Statue of Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo divides opinion in Goa

The Indian state was a colony of Portugal until it was liberated 60 years ago

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A gold statue of Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo is diving opinion in India's western state of Goa.

The statue was unveiled this week in the town of Calangute in Goa, where football is among the most popular sports. Michael Lobo, the state minister for ports, said the statue was being installed to inspire young people.

However, there has been a backlash from critics, as Goa is a former Portuguese colony. The installation of the statue, three years in the making, coincides with the 60th anniversary of liberation from the Portuguese.

Critics say local football players should have been honoured instead, with many India players hailing from Goa. Local media reported that a number of people waved black flags in protest.

“Very disappointed to hear of the statue of Ronaldo being erected. Learn to take pride in our own icons like Samir Naik and Bruno Coutinho," an unnamed native resident told the IANS news agency.

Others were offended at the timing of the unveiling on the 60th anniversary of Goa's liberation, which happened 14 years after the rest of the country got freedom from the British rule.

However, due to the state’s history with Portugal, many Goans have lived in the European country or have family ties there, while the Portuguese football team remains popular in the state.

Lobo, a member of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, shared a photo of himself with the statue on Twitter, saying it had been installed "for the love of football" and "at the request of our youth" in the hope that it will inspire them "to take football to greater heights".

This is not the first time a statue of the Manchester United footballer has made headlines. In 2017, a bust of the star was revealed at Portugal's Madeira airport to wide ridicule, since many believed the bust face did not even closely resemble the star. It was eventually removed and replaced at the request of Ronaldo's family.

Ronaldo is having a tough week with his former Manchester United teammate Gary Neville criticising him for not applauding to the fans and demoralising his teammates with his body language after Tuesday night's draw against Newcastle United.

Updated: December 29, 2021, 6:09 PM