Updated April 25, 2019​ 

Sri Lanka Express

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Soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo sparks outrage posing with foot on Buddha statue

SLE News - In March of this year, international soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo purchased a massive Buddha-head statue for display on the front lawn of his luxurious mansion in Spain.

On October 20, Ronaldo (named after President Ronald Reagan) did the unthinkable.  He posted a photo of himself on Instagram posing with his right leg on the base of the Buddha statue, universally considered a sign of disrespect.

The post under the title “Bom Dia” (Good Morning), has unleashed an avalanche of angry comments from fans worldwide against Ronaldo who captains the Real Madrid team, ten-time champions of Europe.

  "Hi dude but its basic knowledge that you cannot put your foot on a religious statue," one fan said while another implored: "Pls don 't do this. We r buddhist. My god. My trust. but under of your legs. It's so rude.”

A virtual tour of his villa in La Finca, a little town on the outskirts of Madrid which Ronaldo posted online in December 2015 revealed a glimpse of a white statue of a seated Buddha with a vase of flowers beside it. 

Born in Portugal where 81% of the population is Roman Catholic, 3.3% Christian, and only about 15,000 Buddhist, Ronaldo seems to have a penchant for Buddhist statues.  But, apparently, little understanding of Buddhism. 

Within a few days, of the posting of his controversial front-lawn photo, there were 28,000 comments, with many demanding an apology from the soccer heavyweight and urging him to take down the offensive image.

Ronaldo who has a total of over 244 million followers across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter has yet to respond.

There’s another precedent for world soccer’s brush with Buddhism. 

Jurgen Klinsmann, US national team for the past five years, raised eyebrows in Gerrmany during his short but controversial  coaching stint at Bayern Munich in 2008 when he planted Buddha statues in the training area.

 The German newspaper SPIEGEL ("Bayern Munich's Path to Enlightenment" ) reported that: "Championship-winning Bayern Munich has hired Jürgen Klinsmann to help it rejoin the ranks of the top European football clubs. Klinsmann is intent on getting into the heads of his players to improve their performance -- with the help of Buddha, yoga and a holistic philosophy."

Klinsmann who had been living in Los Angeles for a decade before his Bayern Munich appointment, promised to “ build up a new energy field, which will please the players a lot."   Toward that end, he installed four Buddha statues around the training facility and had a “quiet zones” built where team members were encouraged to meditate.   

Klinsmann new age changes were criticized and even ridiculed.  His coaching stint lasted less than a season and he was fired after Bayern was eliminated from the German Cup and the Champions League.

In deeply Catholic Bavaria, officials made sure the statues were removed with little delay.

From our archives:
The "Hollywood Buddha" Controversy

The Cristiano Ronaldo incident is reminiscent of the furor in 2004 surrounding a poster advertising the movie  “Hollywood Buddha.”   The movie was about a struggling Hollywood producer who rents a Buddha statue at the behest of a Buddhist friend who believes it will bring him luck selling his feature film.  

A poster for the movie that depicted independent filmmaker Philippe Caland (also the leading character in the movie) sitting on top of the Buddha’s head quickly circulated online sparking outrage in Sri Lanka and Thailand.

More than 500 Buddhist monks protested outside the US Embassy in Colombo demanding a ban on the Hollywood movie, even threatening to fast to death if their objections were not heeded.

The highly-publicized controversy was resolved in Los Angeles when an apologetic Caland contacted Consul General Pradeep Gunawardena and offered a free screening of the movie to Buddhist monks to convince them that it was in no way disrespectful to Buddhism.

Caland later said that the movie poster was a mistake but that the incident got him thinking about karma and the role of cause and effect in our lives –which led to the making of another movie called Ripple Effect.  It received mixed reviews but earned awards at the Sedona and Boston international film festivals.
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