Ronaldinho honours Beirut firefighters who died in blast

Former football star’s Lebanon visit comes a few days before anniversary of the explosion

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Former football star Ronaldinho visited the Beirut Fire Brigade on Thursday, days before the first anniversary of the Beirut port blast.

Dozens of fans and volunteers gathered around the 41-year-old star in memory of the firefighters who died putting out the fire that preceded the explosion.

Images of the huge blast circulated around the world and news of the devastation drew international sympathy to Lebanon.

Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, commonly known as Ronaldinho, laid a white wreath and prayed for those who were killed in the explosion, the National News Agency reported.

Wearing sunglasses, a white t-shirt and black cap, the sports star spoke to the crowd before departing.

The former sportsman is in Lebanon as part of his "in solidarity with Lebanon and the Lebanese" initiative. He is expected to visit the port and speak with local associations on the ground.

A scuffle broke out between security officials, firemen and journalists covering the event, prompting the Beirut municipality to demand an investigation.

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud said he contacted the commander of the Beirut Fire Brigade, asking him "to open an investigation and take immediate disciplinary measures against anyone who is proven to be involved in this problem".

Ronaldinho has visited Beirut before, most recently in 2017 when he was spotted in nightclub Taiga Beirut.

Since retiring in 2015 Ronaldinho has dedicated time to charitable initiatives. He has worked with the UN Children's Fund and raised awareness about HIV/aids.

Last August a huge explosion in Beirut killed at least 214 people, wounded 6,500 and destroyed large parts of the city after thousands of tonnes of flammable material stored at the port caught fire and exploded.

Ten young volunteers from the Beirut fire brigade were called to the port to extinguish the fire that preceded the blast. None of them survived.

An investigation into the causes of the explosion has yet to produce any results.

Updated: August 2nd 2021, 9:00 AM