By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The closure of Rio’s Engenhão Stadium could not only play havoc with Brazil’s national and state football (soccer) calendar but the 2013 Confederations Cup as well. Last week, Rio mayor Eduardo Paes closed the stadium due to structural problems with the roof, sending shockwaves through the city and FIFA.
Maracanã Stadium is finally starting to have its finishing touches applied, and it looks like the third deadline of April 27th, should be met.
Yet any further delays and Rio, stage of both the Confederations and World Cup finals, could be left without an international standard stadium as the Confederations Cup comes to town in June.
As things currently stand only one of Rio’s “big four” teams has a functioning stadium, which is not a viable option for international football. Vasco da Gama’s São Januário stadium holds somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000 fans.
As well as having a restrictive occupancy limit for giants of the global stage, some of São Januário’s crowd area is terraced, meaning standing room only; something prohibited by FIFA’s rules. In addition, the stadium is not in a safe area of the city for traveling fans not familiar with Rio.
Maracanã Stadium is roughly 95 percent complete but the city would be in crisis if anything else went wrong at this late stage. The largest current point of pressure is the friendly game Brazil is due to play against England on June 2nd at the renovated arena.
Prior to last week, if Maracanã was not ready, the game could have been played at Engenhão. This, despite being far from ideal for a country hosting the sport’s biggest prize a mere twelve months later – followed by the 2016 Olympics, – – would certainly have been feasible.
Now, should Maracanã not be completed by the end of April as planned, the match will have to be moved to another city, or worse still, cancelled. Given that the game is part of the Football Association’s 150th anniversary celebrations, any changes to long laid out plans would not be viewed with a sympathetic eye.
There are also further complications with regards to June’s Confederations Cup. Italy, the 2012 European Championship runner-up, and big competition for Brazil in the FIFA tournament, had originally planned to use the Engenhão as a training base.
Now with the stadium out of use for the foreseeable future the Italians are forced to find last minute alternative facilities. If the problems at Engenhão persist until the later months of the year, other teams planning a Rio stay during the 2014 World Cup will also have to look elsewhere.
Eduardo Paes, mayor of the city of Rio de Janeiro, told the press: “There is no risk [that the stadium will be demolished]. We have a problem in the roof, which is past the edge of acceptable risk, but it is a problem that has a solution. [...] We want the Engenhão back as soon as possible for the Rio football matches.”