A statue of Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo has caused an uproar in the southern Indian state of Goa, whose residents accuse authorities of callousness for honoring a sports star from the former colonial power.
Several protesters with black flags gathered at the scene after the statue was unveiled this week in the city of Calangute.
The protesters expressed their anger that the authorities have ignored sports stars in India and chose instead a player from Portugal, a country from which Goa gained independence in 1961.
Micky Fernandes, a former international player originally from Goa, said this election was “painful” and that it has been experienced as a “hangover” from Portuguese rule.
“Ronaldo is the best player in the world, but we should still have the statue of a Goa player,” Fernandes told AFP.
Most of present-day India gained independence in 1947. On the other hand, Goa, after an armed conflict with the Portuguese colonial power, became an autonomous territory administered by the Indian federal government in 1961, and was admitted as a full state of India in 1987.
Michael Lobo, regional minister and member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), justified this choice by noting that it is based on the will to push young people towards excellence, not only in India, but also internationally.
“All the boys and all the girls who want to become professional footballers will be inspired by people like Cristiano Ronaldo,” he said.
“If they pursue their dreams with passion, they will be able to achieve their goal. That is what we have put on the plaque (of the statue),” he added.
The remains of the Portuguese presence are very visible in the region, in the local architecture, in the significant number of churches and in the fact that many inhabitants have names and surnames of Portuguese origin.
Contrary to the rest of India, many inhabitants of the state prefer soccer to cricket, and many fans of the Portuguese team in international competitions such as the World Cup.
“I follow him (to Portugal) too, but we cannot erect the statue of a foreigner when we have our own players,” Fernandes explained.