Not for the first time a statue of soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is getting people talking – this time in India.
Unveiled in Goa, the statue of the Portuguese star was commissioned to inspire young people’s love of football, according to a state minister.
“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,” said Michael Lobo, the Goa state minister behind the statue’s unveiling.
“It was an honor to inaugurate the beautification of open space, landscaping, garden with foundation & walkway,” Lobo added.
Whereas other statues of Ronaldo have provoked comment about their likeness to the football great, the one in Goa has touched on political sensitivities given the state’s colonial past.
Goa on India’s western coast is the country’s smallest state and was indelibly shaped by 450 years of Portuguese rule. However, the state was freed from that rule in 1961.
“Erecting a statue of a Portuguese hero is a bit insensitive,” wrote on Twitter teacher Nuzhat Uthmani, who is a trustee of Wosdec, a Scottish not-for-profit organization that supports educators to empower young people to act as global citizens.
Another user questioned why Indian football stars Sunil Chhetri and Bhaichung Bhutia were not commemorated instead.
Former national team captain Bhutia – often referred to as India’s David Beckham – became the first Indian player to sign a professional contract in Europe upon signing for English club Bury in 1999.
Still playing in the Indian Super League at the age of 37, Chhetri trails only Ronaldo in the all-time men’s leading international scoring charts among active players, with 80 goals.
His tally puts him level with Argentina’s seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, and fourth in the all-time rankings behind Ronaldo, Iran’s Ali Daei, Malaysia’s Mokhtar Dahari, and Hungary’s Ferenc Puskas.
Ronaldo has scorerd 115 international goals, putting him six clear of Daei.
However, others have praised the Ronaldo statue in Goa, with one user tweeting that it could “be the foundational step for India to reach the World Cup soon.”
Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter once described Indian football as a “sleeping giant,” though the country has never played in a World Cup.
India’s national team was invited by FIFA to play in the 1950 World Cup but in the end failed to make it to Brazil.
According to football historian and statistician Gautam Roy, the journey by ship was too expensive and the players were unable to fulfill the compulsory requirement to wear football boots, as they usually played with bare feet.
A statue saga
In 2017 the newly named Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport – located in the star’s birthplace of Madeira – unveiled a bust in his honor, subsequently sending social media reaction into overdrive.
READ: Why is it so difficult to make a good sculpture of Cristiano Ronaldo?
Tweets compared the visage’s likeness to former Republic of Ireland striker Niall Quinn and former Liverpool defender John Arne Riise, though the bust’s creator Emmanuel Santos defended his work by saying that “even Jesus did not please everyone.”
Four years prior, Ronaldo had been immortalized in Madeira via a 10-foot bronze statue outside a museum dedicated to him, and ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he was honored by an ice sculpture in Moscow.
There is another bust of Ronaldo at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid, Spain.
This bronze figure, made by famous Spanish sculptor Jose Antonio Navarro Arteaga, is generally regarded as actually looking like the former Real Madrid striker, who now plays for Manchester United in the Premier League.
Swati A Gupta contributed to this report.