The Madeira Islands airport is set to be named after Ronaldo, and Mike & Mike debate whether there’s any higher honor. Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo says he aims to live up to the honour and responsibility of having the airport on his home island of Madeira renamed after him.
The decision to officially add the Real Madrid star’s name to the airport, so it is now called the “Aeroporto Internacional da Madeira, Cristiano Ronaldo,” was made by local regional government chief Miguel Albuquerque after Ronaldo captained Portugal to the Euro 2016 success last summer.
Although there has been some criticism of the idea from both locals on the island and politicians on Portugal’s mainland, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Prime Minister Antonio Costa both attended the ceremony, which included the unveiling of a plaque featuring the airport’s new name and a bust of the player’s head.
“Thank you for being here in my honour,” Ronaldo is quoted by O Jogo as saying at the event. “To see my name given to this airport is something very special, everyone knows that I am proud of my land and my country.
You will not believe the state of the Cristiano Ronaldo bust unveiled at Madeira Airport today. MORE ⏩ https://t.co/SO8EBUlbfo pic.twitter.com/486vMgauOy
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“I thank a lot the president of the regional government, who had the courage and strength to do this. My friend Miguel Albuquerque, I never asked for this, but I am very happy and honoured.
“I know that there were some people who did not agree, but I am not a hypocrite and I accept that some of those are here at this moment. That is all OK, we are all free, we live in a democracy and everyone has the right to their own opinion. I always prefer for those who have a position to say it openly, and not hide behind someone who speaks for them.
“I know the responsibility I have. I will always try to dignify Portugal and especially Madeira with dedication and a spirit of sacrifice and passion.”
Rebelo de Sousa said at the ceremony that “genius” Ronaldo “will always be an example” and that the renaming of the airport “was an exceptional decision for an exceptional personality, who we are convinced will never disappoint us.”
The event took place the day after Portugal hosted Sweden in a friendly, with Ronaldo opening the scoring before the visitors came back to win 3-2.
Cristiano Ronaldo has been honoured after leading Portugal to Euro 2016 glory last summer.Ronaldo was born in Funchal in Madeira in 1985, and moved to Lisbon aged 12 to continue his football education at Sporting Lisbon, before going on to great success at Manchester United and Madrid, while making a record 138 appearances for Portugal and scoring a record 71 goals.
Funchal’s landmark waterside square has in recent years become known informally as the “Praca CR7,” as it is now home to Ronaldo’s personal museum, a 3.4 metre tall bronze statue of the player, and the Pestana CR7 Funchal hotel.
Ronaldo has also received a number of prestigious personal awards from the island’s authorities, including the “Medalla de Merito de la Asamblea Legislativa,” the region’s highest honour.
Some local residents had publicly challenged the breadth of the official recognition afforded to him, and the Portuguese government launched a judicial inquiry after not being consulted before the announcement of the airport’s name change was made.
In response, Albuquerque said that those who questioned the initiative were “stupid and lacked manners,” and it was right to honour a “great madeirense” and “great Portuguese” in this way.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan