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 insensitive to 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 site.
Protesters were outraged that the authorities ignored the Indian sports stars and instead chose a player from Portugal, where Goa gained independence in 1961.
Mickey Fernandez, a former international from Goa, said the election was “painful” and that he had experienced a “hangover” from Portuguese rule.
“Ronaldo is the best player in the world, but we still have to have a statue of a player from Goa,” 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, pointing out that it was based on the desire to uplift the youth not only in India but also internationally.
“All the boys and girls who want to become professional footballers will be inspired by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo,” he said.
“If you pursue your dreams with enthusiasm, you can achieve your goal. That is what we (the statue) have on board,” he added.
The remnants of Portuguese existence are most visible in the area, with local architecture, a significant number of churches and many citizens having names and surnames of Portuguese descent.
Unlike other parts of India, many in the state prefer football to cricket, and many support the Portuguese team in international matches such as the World Cup.
“I follow him (to Portugal) too, but we can’t set up a statue of a foreigner when we have our own soldiers,” Fernandez explained.
“Beer fanatic. Bacon advocate. Wannabe travel junkie. Social media practitioner. Award-winning gamer. Food lover.”