Maracaná (79)

Welcome to the Temple of Football in Rio! In fact, if you are a fan of the world of football, you sure will not associate the name Maracaná with an energy or revitalising drink. The Mario Filho stadium, known worldwide as Maracaná, has hosted, since its construction, unforgettable moments of Brazilian and world football. It represents a fundamental part of Rio's identity and culture, whereas world-famous football players like Pelé and Romario have starred on its lawn.

Maracaná not only boasts a glorious history, but it also imbues Rio with such a mysticism and grandeur that, after its recognition by the National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage, the whole building is considered a historical monument of the city.

In fact, you cannot deny that, with a height of more than 68 metres, a width of 105 metres and 124,000 m2 distributed over five levels, its dimensions are impressive to say the least. A concrete monster with a capacity exceeding that of Glasgow's Hampden Park, the then world's largest stadium, with its forty-three thousand seats, for which more than ten thousand workers, seven architects and two years of construction were needed.

Maracaná's construction was started in 1948 with the excuse of holding the World Cup in 1950, although its opening took place a little before the world cup, as it occurred with a friendly match between selected players from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on 16 June 1950. The first goal scored in the stadium is attributed to Didí during that friendly match, in which the team from São Paulo won 3 to 1.

But it was during the finals of the World Football Cup of that year when the Maracaná marked the beginning of its history. On 16 July 1950, under the watchful eye of more than two hundred thousand spectators, one of the stadium's greatest moments took place: The Maracanaço. 

With the victories of the Brazilian team in the first matches, exaltation among participants was evident. Brazilians proclaimed themselves champions even before the championship started. Shirts, print-readynewspaper headlines, gold watches for national team members ... Everything indicated that the final between Brazil and Uruguay would have a clear winner, despite not having played the grand finale at the Maracaná stadium yet. 

Thus, imagine this huge stadium, packed with a bustling and passionate crowd, who stood totally dumbstricken as Schiaffino scored the goal that gave the victory to the Uruguayan team in the very last minutes. It is said that even the then FIFA President, Jules Rimet, went down to the field with the trophy in order to give it to the Brazilians, and only when he was already on the lawn did he learn that Uruguay had won.  It was not until 16 July 1989, and thanks to a goal by Romario during the Copa America final against Uruguay, that the Brazilian team achieved the long-awaited rematch on this stage.

Curious enough, you should know that, even today, every time a local team like Botafogo, Vasco, Flamengo or Fluminense loses a match at the Maracaná stadium, they get a heading saying that they have suffered a Maracanaço.

Another event that became known worldwide was the famous 1,000th goal scored by Pelé on 19 November 1969, which was a penalty and where both spectators and photographers jumped onto the field to celebrate this milestone in the world of football. The match was stopped for a few minutes, and then they continued to play knowing that King Pele had madehistory at the Maracaná and in the whole world.

In addition to football, the Maracaná hosts other events like concerts by Tina Turner, Paul McCartney, Sting and Madonna, among others, who have given their performances here. It was also the venue, for example, of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games. 

During the stadium's reconstruction in 2014, the lower seat ring was demolished and a new one was created with more access ramps, whereas all seats were refurbished, leaving the stadium with a capacity of seventy-eight thousand spectators. A roof was also built, which, besides protecting from the glaring sunlight, features a modern rainwater collection system. These changes occurred because the Maracaná is the chosen venue for the opening and closing of the Olympic Games in Rio.

If you are so extremely lucky that you are able to watch a football match during your stay in Rio, do not hesitate for a single moment. Immerse yourself in the frenzy, the strength and the passion with which Rio's inhabitants experience football in the stadium with more history in the world; the Temple of Football.

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