A new statue of footballing superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has sparked controversy in the Indian state of Goa, with residents objecting to a Portuguese footballer being honoured instead of a player from India.
Michael Lobo, a minister in the Goa state government, on Wednesday tweeted that the statue is aimed at promoting football as a sport and to inspire young people to play the game.
“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 to get inspiration, they feel inspired and the love and passion for this game will grow,” he later said.
For the love of football and at the request of our youth we put up Cristiano Ronaldo's statue in the park to inspire our youngsters to take football to greater heights. It was an honour to inaugurate the beautification of open space, landscaping, garden with foundation & walkway. pic.twitter.com/VU5uvlSlMT
— Michael Lobo (@MichaelLobo76) December 28, 2021
Instead, the day after the unveiling of the 400kg (882-pound) statue in Goa’s main city of Panaji, protesters carrying black flags converged on the site to protest, according to India’s IANS news agency on Wednesday.
Not only were the protesters angry at the decision to honour a foreign footballer, but the fact that the choice had been a player from Portugal was seen as a particular affront, given that the European country occupied Goa as a colony for centuries, only leaving 60 years ago.
Protest Meeting "No to Christiano Ronaldo's statue at Calangute" by Goa for Goans. pic.twitter.com/XtB5MoBWOL
— SagarVarta (@SagarVarta) December 28, 2021
Lobo told IANS the protesters “simply hated” football.
Ronaldo has not commented publicly on the statue in Goa. In 2017, there was another controversy when a bust of the striker was widely mocked and eventually replaced at the airport in the Portuguese island of Madeira.
While cricket remains the most popular sport in India overall, football enjoys more popularity in some areas such as Goa.
Despite having a population of more than 1.3 billion, India was worse at football than many other far smaller countries, Lobo told India’s ANI news agency.