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”.
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.
In pictures: Brazil unrest ahead of World Cup 2014
In pictures: Brazil unrest ahead of World Cup 2014
Brazilian protesters take over the Cristo Redentor statue viewing platform in Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro. The protestors ask for improved funding for public education instead of expenditures in athletic events
Demonstrators run from tear gas fired by police outside Ana Rosa subway station during the fifth day of metro workers' strike in Sao Paulo
Riot police forces stand guard during a demonstration by striking subway workers and members of the MTST (Homeless Workers' Movement) in Sao Paulo
Metro's workers demand 12.2 percent salary raise. The five-day-old strike has already caused massive traffic jams in Brazil's largest city as its new stadium prepares to welcome more than 60,000 fans for Brazil-Croatia game
Striking subway workers and members of the MTST (Homeless Workers' Movement), demonstrate at the Cathedral of Sao Paulo
Striking subway workers and members of the MTST (Homeless Workers' Movement) walk through the streets of Sao Paulo
A court set a 500,000 reals penalty ($223,000) for each day metro workers' union members stay off work from Monday and also declared the strike illegal, complicating preparations for the World Cup opening match
Striking subway workers and members of the MTST (Homeless Workers' Movement), are dispersed with tear gas by police forces as they demonstrate in Sao Paulo
Striking subway workers and members of the MTST (Homeless Workers' Movement), demonstrate in Sao Paulo
"The World Cup here in Brazil is the worst thing in the world for workers. They are investing in stadiums and forgetting the people" said Umberto Rocha, a director of a union for Rio security guards
Policemen in riot gear walk inside Ana Rosa subway station during the fifth day of metro worker's protest in Sao Paulo
Activists stage a protest in front of the municipal stadium in the town of Sorocaba prior to a training session by Japan's national soccer team
Activist Sara Winter poses for the picture during her anti World Cup protest in Rio de Janeiro's Ipanema beach. Written on her body in English is the phrase, "While your team is relaxing, Brazilians are dying"
Guarani Indians occupy the "Bandeirantes" monument during a protest in Sao Paulo
A rafter is seen on the ground at a construction site for the monorail where one construction worker died and two workers were left injured after one of the rafters collapsed in Sao Paulo
The rafter in Sao Paulo collapsed due to unknown reasons
Subway train operators, along with activists from social movements, clash with riot police in front of the Ana Rosa metro station, in an ongoing subway strike, in Sao Paulo
Authorities are deeply worried about the strike because the subway is the main means of transportation for World Cup fans scheduled to attend opening match when Brazil takes on Croatia
A police officer pepper sprays strikers and protesters during a clash with riot police in front of the Ana Rosa metro station, in an ongoing subway strike by operators in Sao Paulo
Brazilian are furious over Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro dressed in a giant Italian football shirt for a television commercial
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.”