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Wednesday 31st May 2017
Estádio do Maracanã

Attendance: 21,172

When my girlfriend Eilidh and I set about planning our extended trip throughout South America, with Rio de Janiero the intended start point, one of the top of my list of ‘things to see’ was the Maracanã.

As a staunch football fan, the opportunity of visiting such a famous ground seemed almost too good to be true. Indeed at the time that appeared to be the case, as when we finalised the trip booking in early February of this year, no competitive football had been played at the Maracanã since October.

Remarkable as it seems, having undergone a £500 million refurbishment and playing host to two major sporting events in the last 3 years, the stadium had been left in a state of disrepair. Neither the Rio 2016 organising committee or Maracanã SA, the company normally in charge of running the stadium, were prepared to take responsibility for it’s state post-olympics. None of Rio’s club teams who use the ground as their home pitch, could afford the regular upkeep to fulfil fixtures, leaving it to decay over a matter of months.

Fortunately, the situation was apparently resolved to an agreeable level in March and domestic fixtures resumed, although the tour and museum remained closed.

The large, empty concourse.
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Not a pie, nor Bovril in sight!

 

I was delighted to find out that a fixture fell on the dates during our stay. The return leg of a Last 16 draw in the Copa do Brasil, Fluminense x Gremio. The former trailed 3-1 from the away leg, which meant it was all to play for in from of a home crowd. We were assured at a tourist information spot that we would be ok to turn up on the night and purchase tickets. This proved to be the case, although the queue at the Bilheteria (ticket office) was long and moved dreadfully slow – we queued from around 45 minutes before kick off and didn’t get in until ten minutes after the start. Disappointment at missing the first part of the game was allayed by the reasonable entrance fee, 40R$ (£9.60) per ticket.

Running out 2-0 winners on the night, most of the on pitch entertainment was provided by Gremio. I don’t know much about the form of Brazilian teams but Fluminense appear to be going through a rough patch. They lacked any chance creation in the final third and their defence was caught out with the same ball over the top for both goals, on another night Gremio could have had four or five. Some targeted jeers from the home fans suggested this isn’t the first time they’ve played so poorly.

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Fluminense in search of a consolation late in the second half. Triangular nets!

 

Despite this the home support generated a rousing atmosphere. The official attendance was announced at 21,172, but the comparatively small crowd was far from lost in the bowl of the Maracanã. A packed section of flag bearers and drum beaters punctuating the stuffy evening air with animated song for the best part of 90 minutes.

A section of the noisy home support.

I’m satisfied to say I’ve now attended a match at the Maracanã. Hopefully the stadium maintenance can be secured long term, as it would be a huge mark against the city of Rio if it failed to preserve this sporting landmark which so proudly serves the identity of Brazil as a footballing nation. On a positive front it has been announced, at the time of writing, that museum and tours are to open again in the coming days.

Read all about it!

I’ve been reading Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life – Updated Edition. Recommended to me by a friend before I left, it documents the way football has shaped the nation of Brazil. From the earliest introduction of the sport until the present day, it continues to impact so strongly both social and political aspects of Brazilian life. A great read for any football fan!

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