Protests over Cristiano Ronaldo statue in former Portuguese colony of Goa

He is idolised as one of the greatest footballers on earth, with his number seven shirt treasured by millions of youngsters dreaming of superstardom. But Cristiano Ronaldo’s astonishing success has not been matched by those seeking to immortalise his image.

A statue of Ronaldo in action unveiled this week in Goa has triggered protests by some locals who say Indian players should be honoured ahead of one from the country that was Goa’s colonial ruler until 60 years ago.

The 400kg statue of the Manchester United and Portugal forward was intended to honour “the love of football” and “inspire our youngsters to take football to greater heights”, tweeted a local politician, Michael Lobo.

But some people waved black flags at the statue’s inauguration. “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,” one protester told the IANS news agency.

The Portugal team is popular in Goa, where many people have links with the European country as a result of its colonial history. But some argued that the statue, unveiled a few days after the 60th anniversary of the day Goa was freed from Portuguese rule, was insensitive and inappropriate.

Lobo later said: “When people talk about football, they talk about Cristiano Ronaldo. So we have installed this statue here so boys and girls at a very, very young age get inspiration, they feel inspired, and the love and passion for this game will grow.” He accused the protesters of hating football.

It is not the first time a statue of Ronaldo has had a less than enthusiastic reception. In March 2017 a bronze bust of the player unveiled to mark the renaming of Madeira’s main airport in his honour was ridiculed by fans who said it bore little resemblance to their hero. The sculptor Emanuel Santos said his work was just “a matter of taste”. But the following year it was replaced with a new bust, reportedly after a request from Ronaldo’s family.

In 2014 a 10ft bronze statue of the player outside his museum in Funchal, Madeira, raised eyebrows for its accentuation of his physique. Ronaldo said the image made him “feel so proud”.

Ronaldo, who grew up in poverty with an alcoholic father, went on to become the first footballer to earn $1bn in his career.

Statues of other public figures have been criticised for failing to capture the person’s likeness. This year a bronze of Diana, Princess of Wales with three children had a “hint of Theresa May” about it, according to some social media commentators.

And in March, Cork county council demanded that a €33,000 grant be repaid after a statue of the Hollywood actor Maureen O’Hara was deemed “unacceptable” and “not suitable for installation”.