Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that famous Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo was hit with a "political ban" during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar because of his alleged support for the Palestinians.
The 37-year-old came on as a substitute in the second half of a World Cup quarterfinal match against Morocco in which Portugal lost 1-0. The former Manchester United and Real Madrid player was also on the bench when Portugal faced Switzerland in the Round of 16, making an appearance as a substitute. The loss to Morocco meant Ronaldo, the only player to score in five different World Cups, was knocked out of what will most likely be his last World Cup, and he couldn't hold back his tears as he was heading for the locker room.
"They missed Ronaldo. Unfortunately, they imposed a political ban on him," Erdogan said in remarks translated by Al Jazeera. "Sending a footballer like Ronaldo onto the pitch just 30 minutes from the end of the game ruined his psychology and took away his energy," he said, adding that "Ronaldo is someone who defends the Palestinian cause."
Ronaldo has never made a public statement about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite the fake news and doctored photos that periodically appear online. A widely circulated story that Ronaldo donated $1.6 million to the Palestinians after auctioning off a Golden Boot was denied in 2019 by a sports management company representing the soccer player.
In 2016, the international soccer star was attacked on social media for his participation in an Israeli advertisement for the Israeli cable company HOT, alongside three Israeli comedians.
An image of Ronaldo holding a sign saying "Together with the Palestinians" in Spanish, widely shared online, was also doctored and was actually an expression of support for the victims of an earthquake in Spain in 2011.
Reprinted with permission from i24NEWS