Portuguese footballing phenomenon Cristiano Ronaldo is being asked to step into the campaign to save Portuguese aid worker Miguel Duarte from what could be 20 years in an Italian jail.
The Portuguese Refugee Council (CPR) has appealed to ‘CR7’ in an open letter – the context being that the football star now plays for an Italian team (Juventus).
What the CPR want is for Ronaldo to “literally wear” Miguel’s name on his shirt.
Providing a mock up of the new ‘7’ shirt they have in mind, the council implores “wear the shirt, Ronaldo… the best in the world could help make the world better”.
Miguel Duarte’s predicament is that he made up the crew of migrant rescue vessel Iuventa that in one year helped save the lives of 14,000 migrants crossing the Mediterranean sea from North Africa to Italy.
But Italian authorities do not see it that way. They have interpreted the crews’ actions as aiding illegal immigration.
According to Wikipedia, for instance, there are witness reports, photo and video material and sound recordings that suggest the organisation Duarte was working for “had not tried to rescue people but taken over illegal immigrants at calm sea”.
It’s a case that has seen the Portuguese government pledge its support (click here) and a crowdfounding campaign raise funds for Duarte’s defence. But it’s by no means clear how the case will go – thus the CPR’s appeal directly to figure who has the a large part of the world watching whenever he steps onto a pitch.
Says the open letter, if Ronaldo could publish a photo of himself wearing the shirt “it would be fantastic. This way when Italians applaud someone they idolise, they would also be applauding Miguel and what he did for refugees”.
Will CR7 accept the challenge, and more importantly will it work? That’s what we have to wait and see.
Meantime Miguel Duarte – a committed young man taking his doctorate in Mathematics at the Superior Technical Institute of Lisbon – has his life on hold, waiting for a trial where costs for the defence are expected to reach up to 500,000 euros.