Publications shared more than 200,000 times on social networks since August 23 claim that footballers Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo chartered water bombers to help fight fires in the Amazon. This is false: relatives of the two stars have denied these claims, which also circulate about other personalities.
"The best player in the world once again shows that it is not big only on the ground, since two weeks that the Amazon burns, it decided to dispatch 5 planes of 70 000 liters of capacity to help control the fire which destroys the lung of the world", says a Facebook publication in Spanish about Lionel Messi, shared 30,000 times since August 23, 2019.
On Twitter and Facebook (1,2), the rumor is relayed tens of thousands of times in the language of the Argentine footballer.
In French, she appears on August 24, on a Facebook page of fans of FC Barcelona, where evolves "La Pulga". It has been shared more than 600 times.
Contacted by AFP, the spokesman for the striker FC Barcelona has denied these claims. "I had not seen anything about it until now. But I can tell you that it's not true, it's not true"he explained.
Some of the viral publications mentioned Messi's Instagram account as a source. But, the footballer did not say anything like it. Nothing on his official website either.
For its part, the Leo Messi Foundation did not mention any donation or rental of aircraft to fight fires in the Amazon on its accounts Twitter and Facebook, where she talks about the charity's actions in the Argentinian star.
In addition, the images of aircraft or fires accompanying the publications are not relevant. The photo at the top of the publication in French was taken in the Peruvian Amazon, Puerto Maldonado, in 2016. The image of Canadair circulates on the internet since at least 2003 *.
Rumors similar to those circulating on Messi concerned the Juventus striker Cristiano Ronaldo of Turin. On the social networks, netizens claim that it would have also used Canadair to fight the flames in the Amazon.
The Portuguese page Lusitanos do mundo evokes, in Portuguese, three planes with a capacity of 80,000 liters sent by the fivefold Ballon d'Or to fight fires. Assertions that are found in French on Twitter and in an article on the site echobuzz221.
Contacted about these publications by AFP, spokesmen of the Portuguese player have denied. As for Messi, no trace of such action on the attacker's Instagram account, on his account Twitter or its official website.
"CR7"Well posted posts about fires in the Amazon on Instagram and Twitter on August 22, accompanied by the hashtag #PrayForAmazonia.
However, AFP verification teams realized that the Portuguese star had used images of the Taim Ecological Reserve, in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, which is not part of the Amazon rainforest, for illustrate his point *.
Similar versions of this infox circulate about the Argentinean striker Juventus Gonzalo Higuaín and ex-footballer Ariel Ortega (1 and 2). These viral rumors have also concerned celebrities outside the world of football like the Ecuadorian singer El Delfín and even the porn actor Johnny Sins.
Brazil has recorded more than 82,000 fires from 1 January to 26 August, according to satellite data from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE). They are up 80% over the same period in 2018.
* AFP Factuel has checked many publications containing images which do not correspond to the current fires in Amazonia: - "Pictures misleading fires in the Amazon" - "Fires in the Amazon: personalities contributed to the misinformation").