Madeira airport is set be officially renamed Cristiano Ronaldo Airport on Wednesday, despite opposition from local politicians.
A sign with the player’s image was already being added to the facade of the airport, which until Tuesday was called the Madeira International Airport.
The Portugal captain is expected to attend a ceremony at the airport outside his hometown of Funchal on Wednesday, a day after his Portugal side play Sweden in the city in a friendly. Portugal’s squad landed on Monday at the airport, displaying the trophy they won at Euro 2016 in France.
The name change at the airport, known as one of the windiest in the world, attracted a lot of attention locally, with some politicians opposing it and saying that the footballer’s name should be added to a stadium or another sporting venue.
Some said the Madeira regional government didn’t have the legal right to make the name change without consulting the main government.
“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. He added that the tribute was fair considering Ronaldo’s services to his homeland.
Madeira regional government president Miguel Albuquerque told A Bola earlier this month that it was right to honour “a great Madeirense” and accused critics of having “a lack of manners.”
There had been a petition against the move which claimed the renaming was “disproportionate and lacks a plausible justification.”
Ronaldo, who now has 70 goals for Portugal after scoring twice in the 3-0 World Cup qualifying win against Hungary on Saturday, which moved him within one goal of third place in Europe’s all-time top international scorers.
He 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 stars.
Ronaldo is regarded as a promoter of Madeira, a top travel destination. A couple of years ago, he used his social media accounts to ask fans to vote for Madeira in a contest organised by the travel industry. The islands southwest of Portugal are known for their landscapes and wine.
Funchal already has a statue and a museum about Portugal’s most-capped player, as well a hotel complex named after him. Last year, vandals painted Lionel Messi’s name and jersey number on Ronaldo’s statue after Messi received the Ballon d’Or
The statue was unveiled in 2014 in the presence of Ronaldo and his close relatives. His family is also expected to attend the airport ceremony on Wednesday..