Former Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho, whose full name is Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, center, leaves the attorney general office in Asuncion, Paraguay, Thursday, March 5, 2020. Ronaldinho and his brother were detained by Paraguayan police for allegedly entering the country with falsified passports on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)
Former Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho leaves the attorney general office in Asuncion, Paraguay Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Last month, the footballing world was shaken up on hearing the news that former Brazilian star footballer Ronaldinho had been detained in a prison in Paraguay for an alleged use of a fake Paraguayan passport. He is being held in the country’s maximum security Agrupacion Especializada prison.

The World Cup winner — who turned 40 in prison on March 21 — was arrested along with his brother Roberto at the beginning of last month on his arrival to Asuncion, Paraguay’s capital city, for “using a public document with false content”.

To make matters worse, his Brazilian and Spanish passports had already been seized by Brazilian authorities in 2019 relating to other separate legal issues. Ronaldinho claimed that the Paraguayan passport had been given to him as a gift from a local sponsor, and insisted he was not guilty of any wrongdoing.

At this moment, it is unclear when exactly Ronaldinho may be released from Agrupacion Especializada, but reports in Paraguayan media suggest that the former Barcelona, AC Milan and Brazil attacker may have to face up to six months inside.

A bail application has already been denied because authorities deem the footballer to be a flight risk. So as things stand, Ronaldinho may end up incarcerated in a prison cell until September, of course largely depending on how the prosecution pans out.

Former Paraguay international Nelson Cuevas, who had visited Ronaldinho in prison, last week told CNN Radio that his friend had “lost” his trademark smile. “Ronaldinho is not happy at all,” Cuevas had been quoted.

“What distinguishes him is his smile, his good energy, his way of being. But today, due to the situation he is going through, that smile is lost because he is in prison which is a place he is not accustomed to,” Cuevas explained.

In fact, Cuevas had offered to host Ronaldinho at his home, where the Brazilian could be held under house arrest, but that move too was rejected by the prosecution.

Paraguayan Minister of the Interior Euclides Acevedo has told media time and again that the football star has been housed in a different part of the prison in conditions “almost like a hotel”. But Ronaldinho shares the prison yard with everyone, giving him access to the game he dearly loves, alongside other criminals. Photos and video footage have emerged of the 2005 Ballon d’Or winner playing and enjoying a futsal game with fellow inmates.