RONALDINHO has opened up for the first time on his month behind bars and how he passed the time playing football and signing autographs.
The Brazil legend says he is "praying" for a swift solution to the fake passport scandal which has led to him being placed under house arrest at a Paraguay hotel.
The 40-year-old former Barcelona and AC Milan star has also revealed the first thing he will do when he recovers his freedom is give his doting mum Miguelina a “big kiss.”
Ronaldinho admitted he never imagined he would find himself in his current predicament in an exclusive interview with Paraguayan daily ABC Color.
Insisting he had no idea the Paraguayan passports he and his brother used to enter the country on March 4 had been doctored, he told journalists from the respected newspaper: “We were totally stunned when we found out the documents weren’t legal.
“From that moment onwards our intention has been to co-operate with the courts to clarify all this.”
In an interview yesterday at the four-star Palmaroga Hotel where he has been under house arrest since his release from a remand prison cell on April 7, he added: “I have my faith.
“I always pray so that things turn out OK and God willing this will all end soon.
“Finding out I was going to prison hit me hard. I never imagined I would be in a situation like this.
“All my life I’ve tried to reach my highest level professionally and bring happiness to people with my football.”
Ronaldinho, who wore a black T-shirt, shorts and his trademark black hat, looked happy and relaxed during the interview with three of ABC Color’s journalists.
It was arranged through the former footballer’s defence lawyers.
Some of the questions touched on the highs of the Brazilian’s football career, but inevitably others were about his current legal problems.
Ronaldinho confirmed he had travelled to Paraguay with his brother Roberto de Assis Moreira to participate in the launch of an online casino and a book.
He revealed he was remanded in custody two days after his arrest on the eve of his scheduled return to Brazil for the birthday of his teenage son.
He said the other inmates he spent time with in jail, where he was pictured playing football and footvolley, treated him kindly.
Insisting he was happy to sign autographs and pose for photos with the people he met in prison, he added: “Playing football, signing autographs and having photos taken is part of my life.
“I’d have no reason to stop doing it, especially with people who were experiencing a difficult time the same as me.”
Asked what his plans would be when he was finally freed from his nightmare, Ronaldinho said: “The first thing I will do is give my mum a big kiss.
“She’s been experiencing a difficult time of it since the start of the coronavirus crisis.
“After that I’ll absorb the impact this situation has generated and carry on with faith and strength.”
Ronaldinho and his brother were arrested on March 6 after entering Paraguay with doctored passports falsely showing they were naturalised Paraguayan citizens.
A criminal investigation is ongoing and officials are probing whether the false passport scandal, which has led to the arrests of more than a dozen people including a Brazilian businessman alleged to have handed them the travel documents, is linked to an attempted money laundering operation.
Ronaldinho has been warned he could remain under house arrest for several more months before a decision is taken on whether to put him on trial.
The former Ballon d'Or winner, who is staying in a presidential suite at his hotel, turned 40 last month while he was still in prison and had a huge BBQ cooked for him by other inmates.
The crime he is being investigated over carries a maximum prison sentence of up to five years in Paraguay.
Ronaldinho and his brother are claiming they were tricked.
His Paraguayan lawyer Adolfo Marin has said the former footballer had been given his Paraguayan passport as a “gift”, assumed it was an ‘honorary-type’ document of no real value, and gave it to an official without thinking when he reached Paraguay because it was the “first thing he got out of his bag.”
Last month the lawyer branded Ronaldinho “stupid”, saying he hadn’t understand he had been given false documents to enter Paraguay.
Ronaldinho’s life has been under the microscope for all the wrong reasons since the peak of his playing career.
He officially retired from football in 2018. The same year he was forced to deny bigamy claims.
He had his Brazilian passport confiscated after he was convicted alongside his brother of building an illegal fishing platform on a lake in a conservation area, but Paraguayan prosecutors confirmed last month they had discovered it had been returned to him and he used it to leave Brazil on a flight from Sao Paulo.
The revelation has left a huge question mark over why Ronaldinho did not use the same passport when he entered Paraguay, with his lawyer’s comments about it being the “first thing” he laid his hands on being greeted with a mixture of derision and disbelief.
Last year it was reported Ronaldinho only had five pounds in his bank account.
Police raided a Ronaldinho family home to seize assets in a bid to guarantee he paid fines due over the illegal fishing platform.
Officers were said last November to have seized three luxury cars and a piece of art from painter Andre Berardo.
Ronaldinho’s brother was sentenced to five years in jail in 2012 in Brazil for money laundering and other financial crimes.
Reports at the time said Roberto de Assis had been accused of lying to Brazilian tax authorities to justify the entry into his homeland of money held in secret accounts in Switzerland.
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