Cristiano Ronaldo unveiled his own branded airport in Madeira before hitting out at critics by telling his fans: ‘I’m not a hypocrite.’
The Real Madrid superstar is back in his island homeland, having played for Portugal here on Tuesday night followed by Wednesday morning’s ceremony.
The rebranding of Madeira’s airport, now named as ‘Aeroporto Cristiano Ronaldo’, has received a mixed reception but Ronaldo spoke of his pride while telling those against the move: ‘I never asked for this.’
As part of the ceremony, a statue of the Portuguese star was unveiled, but the likeness is questionable
Ronaldo’s girlfriend, Georgina Rodriguez, was also in attendance at the event in her boyfriend’s home city
Above the bust of Ronaldo, a plaque marking the star’s contribution to Madeira was also unveiled at the airport
Accompanied by his mother Maria Aveiro, girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez and son Cristiano Jnr, he beamed with pride following a couple of days all about him — and was accompanied by a bronze bust of his head which now sits outside the arrivals terminal.
The airport renaming follows Ronaldo’s homecoming game with the national team, a return to Madeira’s capital Funchal — where Portugal had not played for 16 years.
Some locals, though, have expressed concerns that a landmark such as an airport should not be named after a sportsman — no matter their stature — although the move is expected to boost tourism on the island.
Portugal’s major airport, Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado, takes its name from a former air force general and famous politician in Portugal. In Madeira, Ronaldo joins George Best in Belfast as the only European footballer with an airport named in his honour.
Ronaldo gave a speech at the event, where he hit back at critics who opposed naming the airport after him
Rodriguez attended the unveiling wearing a white jacket, jeans, heels and a black Yves Saint Laurent bag
Rodriguez had previously watched her boyfriend in action for Portugal on Tuesday evening, when they lost to Sweden
A local prankster, dressed as Batman, appeared on a balcony at the event and threatened to steal attention from Ronaldo
He told an audience of hundreds on Wednesday: ‘Thank you for being here in my honour. Seeing my name being given to this airport is something very special. Everyone knows that I am proud of my country and especially my home city.
‘Thank you very much to the president of the regional government Miguel Albuquerque for having had the courage and the firmness to do it.
‘My friend, I never asked for this, but I’m not a hypocrite, and I’m happy and honoured. I know some people do not agree and I know some people who are not here would be happy for this moment.
‘I will try to dignify Portugal and especially Madeira with a spirit of sacrifice, dignity and passion.’
Ronaldo and Rodriguez mingling with the assembled guests at the glamorous event in Madeira
Rodriguez sat in the front row with her partner as the rebranding of the airport was unveiled to the assembled crowds
Young fans were desperate to get pictures of themselves alongside the statue of the Real Madrid football icon
A morning ceremony at the airport was attended by hundreds of locals, including schoolchildren waving flowers and chanting Ronaldo’s name in the hope of a glimpse of their idol.
His mother wept in the front row as the renaming received a stamp of approval and was signed off.
Even a local prankster, who appeared on a balcony dressed as Batman, could hardly steal the spotlight before police whisked him away.
An image of Ronaldo’s face now appears on the airport’s branding, as well as the introduction of the bronze bust outside the arrivals terminal.
Food was brought round to feed the vast crowds who turned out in Madeira to honour hometown hero Ronaldo
The rebranding of the airport in Madeira also includes an image of the Real Madrid star on signs above the entrance
The 31-year-old hit his 71st international goal in Portugal’s 3-2 defeat by Sweden in Funchal, Madeira’s capital, on Tuesday night.
It is the 86th city he has scored in for club and country — back in the country where he played youth football before shooting to fame with Sporting Lisbon and Manchester United.
Portuguese president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa also spoke at Wednesday’s event and hailed the 32-year-old as ‘an example of excellence’.
Madeira’s airport is famous for its sometimes hairy landings as planes arrive on the island between the hills and with the added complication of crosswinds.
Ronaldo, now with the site named in his honour, jetted off to return to Real Madrid shortly after the ceremony.