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Juan Pablo Pino

Saudi Arabia’s religious police have arrested a South American soccer star in a shopping mall in the Saudi capital for failing to cover up his tattoo of Jesus.

Juan Pablo Pino, 24, who plays for the An-Nasr professional team was wearing a sleeveless shirt while walking with his young pregnant wife in a shopping mall in Riyadh, reported Asia News.

“The tattoo on his left shoulder led to the insults of some local Muslims,” reported the Vatican Insider newspaper. “The incident attracted the attention of the so-called ‘police for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice,’ who stopped the couple.”

According to the Qatar newspaper al-Sharq, religious police “put the player and his wife in a car and took them to the police station.”

Soon afterward, police contacted the soccer club and “Pino and his wife were handed over to them.”

“Immediately afterwards the football club released a statement, attributed to the player,” reported Asia News, “where Juan Pablo Pino expressed his ‘deep sadness’ over the incident and certified that it was not his intention to violate the laws of the country. The communiqué adds that the player was in the mall ‘to buy Muslim clothes for his wife, so that she can go out in public dressed in a respectful manner.’

The player’s wife, however, according to al-Sharq is distressed wanted her husband to leave Saudi Arabia with her. The newspaper said that the club has asked the coach, Gustavo Costas, to convince her to change her mind.

In September the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio, Costas described his new life in Saudi Arabia.

In Lima he had a habit of making the sign of the cross before every game and wore a rosary around his neck.

“Now I can not do this in public, I do it in the locker room. If I made the sign of the cross, they would kill me, stone me,” Costas told El Comercio.

Last year, the Romanian player Mirel Radoi who plays for the Saudi club al-Hilal kissed the cross tattoo on his arm after scoring a goal. The episode scandalized Muslims, according to El Comercio.

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