Ronaldo has been dating model Georgina Rodriguez since 2017, so he is engaged and must not be interested in other women in Iran. Iranian law could theoretically view such a gesture as adultery, which carries the penalty of flogging and even death. However, according to Insider.com, Iran’s embassy in Madrid said Ronaldo faces no charges and that the Portuguese soccer star will not face 99 lashes for hugging a woman.
False claims of possible flogging were sparked by Ronaldo’s meeting with disabled Iranian artist Fatemeh Hamami. She became famous for painting famous football players (besides Ronaldo, for example Lionel Messi) using a special method. Since he cannot hold a brush with his hands, he paints with his feet. The incriminated video with Ronaldo came to light when the artist herself shared it on Instagram.
In the video, Ronaldo is seen hugging and kissing Hamami on the head for receiving two of his portraits that she made. At the same time, the Portuguese superstar hands over his number 7 jersey to the artist.
After the meeting, several prestigious Western media outlets including TMZ, the New York Post and Fox Sports reported that Ronaldo was facing 99 lashes for hugging a woman. US media cited unnamed Iranian media.
However, the reports of the flogging turned out to be incorrect. The Iranian embassy in Spain said on October 13 that Ronaldo was not facing any charges.
“We strongly deny the issuance of any court order against any international athlete in Iran,” the embassy said in a post on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter. “Ronaldo was very well received by the people and the authorities when he was in Iran from September 18-19 for a football match,” the embassy wrote. “His frank and humane meeting with Fatemeh Hamami was also praised and admired by both the people and the sports authorities of the country.”
According to Australia’s ABC News, the false claim came from an Instagram post by Iranian lawyer Ali Gandomi. He apparently interpreted Iranian Islamic law rigidly.
Iran has been ruled by a theocratic government since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Under Iranian law, unmarried men and women can be punished with 100 lashes if they commit adultery. Married criminals (Ronaldo is not married) can even be given the death penalty.
Representatives of the Iranian Foreign Ministry usually do not respond to such information. It is customary for certain important representative offices to issue official opinions.
The 38-year-old striker was in Iran with the Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, with whom he played a match against the Persepolis team. His visit was a huge hit among Iranian fans, with crowds even chasing the bus Ronaldo was traveling in.
The match with the Saudi team also had a deeper political background. It was the first after seven years since the ban on mutual matches. Al Nassr is the first Saudi Arabian club to come to Iran since 2016, when a hard-line Iranian militia group called the Basij attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
After that, teams from Saudi Arabia refused to travel to Iran for any international sports competition, saying their safety was not guaranteed. But after seven years of matches at neutral venues, Saudi Arabia has now lifted its ban.
All this was made possible by two big events this year. First, Iran and Saudi Arabia restored their diplomatic relations in a deal brokered by China. Second, Saudi Arabian clubs have begun to invest heavily in recruiting world-class football talent in their domestic league.
Like Saudi Arabia, Iran is in a situation where it is trying to present itself to the world as a modern country. The meeting with the artist was undoubtedly arranged and sanctioned by the authorities. It is also highly likely that Ronaldo was instructed in advance how to behave and what he can afford towards the Iranian artist.
It is Saudi Arabia that is very involved in the world of sports, which is interpreted as an attempt to cover up the suppression of human rights, but also a kind of change in the country’s orientation. He buys famous footballers, including Ronaldo, into the Saudi league, plans sporting events that should culminate in 2034 with the hosting of the World Cup.
Its great political rival Iran perceives all this and has to face it somehow. As part of a peaceful match between the two regional powers, it was therefore not in Tehran’s interest to scandalize the opponent’s big star in any way.