Ronaldo statue divides opinion in Goa

A large brass statue of Cristiano Ronaldo, which was unveiled on Tuesday at a park in Goa's beach village of Calangute, has created a stir in the coastal Indian state over the footballer's Portuguese lineage.

The statue was inaugurated with the aim of inspiring youngsters to emulate the maestro.

But it has triggered black-flag protests at the site, with locals accusing the state authorities of neglecting local football legends like former India captain Bruno Coutinho, who hails from Calangute.

Local Bharatiya Janata Party MLA and Ports Minister Michael Lobo said the plan to install the 41kg statue, costing Rs12 lakh ($21,748) and depicting Ronaldo in action, has been in the offing for the past two years.

"This is the first statue of Cristiano Ronaldo in India," he said. "This is nothing but to inspire our youth.

"If you want to take football to another level (in Goa), this is what will inspire boys and girls by looking at him, taking selfies with him.

"We require good infrastructure for our boys and girls to play. The statue is only to inspire. We want good grounds from the government, good infrastructure and good coaches."

Mr Lobo added that, despite India's vast population, its football team has often failed to beat even small nations, and budding players from Goa should be given proper coaching facilities in every village in the state.

"People who come to the Cristiano Ronaldo park will be inspired to become like him and play for Goa and India," the minister said. "We want to inspire Calangute, Candolim and the coastal belt villages first, then the rest of India."

Mr Ricardo D'Souza, the owner of the popular Titos nightclub in Calangute, said that statues of local football icons like Coutinho and Samir Naik should have been installed instead.

"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," Mr D'Souza said.

At the unveiling ceremony, some right-wing demonstrators also claimed that erecting a statue of Ronaldo, a Portuguese national, was an insult to Goa, especially when the state is celebrating its 60th anniversary of liberation from Portuguese rule which spanned 451 years.

"To erect a statue of a Portuguese footballer this year is sacrilegious," said right-wing activist Guru Shirodkar. "We condemn this.

"There are many freedom fighters in Goa who have been insulted. If Lobo wanted to erect footballers' statues, he should have erected Bruno Coutinho's statue."

Reacting to the protests, Mr Lobo said: "There are a few people who are opposing this. Looks like they hate football. Football belongs to everyone. It is not divided by religion or caste but still they are opposing with black flags. Their minds are black. One cannot argue with people who have black minds."

Indo-Asian News Service

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