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Rio de Janeiro's Maracanã stadium "has re-opened with an exhibition match despite not being fully finished," according to Pedro Fonseca of REUTERS. Only two entrances "were complete, some seats still missing and the area around the stadium resembled a building site" as the arena was re-inaugurated on Saturday with a match between teams led by former Brazil strikers Ronaldo and Bebeto.The Maracanã is the fourth of the 12 World Cup stadiums to be opened. Ronaldo said, "Brazil is going to give a big lesson to the world and to those which didn't think it would be possible to hold this World Cup and Confederations Cup. It was a last-minute thing but that's how it goes. We are happy with the result. The pitch is sensational. The stands are beautiful, so are the internal facilities, everything is really good" (REUTERS, 4/28).
PEACEFUL PROTESTS: In London, John Drayton reported the construction workers who helped upgrade the stadium and their families "were treated to the first action in the 'new' Maracanã as Friends of Ronaldo and Friends of Bebeto played an exhibition match." Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and "other big name guests were among the 30,000 who attended the inauguration." However, "not everyone was sharing in the spirit of the occasion." A few hundred "held a peaceful protest" against the stadium's privatization plan, saying that it will give the government "less money that it invested in the venue and will lead to the demolition of an indigenous museum, a public school and some athletics facilities in the area" (DAILY MAIL, 4/28).
MARKING THE CALENDAR: The AFP reported Saturday's game "was the first of three tests in the renovated arena" before the Confederations Cup begins in Brasilia on June 15. The first Confederations Cup game in Rio will be a Mexico-Italy game on June 16. Before then, a second test is scheduled for May 15 with 50% capacity, to be followed by "the official inauguration of the venue on June 2 with a Brazil-England friendly" (AFP, 4/28).
National Football Museum bosses in Manchester, England said that "they feel vindicated after it smashed its annual visitor target in the space of nine months," according to Mike Keegan of the MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS. More than 350,000 people "have already clicked through the turnstile at the Urbis-based attraction since it opened last July." That is "more than three times as many as visited the museum in its former home of Preston, which it controversially vacated to come to Manchester." Officials from the museum "are now expected to commission a report to find out how much money it is bringing into Manchester’s economy" (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 4/26).
FIFA MUSEUM PLANNED: WORLD FOOTBALL INSIDER reported FIFA President Sepp Blatter "has unveiled plans for FIFA’s new museum project." Instead of being built in FIFA’s grounds on the Zurichberg in Switzerland as originally planned, "it will be constructed in" the Haus zur Enge in Zurich-Enge. The museum "is expected to open" in spring '15. FIFA said that the estimated cost is $111M -- for the renovation of the building, which is owned by Swiss Life, and "realisation of the museum project" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 4/26).
Supporters of Premier League rivals ManU and Liverpool "took action on Friday to ensure their clubs remained at their historic homes of Old Trafford and Anfield," according to Keith Weir of REUTERS. Fans "have applied to their local councils to register the two grounds as 'Assets of Community Value.'" If approved, the designation "would give the fans' groups the right to bid for the land if the clubs ever tried to sell up." Liverpool fan group Spirit of Shankly spokesperson Paul Martin said, "Anfield is an important part of our club and the community. We have to ensure that remains and safeguard it, ensuring it can continue to always be integral to the local community" (REUTERS, 4/26). The MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS reported Trafford council "now has eight weeks to make a decision, leaving open the potential for the Glazers to appeal." Manchester United Supporters Trust CEO Duncan Drasdo said, "A listing reduces the chances that Old Trafford could be secretly sold off and worse still Manchester United move to a new location, as we’ve seen with such disastrous effects at several other English clubs" (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 4/27).