.- Saudi Arabia’s religious police detained a Colombian soccer player at a shopping mall on Oct. 7 for not covering up an image of Jesus tattooed on his shoulder.
Juan Pablo Pino, 24, who plays with the Al Nasr Soccer Club in Saudi Arabia, was wearing a sleeveless shirt while out with his pregnant wife at a mall in the capital city of Riyadh.
Locals who saw the tattoo began insulting him, which drew the attention of the officers from a group known as the Police Force for the Promotion of Virtue of the Prevention of Vice, who detained the couple.
The local paper Sharq reported that officers escorted the pair to a car and then waited for Al Nasr club officials to arrive. Pino and his wife were later released.
The Efe news agency reported that after the detention, the soccer club issued a statement saying Pino was “deeply saddened” over what had happened and that he fully respects Saudi law. He also said that he and his wife had been shopping for clothing they could wear that would be “more respectful” of Islamic customs.
Sharq reported that after the incidents on Friday, Pino’s wife has asked that the family leave the country.
The Al Nasr club has asked its Argentinean coach Gustavo Costas try to convince the couple to change their minds but so far he has not been able to do so, the newspaper said.
In September, Costas—who was head coach for the Peruvian soccer team Alianza Lima, before coaching Saudi Arabia—revealed some details about his new life to Peru's El Comercio newspaper.
He recalled that while he was in Lima, he made the sign of the cross before every game and wore a rosary around his neck. Now in Saudi Arabia, he said, “I can’t do it. I do it before heading out to the field, in the locker room. If I sign myself, they’ll kill me or stone me,” Costas said.
Last year a similar incident took place when the Romanian soccer player Mirel Radoi of the Al Hilal club kissed the tattoo of a cross he has on his arm after scoring a goal. The gesture earned him the ire of many Muslims in Saudi Arabia, where Islam is the dominant religion.