Ronaldinho opens up on life in prison in first interview since his release
Paraguayan Supreme Court, Asuncion, Paraguay – March 7, 2020? Ronaldinho handcuffed and escorted by police at the Supreme Court of Paraguay [REUTERS/Jorge Adorno]

Ronaldinho has admitted he was shocked to be arrested over allegedly using a falsified passport, as he was under the impression the documents were completely certified.

The former Barcelona and Brazil legend spent a month behind bars in Paraguay after being collared by officials in the capital, Asuncion, with false papers.

After facing initial questions from officials, along with his brother Roberto Assis, the pair were detained and then taken into custody, despite pleading their innocence.

They have since been released on house arrest following 32 days in jail, after a judge permitted them to stay in a nearby hotel between now and their impending trial.

Speaking to ABC Color in his first interview since, Ronaldinho said: “We were totally surprised to learn that the documents were not legal. Since then our intention has been to collaborate with the justice system to clarify the facts.

“From that moment until today, we have explained everything and facilitated everything that has been requested of us.”

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It was not the first time Ronaldinho had got into a wrangle over his passport, having previously had his Brazilian and Spanish versions seized in 2019 in his homeland in relation to a separate legal problem.

Ronaldinho claimed he was visiting Paraguay this time round on the invite of Nelson Belotti, owner of the Il Palazzo casino, to appear at several publicity events.

His legal team have argued since his arrest that the passport documents had been given to him by a sponsor.

He was originally arrested at the Resort Yacht and Golf Club Paraguay, before being transported to the maximum security Agrupacion Especializada prison.

Whilst in prison Ronaldinho admitted he had been playing football regularly, as well as receiving celebrity treatment from fellow inmates, but does not look back on the time fondly.

Discussing his jail time, the 40-year-old added: “It was a hard blow, I never imagined that I would go through such a situation.

“All my life I have sought to reach the highest professional level and bring joy to people with my football.”

Ronaldinho and his brother were bailed for £1.6million after initial applications were turned down, but they must now stand trial for related charges, though the star remains hopeful of a positive outcome.

“I have my faith,” he said. “I always pray for things to go well and hopefully this will be over soon.”

 

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