World Cup 2014: Brazil fury over Italian advert that put football shirt on Christ the Redeemer

The Catholic Church in Rio said it was the equivalent of 'Brazilian TV making an advert in which mulatto girls engaged in indecent behaviour with the gladiators of the Colosseum'

An Italian advert showing Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer wearing the country’s blue football shirt has sparked outrage in Brazil, leading the Catholic Church to threaten legal action.

Just days before the country plays its 2014 World Cup opener against England, Italy’s state broadcaster Rai aired a trailer for its coverage that includes the towering statue clad in a digitally-produced number 10 azure “Italia” shirt.

The advert also includes children playing street football in Brazil wearing Italy shirts and a message saying “Brazil awaits us”.

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The Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, which owns the imaging rights to Christ the Redeemer, blasted the depiction as “blasphemous” and described “exploiting” the iconic statue as a crime, the Italian newspaper Corriere reported.

The Church has threatened to sue Rai for between 15 and 21 million real (£4 million - £6 million), but said it would put the money towards charitable causes if it wins the case.

Speaking to Brazil’s O Globo newspaper, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese compared the “disrespectful” advert to “Brazilian TV making an advert in which mulatto girls engaged in indecent behaviour with the gladiators of the Colosseum”.

Alessandro Maria Tirelli, an Italian lawyer who notified Rai of the potential lawsuit, was reportedly quoted in Il Fatto Quotidiano as saying: “The archdiocese feels outraged.”

The advert, which has since been withdrawn by Rai, also sparked outrage in Italy, the Local reported. Edio Costantini, the president the sports organisation of the Vatican, told Il Fatto that the advert showed “we live in a world that has put God on the bench”.

“At a time when religious values seem to have become insignificant and everything is commercial, it’s right to feel indignation, even with an act of force,” he was quoted as saying.

A spokesperson for Rai told Il Fatto: “We will examine the matter, but for now decline to comment.”

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