by Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – The capital of Ceará State, Fortaleza sits on Brazil’s north east coast and is the home of famous Brazilian writer José de Alencar. Far less business-centric than last week’s World Cup city focus, Brasilia, Fortaleza is famous for tourism, beautiful beaches, delicious seafood and a unique carnival, held annually in July.
Somewhat outshone during the traditional carnival period by neighbors Salvador and Recife, Fortaleza decided to buck the trend and instead hold its own four day party complete with beer, samba and international rock stars. Football fans will no doubt love the festival, which will coincide with the tournament in 2014, and the welcoming locals will be glad to show their new guests their hectic city in full swing.
Fortaleza’s tropical climate could make playing conditions tough for players even in the ‘winter’. Being a coastal city, unlike Cuiabá or Brasília, the constant breeze should help cool the climate within the stadium, especially during evening games. The rainy season ends when the World Cup comes to town, so expect hot, dry days with temperatures averaging between 30-37 degrees Celsius for afternoon games; not ideal playing conditions for football’s greatest prize.
Fortaleza’s Estádio Plácido Aderaldo Castelo, or Castelão stadium, will be fully renovated in preparation for the 2014 World Cup. Owned by the Ceará State Government, it is home to two local teams. After a seventeen year absence, Céara Sporing Club have been promoted to Serie A for the 2010 Campeonato Brasileiro, and Fortaleza Esporte Clube, playing in Serie C, also use the stadium as their home ground.
Certainly sizeable, it already holds 60,000 people after a renovation in 2002, and will be bolstered to a 66,700 capacity for the World Cup. However, the stadium is not currently an all-seater, which must be rectified to come in line with FIFA regulations. Due to the relatively modest changes that need to be made to the ground, in stark contrast to other projected World Cup venues, the Castelão will not be used for 2013 Confederations Cup matches; no dress rehearsal is necessary it seems to ensure the stadium can cope with hosting international matches.
In fact this ground is no stranger to international football. Seven major games have been played at the Castelão previously, most recently on August 21st, 2002, when Brazil lost by a single goal to Paraguay, and the record attendance is 118,496, set on August 27, 1980, when Brazil beat Uruguay 1-0.
Fortaleza’s Pinto Martins International Airport was only fully completed in 1998, and is adequately equipped to cope with a sudden influx of football fans, handling as it does hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. The airport is full equipped with information booths, a spacious passenger arrival area and two taxi terminals, but once you are in a taxi, don’t expect a smooth ride to your hotel. Roads in Fortaleza, as well as the public transport in the city, are two major problems that need addressing. Due to the increasing popularity of Fortaleza as a holiday destination for South Americans as well as Europeans, congestion has become a significant problem over the last ten years.
In addition, the roads are poorly kept, and are covered in potholes. Careful driving is a necessity. Fortunately, mayor Luzianne Lins has promised roads in and leading into the city center will be repaved prior to the 2014 World Cup kicking off.