Football megastar Cristiano Ronaldo is at the centre of a scandal that could see him receive “99 lashes for adultery” the next time he sets foot in Iran.
The revelation stems from a seemingly harmless hug during Ronaldo's visit to Tehran in September.
Reports from Iranian media suggest that numerous lawyers have filed complaints against Ronaldo due to a photo taken during his trip.
The Portuguese football sensation, in Tehran with Al-Nassr for the Asian Champions League, hugged and kissed Iranian special-needs artist Fatima Hamimi, thanking her after she gifted him a specially crafted painting in a public area.
The contentious photograph and video, widely circulated on social media, captured the moment when Ronaldo embraced Hamimi, a move that has triggered a legal storm in Iran.
In the country's strict legal Islamic framework, any physical contact with a married woman is tantamount to adultery.
Hamimi, reported to be “85% paralysed,” expressed her admiration for Ronaldo, who reciprocated with a kiss on the cheek, a signed shirt, and a friendly photograph.
Sharq Emroz, an Iranian news network, reported that the justice system swiftly responded, sentencing Ronaldo to ‘99 lashes' the next time he steps foot in Iran. While Ronaldo is not expected to return during the current phase of the Asian Champions League, the potential for his return remains if Al-Nassr advances to the knockout rounds.
However, the UK’s Daily Mail reported that other Iranian media outlets suggest the sentence could be forgiven by a judge if the acts are considered non-punishable or if Ronaldo expresses remorse.
Ronaldo is in a long-standing relationship with Spanish model Georgina Rodriguez, has yet to make a statement on the matter.