told me that pink is a bit extravagant. I don’t think so, but I’ll respect it. They asked me to do it, and I will.”

Couto didn’t say who “they” was but the suggestion was that someone at the Brazilian FA (CBF) made the request. 

Sure enough, when the player started in a 3-2 win over Mexico in Texas, there was no sign of the pink dye. Fans and the media began to question why Couto was being told to rein in his self-expression.

As criticism mounted, an unexpected response arrived via official CFB social media channels five days later.

Unusually for a statement stemming from an incident in the men’s game, it included a clear message of reassurance to LGBTQ players.

“The CBF reaffirms its commitment to freedom, plurality, the right to self-expression and free construction of the personality of each individual who works for the organization or represents the Brazilian National Team. For the organization, employee performance speaks for itself,” read the statement.

“The CBF’s commitment is to good football and best management practices. Each employee or athlete must have autonomy over their own appearance, beliefs, sexual orientation, and gender expression.

“Since the beginning of the current administration, the CBF has made one of its priorities the fight against racism and any type of prejudice in football.

“The organization is a partner of the Observatory of Racial Discrimination in Football and the Torcidas Canarinhos LGBTQ+ Collective, and is always open to new initiatives so that Brazilian football becomes a more inclusive and prejudice-free space.”

The Torcidas Canarinhos LGBTQ+ Collective is an official partner of the CBF, working with them on anti-discrimination. It is understood that they wrote to the federation asking for clarity.

ESPN reported that the CFB was uncomfortable at the suggestion that it had instructed Couto to change his appearance before the Copa America. Nine-time champions Brazil will face Costa Rica, Paraguay and Colombia in Group D.

Recently, new rules have been introduced by head coach Dorival Junior’s management team and coaching staff around player behavior. These rules are said to include: ”take care to convey an image of seriousness”; “avoid wearing flashy earrings”; and “do not wear extravagant necklaces.” 

But there is nothing specific about hair color.

There has never been an out gay or bi player active with the Brazil men’s team, although Richarlyson — who won two senior caps back in 2008 — did come out publicly as bi in 2022, a year after retiring from the game.

Currently, there are more than 2,100 professional players in domestic men’s football in Brazil, and about 1,400 Brazilians playing abroad.

Will the recent CBF statement prove effective in convincing any who are gay or bi that they have the support of their federation?

You could argue it’s a case of “hair today, gone tomorrow” — but it’s still a much better look for Brazilian men’s soccer as it attempts to rid itself of a hypermasculine, homophobic reputation that to some extent still lingers to this day.