The Real Madrid striker, Cristiano Ronaldo was joined by dozens of guests and hundereds of fans in his hometown Madeira Islands for an official ceremony of renaming the local airport as Aeroporto Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal’s president and the prime minister flew to the island for the ceremony.
Cristiano already has a statue, a museum and a hotel named after him in Madeira. Renaming of the airport was decided after Portugal won the 2016 European Championship. Petitions were filed for and against naming the airport after Cristiano. He was well aware of this poll and also acknowledged that it is rare for a public figure to be honoured while they are still alive.
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa clarified that this decision was taken by an elected government and the tribute is genuine and legitimate. He transpired that Ronaldo is an example of excellence and he is also responsibly projecting Madeira and Portugal across the world.
In Funchal, the regional government provided transport to the outdoor ceremony for school children and elderly people at shelter homes. Players and officials from the local Andorinha soccer club were present at the ceremony too – the club Ronaldo used to play for since he was seven years old.
Tourism is the economic mainstay of Madeira, which lies about 500km off the north-west coast of Africa. Around 2.5M passengers utilize the airport annually. The airport is a low, two-story building next to an Oceanside runway where landing are famous for being hairy – courtesy to the crosswinds.
The four-time player of the year is not the first football player with his name on an airport. In Northern Ireland, an airport was renamed as George Best Belfast City Airport in 2006; a year after the local player and former Manchester United winger died.