By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – According to a Sunday, October 9th Globo report, the grass field at Maracanã stadium has been installed and the facility is 65 percent football (soccer) ready, welcome news to Rio’s CR Flamengo, who has been pushing hard for the release of the stadium from the hands of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee.
All eyes are now on October 23rd as a likely date for Flamengo’s 2016 Campeonato Brasileiro (Brasileirão) season debut at Maracanã when the team faces off against the Corinthians from São Paulo in the 32nd round of the Brasileirão.
The Rio 2016 Committee, which used the iconic stadium for the Olympics and Paralympics opening and closing ceremonies, actually has until October 30th to return the stadium to a consortium led by construction company, Odebrecht, who is responsible for Maracanã’s operation and maintenance under a thirty-year contract.
But, Flamengo has been pressuring government officials and the Committee to return the stadium before that date. The rubro-negra’s last match at Maracanã was almost one year ago, on December 6th, in the last round of the 2015 Brasileirão when the club lost to Palmeiras, 2×1.
Greenleaf, the company responsible for installing the grass has indicated that the grass field should be game-ready by October 20th, several days before Flamengo’s game against the Corinthians.
The final step in releasing the stadium will involve the Grupamento Especial de Policiamento em Estádio (Gepe), a faction of the Military Police, and the Corpo de Bombeiros do Rio (Rio Fire Department), who will conduct a joint survey of Maracana this week to determine if it’s ready for October 23rd.
According to Globo, a decision, one way or another, regarding the October 23rd game will be rendered this week.
Widely considered the most popular local soccer team in Brazil, Flamengo has seen its millions of fans have to travel far and wide this season as the team has played nineteen games outside of Rio, with only nine within Rio de Janeiro state. Of those nine, eight have been at Raulino de Oliveira stadium in Volta Redonda, with one at Giulite Coutinho stadium in Mesquita.
Despite having to play most of its games away from home this season, Flamengo is currently in second place in the 2016 Brasileirão table, trailing leader Palmeiras by only three points.