River Plate unveils divisive statue of coach Marcelo Gallardo

A statue of the former coach of the River Plate soccer club, Marcelo Gallardo, stands outside Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 30, 2023. The statue was made by Argentine sculptor Mercedes Savall. (AP Photo/Iván Fernández)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — River Plate's tribute to one of its greatest coaches has become divisive since the seven-meter-tall statue of Marcelo Gallardo was unveiled.

Exaggerated private parts on the statue and other alleged flaws caused only 21% of 6,149 voters to say they liked it in an online poll by La Página Millonaria, a popular website among River Plate fans.

The statue was unveiled on Saturday at Estadio Monumental in honor of Gallardo, who won 14 trophies for River as a player, and coached them to seven local titles and seven international trophies, including two Copa Libertadores.

The 47-year-old Gallardo, who left River at the end of 2022, attended the unveiling and laughed at the pronounced bulge in front of the pants.

Sculptor Mercedes Savall said the exaggeration was intentional, as a symbol of courage.

“Have you seen the Wall Street bull in the United States? I decided for that because we are talking in a soccer language,” Savall told local media. “It is a gesture toward the fans with a lot of respect. It is no joke.”

She was inspired by a picture of Gallardo lifting the Copa Libertadores trophy after River beat archrival Boca Juniors in 2018 in Madrid.

But reaction on social media to the statue included adjectives such as “horrible,” “grotesque” and “vulgar.”

“They invested so much time, they postponed the unveiling and they asked every supporter to make this cheap, tacky, of very poor taste (statue),” River fan Matías Marticorena said.

“I would not have unveiled it,” said Mario Rey, an artist and River supporter. “It is out of proportion. One arm is longer than the other, the legs look like elephant paws. I don’t like the finishing. This is a David by Michaelangelo, but done backward.”

River director Carlos Trillo said he heard the criticism and was willing to make adjustments.

“I want this to go for all life and for everyone to like it," Trillo said. "If there’s 1% of River fans that don’t like it and we can correct it, we will correct it.”


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