Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldinho faces backlash for controversial visit to Israel
Former Brazilian professional footballer Ronaldinho Gaucho has faced a backlash on social media for visiting Israel, posted a picture of himself in the northern city of Haifa on Monday, with the caption "Shalom".
Pro-Palestinian social media users responded to the footballer's tweet - which included an emoji of the Israeli flag - with rows of Palestinian flag emojis.
Others called out the footballer for his support of Israel. "I'm surprised he didn't say "homeland" like the others. Shame on U. #FreePalestine," one user tweeted.
The football legend is visiting Israel for a friendly game between Israeli and Brazilian footballers, according to Israeli media.
Ronaldinho will take part in a match Tuesday evening pitting major Brazilian soccer legends against famous Israeli players.
This is not the first time the Brazillian striker has visited Israel. Last year, Ronaldinho set up the Ronaldinho Soccer Academy in Israel for children aged 6 to 16.
"I am very excited to help Israeli children of all faiths raise their game to the highest levels," Ronaldinho said at the time.
"I see the school as a first-class educational tool that helps in acquiring skills, tools for life, discipline, teamwork and more. Israel has a tremendous potential, countless talents and a great love for the game."
American singer and actress Demi Lovato faced similar criticism earlier this month after visiting and praising Israel despite its occupation of the Palestinian territories.
"I'm sorry if I've hurt or offended anyone, that was not my intention," she said in an apology on Instagram.
The 27-year-old pop star admitted that she "accepted a free trip to Israel in exhange for a few posts".
Ronaldinho and Lovato are not the first celebrities to come under fire for her relationship with Israel.
Madonna angered pro-Palestinian advocates with her decision to perform at the Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv in May.
Many high-profile musicians have refused to perform in Israel in recent years, including Lorde, Brian Eno, Faithless and Massive Attack, citing their objection to Israel's violation of Palestinian rights and failure to comply with international law.
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