Rio's Maracanã Featured As Historic Brazilian Football Venue Ahead Of World Cup
When the Maracanã was built in Rio de Janeiro -- specifically to host the 1950 World Cup -- "it was considered the greatest soccer stadium in the world," according to Mimi Whitefield of the MIAMI HERALD. In the post-World War II years, football and the grand stadium "were considered powerful forces in unifying the country and bringing the poor into the national fold." With 11 minutes remaining in the final match of the 1950 World Cup, Uruguay’s Alcides Edgardo Ghiggia brushed a shot past the Brazilian goalkeeper and "little Uruguay was up 2-1," which ended up as its margin of victory. Zico, the legendary Brazilian player of the '70s and early '80s, said his father, Jose Antunes Coimbra, was "in the stands" that day in '50. After the loss, "he never returned to Maracanã." This year’s FIFA World Cup final "also will be held in Maracanã." The Maracanã, whose formal name is Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, will be the scene of six other World Cup games. It "has undergone a head-to-toe renovation." While the Maracanã is ready, "last-minute work on at least three of the 12 World Cup stadiums continues." FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke said, “We are getting there.’’ Because the Maracanã "occupies such a vaunted place in the national psyche, some purists debate whether it should have been tampered with at all." But Zico "isn’t one of them." For him, "the heart and soul of this temple of soccer remain." Zico: “For me, it’s only Maracanã. There’s no old and no new Maracanã. Maracanã is just magic.” During the nearly three-year renovation, the historic facade -- it was named a cultural heritage site by the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage -- "remained the same." But the interior "got a complete remodeling and a new roof made of fiberglass and Teflon that protects 95 percent of the stadium’s seats was added." A snazzy LED-lighting system "can project 110 colors on the roof" (MIAMI HERALD, 6/2).