By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Situated right in the very middle of South America lies the capital city of the state of Mato Grosso, Cuiabá, also known as the “Green City”. More famous for its excellent museums and beautiful rural landscape than its football, it will nonetheless come into its own as a host city for Brazil’s 2014 World Cup.
Situated in Brazil’s mid-West and founded in 1727, Cuiabá was settled in relative isolation from the rest of Brazil until roads were paved and cars became more common throughout the country. It is the geographic center of South America and is known as Brazil’s hottest metropolis with temperatures reaching forty degrees plus. Fortunately, of course, it will be Winter when the World Cup comes to town.
The city will have a new purpose-built stadium for the event; work began on the Arena Pantanal in May, and is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2012. The stadium will replace the Verdão which is currently the city’s largest, and will also host matches at the 2013 Confederations Cup, the World Cup’s ‘dress rehearsal’.
Football does not play such a prominent role in Cuiabá as it does in Rio de Janeiro and Sâo Paulo, and as such the new stadium will be used for a multitude of purposes.
In fact Cuiabá’s biggest football team, Mixto, will move to the Arena Pantanal upon completion, but the stadium won’t be filled to the rafters any time soon; the minnows currently ply their trade in the third tier of the national league, Série C. Demolition has already started on the old stadium, which itself was only completed in 1976.
The city is also making huge strides to make sure it is fully prepared come 2014, and if the unthinkable happens and the number of World Cup cities has to be cut from twelve to ten, it is highly improbable that Cuiabá will be cast from the list. The city already has 46 hotels ready to welcome fans, and five new roads are being built to cope with increased traffic congestion. The Avenida das Torres is already up and running, with the other four also set for completion around the same time as the new stadium, in late 2012.
Cuiabá’s expansion of course comes at a price; the project is estimated to cost around $450 million, including new shopping and convention centers. However, the improvements stretch beyond the World Cup. Two training centers are also being built in the hope that more youngsters will take an interest in the game from an early age, and perhaps leave a greater legacy on Cuiaban football than previous generations have had the opportunity to.