By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Much to the delight of football (soccer) fans across the Cidade Maravilhosa, the Maracanã Stadium is back playing a fundamental part in the Brazilian domestic game. Following almost three years out of the frame to undergo extensive renovation works the worldwide icon is now set to be used by three of Rio’s big four clubs on a regular basis, at least until the end of this year.
Botafogo will use the stadium temporarily while their Engenhão Stadium home undergoes improvement works. In September they are set to play one of the biggest games of the league at the Maracanã.
After hosting Coritiba in the Brasileirão there on September 5th, their match against Corinthians, on September 11th, is the pick of Brasileirão games at the Maracanã. Botafogo and Corinthians sit first and fourth respectively in the league and together boast some of the league’s most exciting talents.
Seedorf has been majestic for Botafogo this season and is at the heart of everything the team does. Current world champions Corinthians are arguably the most balanced side in the country with a secure spine of Cássio, Gil, Psulo André, Ralf and Guerrero.
Tickets for the game will start at R$40 and can be bought at the stadium, Botafogo’s headquarters in General Severiano or through website www.futebolcard.com.br. With both sides riding high in the league the game’s outcome could have far-reaching consequences in deciding this year’s title winner.
Fluminense will play three Brasileirão matches at the Maracança throughout September. The Tricolor host Bahia on the 7th, Portuguesa on the 15th and Coritiba on the 22nd.
While none are massive games Flu have seen average crowd attendances boom since they returned to what fans consider their “spiritual home.” The club signed a contract with Maracanã SA to use the stadium as a home ground for the next 35 years.
Despite the availability of the Maracanã, Rio’s most popular team Flamengo, will continue to play the majority of home games at the Estádio Mané Garrincha in Brasília. The club want to expand the Flamengo brand and have posted record profits in the Federal District.
On the season’s opening day over 65,000 paid to watch Fla’s goalless draw with Santos in Brasília new stadium. At the time of writing Flamengo have not confirmed any games for the month of September at the Maracanã but do have a deal with the consortium until December.
Fla’s contract is similar to that of Botafogo’s. The Alvinegro have agreed a two year deal, at the end of which they should move back to the Engenhão. Latest reports suggest the Engenhão will be fit for purpose once again in November 2014.
When the Maracanã closed in September 2010 Carioca clubs Flamengo and Fluminense joined Botafogo in using the Engenhão Stadium for home games in the Campeonato Brasileiro. Vasco da Gama own their São Januário Stadium and had not been affected as gravely by World Cup preparations.
However Rio’s football situation was complicated further in March when town mayor Eduardo Paes closed the Engenhão indefinitely due to structural problems with the roof. Thus it was with great relief that the Maracanã reopened in June for the Confederations Cup and the following month for Campeonato Brasileiro fixtures.
The reopening has not been without controversy. Despite spending over R$1 billion of public money on renovation works at the stadium, the city government subsequently sold the rights to the arena to a private consortium called Maracanã SA. The consortium will have control of the stadium for the next 35 years.