By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Wednesday, March 1st, the Tribunal de Justiça Desportiva do Rio de Janeiro (Sports Court of Rio de Janeiro) ordered that this Sunday’s (March 5th) final of the Taça Guanabara (Guanabara Cup) between CR Flamengo and Fluminense will be held in the Nilton Santos Stadium, also known as Engenhão.
Significantly, it was also announced that only Fluminense fans would be permitted to attend the match. This is a result of violence between rival fans at a match last month.
In the decision, made public Wednesday afternoon, TJD-RJ President Marcelo Jucá cited Maracanã’s lack of readiness to hold Sunday’s event. For a multitude of reasons, including the Lavo Jato investigation and the alleged misgivings of the Rio 2016 Olympic Committee, the iconic stadium has been in a state of abandonment and disrepair since the end of 2016.
“This decision,” explained Jucá, “was necessary in view of the notorious state of precariousness of Maracanã, FERJ (Rio de Janeiro State Football Federation) can not make this match in any another arena, other than Nilton Santos.”
As the TJD-RJ decision was being made public, representatives from Flamengo and Fluminense were meeting at FERJ headquarters, along with representatives from the Botafogo football club, which has a twenty-year lease for its home games at Engenhão.
At the meeting, a lottery was held which determined that Fluminense would not only be considered the home team in Sunday’s match, but more importantly, only Fluminense fans would be allowed in the stadium.
This unique twist stems from the February 12th tragedy at a Flamengo-Botafogo match, also at Engenhão, where a fan was shot and killed before the game in an altercation between the two fan bases. Seven people were also seriously injured during the altercation.
Following that event, Rio’s Ministério Público (Public Ministry) issued a regulation that, going forward, for matches between Rio’s big four, Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense and Vasco, only fans of one of the teams would be permitted to attend the match.
Speaking to reporters after the results of Wednesday’s lottery, Flamengo officials indicated it would fight the decision to only allow Fluminense fans in the stadium in court on Thursday, March 2nd.
“We do not want to overturn the [single fan regulation], we want the judge to reconsider it,” said Flamengo president, Eduardo Bandeira de Melo. “We had a meeting and we understand that we have the elements to ask for a definitive reconsideration, at least for Sunday’s match.”
Botafogo club president, Carlos Eduardo Pereira, also voiced his opposition to having to open the team’s home stadium to Flamengo and Fluminense on March 5th, especially in light of the recent surprise announcement that Flamengo will be making its return to Maracanã only a few days later on March 8th against San Lorezo in the Copa Libertadores.
“That [Maracanã] is not fit on Sunday and is fit on Wednesday is strange,” exclaimed Pereira. “Apparently, Maracanã has total conditions to receive a match.”
The Taça Guanabara is the first stage of the Campeonato Carioca tournament. It is followed by the Taça Rio, and the Campeonato Carioca Finals, where the winners of the first two stages face off to decide the champion.