By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The stage for the Seleção Brasileira’s finest moment in over a decade when they lifted the Confederations Cup, Rio’s Maracanã Stadium will host its first domestic football (soccer) match on July 21st. Defending Brasileirão champions Fluminense will use the ground for the first time since September 1st, 2010, in a clássico against Vasco da Gama.
Yesterday (Tuesday, July 9th), world football’s governing body, FIFA, officially handed the keys of the stadium over to Maracanã SA, the private consortium who won the bid to use the stadium for the next 35 years.
The group is made up of Odebrecht, the building firm who renovated the ground, IMX, owned by Brazilian businessman Eike Batista, and AEG (a German electrical equipment company).
The group has agreed to invest R$590 million in building works to improve the stadium as well as paying R$5.5 million per month to the government of Rio de Janeiro. Further improvements are expected to be carried out prior to the 2014 World Cup or 2016 Olympic Games.
Yet while the doors will be open for one of the biggest games in the city’s football calendar, the long term certainty of league football at the Maracanã is an open issue. The consortium has until September 3rd to close a deal with clubs Fluminense and Flamengo concerning hosting football matches at the stadium.
Rodrigo Tostes, a deputy finance officer at Flamengo, said, “We are in negotiations. They [Maracanã SA] make an offer, we make a counter offer. If we don’t manage to reach an agreement, we will look at other possibilities.”
If no deal is reached in the next eight weeks the consequences would be far reaching for local football. The Engenhão, Rio’s second stadium, is also closed thanks to structural problems and the latest reports claim the stadium will only be reopened in November 2014.
Botafogo had previously used the Engenhão as their home ground since 2007. Consequently, waiting for the Maracanã contracts, three of Rio’s four clubs are currently homeless.
Vasco da Gama own their São Januário stadium, the oldest football ground in the city. Meanwhile Flamengo, Fluminense and Botafogo are being flung far and wide as they compete in the 2013 Campeonato Brasileiro.
This past weekend was a case in point. On Saturday, Flamengo hosted Coritiba at the Estádio Mané Garrincha in Brasília. The following day Botafogo faced Fluminense in a supposedly local clássico. The match took place at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife.
Botafogo are also trying to tie up a temporary deal to use the Maracanã. The Glorioso are close to agreeing a two year deal to play at the Maracanã until the Engenhão is fit for purpose again.
Maracanã SA meanwhile want Fluminense and Flamengo to agree to contracts of 35 years, the length that they will have control of the stadium. Yet Tostes explained, “No one is holding a knife to Flamengo’s neck.”
“We want to play at the Maracanã. We can negotiate a shorter contract, maybe ten years. It depends on the negotiations,” the Flamengo representative said.
Fluminense and Maracanã SA have so far declined to make any statements to the press regarding the ongoing negotiations.