No, Ronaldo did not donate $1.5 million to Palestinians in Gaza for Ramadan

Copyright AFP 2017-2021. All rights reserved.

Posts shared tens of thousands of times on social networks claim that Cristiano Ronaldo donated $1.5 million to Palestinians in Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, without giving any source for the claim. The Portuguese soccer player's management company told AFP the story was false, "like many other stories about Ronaldo".

Identical headlines in various online publications make the same claim, stating that the alleged donation was intended to feed Palestinians for Iftar, the meal eaten after sunset during Ramadan.

AFP first found the false information on May 7 in an Arabic-language Facebook post shared 7,000 times. Social media posts in Spanish and French shared it further.

On May 16, Venezuelan television channel Telesur picked up the story in an article on its English website, referring to a tweet from "Onwadan’s Charity Foundation", which presents itself as a charity organisation in Lagos, Nigeria, on its Facebook page.

That tweet didn't fit the narrative of the text as it included a picture of children holding a banner reading "Orphans in Syria. Thank You Cristiano Ronaldo." That picture was already tweeted in 2016 by Syria Charity, a humanitarian group.

A tweet by a Nigerian charity, seen in a screenshot taken on May 21, 2019

The next day, the English website of Russian television channel RT picked up the false story in an article shared 17,000 times. They later corrected the story but RT’s original headline still appeared in Google search results for "Ronaldo donates $1.5 million" on May 27, and the hoax remained uncorrected on many other news websites, such as  here and here.

Screenshot of a Google search result on May 27, 2019

The hoax gained further traction on social media platforms, for example here and here, as people quoted the original sources of the hoax.

Screenshot of a YouTube search result on May 27, 2019
Screenshot of a tweet on May 27, 2019

A recurring target

It is not the first time Cristiano Ronaldo has been subject to rumors related to Palestinians.

An altered photo of the Portuguese player holding an “All with Palestine” (“Todos con Palestina) sign has been circulating on the internet since 2012, as found in a search on Tineye reverse search.

(Screenshot of a Dutch website that mentioned Ronaldo's altered photo)

An AFP picture from 2011 shows the original picture in which Real Madrid players hold a sign reading “All with Lorca”(“Todos con Lorca”), referring to the Lorca earthquake, which killed nine people that same year.

Ronaldo standing next to Emmanuel Adebayor and Ricardo Alberto in Lorca, Spain, a few days after the earthquake that struck the city killed nine people on May 11, 2011. (Jose Jordan / AFP)

Ronaldo is not the only soccer player to fall victim to false stories online.

In June 2018, false remarks regarding the cancelation of a friendly game between Argentina and Israel were attributed to Ronaldo’s Argentinian rival Lionel Messi.

François D'Astier
 
Stanislas Touchot