Cristiano Ronaldo is set to attend a ceremony today, along with family and close friends, at the airport outside his hometown of Funchal, located on the Portuguese island of Madeira. As Madeira already boasts a Ronaldo statue, a hotel complex named after him and a museum about his life and career, it is clear that the Real Madrid footballer is as prominent a figure to everyone back home as he is worldwide, if not more so.
Before the ceremony today, a sign with Ronaldo's name and face was already being added to the exterior of the Madeira International Airport, as the hub was called up until yesterday.
The airport rebranding doesn't lack for opposition, however, with some Portuguese government officials claiming that the regional government of the island didn't have the right to legally change the name without consulting the primary governing body of Portugal on the mainland. Others suggest that Ronaldo's name might have been better used to label something in the world of sports; a stadium, perhaps. Supporters of the change won out, however.
"Sometimes, national gratitude has short memory, but Madeira doesn't," Miguel Albuquerque, the president of the Madeira government, said when the name change was announced last year, adding that the tribute was fair in consideration of Ronaldo's services to his homeland. The footballer is highly regarded as a promoter of his home, using social media accounts to spurn his fans to vote for Madeira in a travel industry contest.
Madeira - on it's own merit - is considered one of the world's top travel destinations and is famous for it's beautiful weather and landscapes.
Ronaldo grew up in Funchal sharing a room with his older brother and two older sisters before moving to the mainland to join the youth squads of Sporting Lisbon. From there he made it to Manchester United and eventually to Real Madrid, becoming one of the world's biggest soccer stars. He received his fourth FIFA World Player of the Year award this year.
National gratitude in Madeira may NOT have a short memory, as Albuquerque puts it, but it seems that the sculptor commissioned to create a bust of Ronaldo to commemorate the event does - so short that even armed with a picture of the superstar footballer, they were unable to remember exactly what he looks like...
In the wake of the event this sculpture has been the breakout star of the unveiling!