New Cristiano Ronaldo statue in India divides opinion as fans protest unveiling

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A statue of Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo is dividing opinion in India, with some football supporters even turning up to protest its unveiling.

Installed in the western Goa state, where football is hugely popular, officials hope the monument dedicated to one of the greatest players of all time will inspire young people.

However, critics believe local footballers should have been celebrated instead, especially since Indian's national team has a heavy Goan presence.

"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," a local Goan told the IANS news agency.

During the statue's unveiling, some people waved black flags in protest, the Times of India newspaper reported.

It adds that the tribute cost around £12,000 and weighs a whopping 65 stone.

The reason for Ronaldo being chosen as the statue's subject could come from the fact that Goa is a former Portuguese colony.

Indeed, the Portugal national team remain popular in the region, and due to its colonial past, many people retain ties with the European country.

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Some believe it is offensive to install the statue during the 60th anniversary celebrations of Goa winning freedom from Portuguese rule.

"To erect a statue of a Portuguese footballer this year is sacrilegious. We condemn this," IANS quoted right-wing activist Guru Shirodkar as saying. "There are many freedom fighters in Goa who have been insulted," he added.

Goa minister Michael Lobo clearly disagreed and posted two photos of the statue onto his Twitter account celebrating its erection.

He wrote: "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.

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"It was an honour to inaugurate the beautification of open space, landscaping, garden with foundation and walkway."

He told ANI: "This is for the first time that the statue of Cristiano Ronaldo has come up in India. This is nothing but to inspire our youth."

This is not the first time a likeness of Ronaldo has caused controversy.

A bust of the United star was unveiled when Madeira airport was renamed in honour of the forward in March 2017.

However, the work by Madeiran artist Emanuel Santos was widely mocked online and the bust was replaced with a new version.

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