By Lindenberg Junior / Translation: Leandro Saueia
Soccer in Brazil started gaining popularity in the 1920’s and by the 1940’s, with an entire nation of devotees, the government saw itself obligated to invest in the construction of a stadium that would be able to hold an international championship. With the help of marketing by the sports media, Brazilians started to go to the stadiums in large numbers and the need for bigger stadiums became a reality, especially in large centers like São Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro.
Eurico Gaspar Dutra, Brazil’s president at the time, decided to invest large amounts of money into the construction of a giant soccer stadium in the heart of Rio de Janeiro in the São Cristóvão neighborhood. On July 16, 1950, in a preview game for the world cup, the Maracanã Stadium, the biggest in the world, was officially inaugurated. The stadium instantly became famous worldwide and in the weeks following its inauguration it hosted the most important games for the 4th Soccer World Cup. The stadium also made history because against all the prognostics, Brazil lost the final world cup game for Uruguay and this respective occasion.
The stadium, “Mário Filho Journalist” (nicknamed Maracanã) has become synonymous with soccer and huge emotions. Any Brazilian knows or has at least heard about the famous Maracanã. Initially called the “Municipal Stadium”, the field thrilled the world with its originality, marvelous plastic forms, extreme functionality and security. It was designed by architects Rafael Galvão, Pedro Paulo Bernardes Bastos, Orlando Azevedo and Antônio Dias Carneiro and built by several different Brazilian construction companies.
The Maracanã, tenderly named by the Rio people, has staged not only important sports events, but also major religious and cultural events, such as the mass hosted by Pope John Paul II when he first came to Brazil in the early 80’s, and former Beatle Paul McCartney who performed before for more than 180,000, the largest ever paid concert according to the Guinness Book of World Records. However, The Maracanã’s record for attendance goes to a soccer game played on March 16, 1954 between the national teams of Brazil and Paraguay, which was attended by 195,513 people.
Among local teams the record goes to the always important Flamengo X Fluminense (or Fla-Flu as they are called by their fans), which took place in 1963 and attracted 177,656 people. A few years ago, due to a federal law, the Maracanã underwent some repairs and modifications and chairs were added (just like the ones you see in American stadiums), which lowered the number of spectators allowed inside, but increased the safety and comfort to watch a game or event.
It’s fundamental for any soccer aficionado who’s visiting the city of Rio de Janeiro to stop and take a look at the Maracanã. It is like visiting San Francisco and not driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. And if you ever get the chance, watch a classic game in Rio like a Fla-Flu. The thrill and excitement are impossible to describe.