The statue of Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo has caused a stir in the southern Indian state of Goa, with its residents accusing authorities of being negligent in honoring a sports star from a former colonial power.
Following the unveiling of the statue in Calangute this week, several protesters with black flags gathered at the scene.
The protesters expressed their anger that the authorities had ignored the sports stars in India and instead selected a player from Portugal where Goa gained independence in 1961.
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Mickey Fernandes, a former international from Goa, described the election as “painful” and experienced a “hangover” from Portuguese rule.
“Ronaldo is the best player in the world, but we still have to have a statue of a Goa player,” Fernandez told AFP.
Most of present-day India gained independence in 1947. On the other hand, after the armed conflict with the Portuguese colonial powers, Goa became an autonomous region in 1961, governed by the Indian federal government, and was recognized as a whole state of India. In 1987.
Michael Lobo, a regional minister and a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), justified the choice, saying it was based on the desire to uplift the youth not only in India but also internationally.
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“All the boys and girls who want to become professional footballers will be inspired by people like Cristiano Ronaldo,” he said.
“If they pursue their dreams with enthusiasm, they can achieve their goal. That is what we (the statue) have on board,” he added.
Remains of Portuguese existence are most clearly visible in the area, with local architecture, a significant number of churches and many citizens having names and surnames of Portuguese descent.
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Unlike other parts of India, many people in the state prefer football to cricket, and many fans of the Portuguese team in international matches such as the World Cup.
“I also follow him (to Portugal), but we can’t set up a statue of a foreigner when we have our own soldiers,” Fernandes explained.
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