FUNCHAL (PORTUGAL): A car park with a spectacular view of Funchal bay now stands on the site of the house where Cristiano Ronaldo grew up and became a football genius in the dusty streets.
The superstar’s name now brings tourists to the island of Madeira and the main town will again fall silent each time Ronaldo is playing for Portugal in the European Championship finals in June.
There is a three metre (11 feet) high statue in Funchal, the CR7 Museum has wax effigies of the footballer alongside some of his trophies and Ronaldo’s face stares out from holiday guides.
In Funchal, local people say the town hall decided to demolish the modest Ronaldo house to put off onlookers after the footballer’s father died in 2005.
But they also love to recall their favourite Ronaldo tales.
“When he was six years old, Cristiano juggled the ball alone in front of his house. The ball never touched the ground,” said a neighbour from the time, 73-year-old Adelino Andrade.
Now 31, Ronaldo remains one of the most marketable sports superstars, a fashion icon who is not ashamed to show off his six-pack abs.
Neighbours recall a skinny boy running around the Santo Antonio district on a hill overlooking Funchal, capital of the island which each year welcomes about one million tourists with its sunshine and volcanic beauty.
Por tug al’s captain first attracted scouts playing for CF Andorinha, a modest club which proudly shows off its links to the player.
“We opened the football doors for him. He needed a club to show his talent,” said Androinha’s president Jose Bacelar, 67, who coached the senior team when Ronaldo first joined the club at the age of seven.
“It’s Andorinha that was lucky that he started here,” Bacelar added. “Even at that time, he had an extraordinary technique.”