Brazilian football great Ronaldinho has described his time in a Paraguayan prison as a “hard knock” and says he wants nothing more than to see his mother again.
Ronaldinho and his brother, Roberto Assis, have been under arrest in the South American country since early March for allegedly using false passports.
The pair were held at a maximum-security prison in the capital, Asuncion, for more than a month but moved to a luxury hotel after paying a 1.6 million-dollar bond.
“It was a hard knock. I never imagined I would go through a situation like this,” Ronaldinho told Paraguayan television channel TV ABC in his first media interview since being detained.
“All my life I’ve tried to reach the highest professional level possible and make people happy with my football.”
The former Barcelona star traveled with Assis to Paraguay on March 4 to participate in promotional activities. They were arrested later that day for entering the country with fake travel documents.
The brothers have denied any wrongdoing and said through lawyers that they were presented with the passports as a “gift” upon arriving in Paraguay.
“Everything we do is done through contracts managed by my brother, who is my representative,” Ronaldinho explained. “In this case, we participated in the launch of an online casino, as specified in the contract, and the launch of a book.”
The 40-year-old said he was “totally surprised” when told of the accusations by police.
“Since the first day our intention has been to collaborate [with investigators] to clarify the facts. We have provided everything that has been asked of us.”
Wearing a face mark because of the coronavirus pandemic, Ronaldinho gave an insight into his time in jail and his relationship with other prisoners.
“All of the people with whom I spent time there treated me with kindness,” he said. “We played football, I signed autographs, photos. That sort of thing is part of my life and I have no reason to stop doing it, especially with people who are going through a difficult time like me.”
He said he was grateful for the “affection and respect” of the Paraguayan people, adding that he hoped to return to Brazil soon and “kiss my mother.”
“It’s been difficult for her since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “I want to absorb the impact of everything that has happened and move forward.”
Ronaldinho retired from football in 2018 after a career that included spells at Gremio, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Milan and Atletico Mineiro, among other clubs. He was a part of the Brazil team that won the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, and was twice voted the FIFA world player of the year in the mid-2000s. Enditem