Former Santos and Brazilian women's national team coach Kleiton Lima, pictured during the 2011 World Cup quarter-finals

Sao Paulo (AFP) - Kleiton Lima, a former coach of the Brazilian women’s national football team, resigned Monday as manager of top-flight team Santos, the club said, after he faced player protests over accusations of harassment.

During pre-match ceremonies over the weekend, footballers for several of Brazil’s top women’s teams put their hands over their mouths and ears to protest Santos’s decision to re-hire Lima, who had stepped down last year after the club received 19 anonymous letters from players accusing him of sexual harassment and abusive behavior.

Lima, 49, denies the accusations. Santos, the club made famous by Pele, reinstated him earlier this month after carrying out an internal investigation, which it said failed to find proof of the claims.

The decision drew strong reactions. Players from league leaders Corinthians covered their mouths and ears during the national anthem before their match against Santos Friday.

Other teams made similar protests, or posed with the number 19 jersey-wearer’s back turned to the camera – a reference to the 19 letters denouncing Lima.

“To protect his family, integrity and Santos FC, Kleiton Lima has submitted his resignation,” which was accepted, the club said in a statement.

It said Lima had been “a target of criticism and even death threats” since being re-hired.

Lima, a former midfielder, coached the Brazilian women’s national team at the 2011 World Cup and led them to the title at the 2010 Copa America.

He had coached Santos on and off since 1999. He was considered the most successful coach in the history of the club’s women’s team, with two Copa Libertadores wins (2009 and 2010) and two league titles (2007 and 2009).