When football revives colonial wounds. A statue of Portuguese player Cristiano Ronaldo was recently unveiled in the state of Goa, in southwest India. But this has provoked the ire of some residents accusing the local authorities of honoring the star of a country which had colonized the region.
It is against this backdrop that protesters carrying black flags gathered at the site just after the statue was unveiled this week in the town of Calangute.
As a reminder, Portugal only granted independence to the region in 1961, following an invasion by the Indian army and a two-day war that ended the Lusitanian military dictatorship.
Former international footballer Micky Fernandes, originally from the state of Goa, called the choice “offensive” and lamented the fact that it recalls the “vestiges” of the Portuguese yoke.
“Ronaldo is the best player in the world, but we should still have a statue of a player from Goa,” he told Agence France-Presse.
Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo’s statue installed in Panaji, Goa. To inspire youth & take football to next level in the state, country, we came up with this statue. We want our children to become like this legendary footballer, who is a global legend: Goa Minister Michael Lobo (28.12) pic.twitter.com/KthPHc7ox0
– ANI (@ANI) December 29, 2021
Michael Lobo, regional minister and member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for his part justified this choice by highlighting the desire to push young people to excellence, not only in India but also internationally.
“All boys and girls who want to become professional footballers will be inspired by people like Cristiano Ronaldo,” he pleaded.
A Portuguese heritage still very present
The remains of the Portuguese reign are very visible in the region, in the local architecture, the large number of churches and the fact that many inhabitants have names of Lusitanian origin.
The current Prime Minister of the Portuguese, the socialist Antonio Costa himself descends from a line of Brahmin from Goa.
Unlike the rest of India, many people in the state prefer football to cricket, and Portugal are very supportive of international competitions like the World Cup.
In another register and for the anecdote, this is not the first time that a statue of Cristiano Ronaldo has made waves.
In 2017, a bust of the Portuguese champion was installed at the airport of his native island, Madeira. An unflattering and hardly resembling bronze statue, changed a short time later in a confidential manner.