Ronaldinho named Brazil's tourism ambassador despite passport hold

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The former Barca star is grounded in his homeland and been handed an ironic new role

Despite being unable to leave Brazil, Ronaldinho has been unveiled as one of the country's new ambassadors for tourism.

The 39-year-old, who won the 2002 World Cup with the Selecao, had his passport seizure upheld in May this year after failing to pay a fine relating to environmental damage. 

Ronaldinho and his brother were convicted of illegally building a fishing trap at Lake Guaiba in 2015 without proper licensing in a permanent preservation area. 

That conviction saw the duo handed an $8.5 million fine in November 2018 and after failing to pay up, Brazil's Superior Court of Justice decided to stop Ronaldinho from being able to leave the country. 

Literally stranded in his homeland, the former Barcelona and AC Milan star is trying to make the most of his limbo after accepting a role to promote Brazil's tourism.

"Tourism is very important for generating jobs and regaining our image internationally," Ronaldinho said at his unveiling on Thursday. 

The 2005 Ballon d'Or winner has been praised for voluntarily taking on the new role by Brazilian Institute of Tourism's Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Osvaldo Matos de Melo Junior.

“You take the case of Ronaldinho, a person who has almost 100 million followers in his networks and voluntarily helps us at no cost for patriotism. This attitude is invaluable," he said. 

"Just by issuing a visa to countries like the United States and Canada, we have already had over 200 per cent increase in demand for our country. We will increasingly invest, even in intelligence, to achieve our goals."

After a glittering career in Europe that saw him win the Champions League, La Liga and Serie A, Ronaldinho finished his playing career in Brazil via a stint with Fluminese in 2015. 

The Gremio junior managed just nine appearances however before accepting he could no longer perform to the level he wanted. 

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"Ronaldinho asked us for a meeting. He respectfully told us he didn't feel he was able to perform as good as he wanted and that it was a bad situation for him," Fluminense's sporting director at the time Mario Bittencourt said. 

"He made a great gesture in saying he wasn't being the player he felt he could be right now. He was always spectacular, as a player and person."

Since hanging up the boots, Ronaldinho has taken on a role as ambassador for the 2016 Summer Paralympics and appeared at the closing ceremony for the 2018 World Cup in Russia

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