By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As the days tick away to the 2014 FIFA World Cup kick-off, the Arena Pernambuco on the Northeastern coast of Recife is braced for the influx of football and tourism. As some cities race against the clock, Recife is ready after being involved in the Confederations Cup last year.
Five games are to be held at the brand new arena, meaning the Pernambuco’s involvement will stretch beyond the Group stages. It is host to more games than most cities in the north, with the exception of Salvador and the Arena Fonte Nova.
Recife has history when it comes to the World Cup, as the last time Brazil hosted football’s biggest tournament, it was the only metropolis in the country’s Northeast to hold a match.
On July 2nd, 1950, the Estádio Ilho de Retiro, old home of Campeonato Brasileiro Série A side Sport Recife, hosted the first round match between Chile and the USA team. The South Americans comprehensively won the contest 5-2, but both sides went out in the first round.
This year, Recife will see five times that amount of action. Their Group A game, which also contains hosts Brazil, will take place at the Arena Pernambuco, when Croatia take on Mexico on June 23rd.
In addition, Ivory Coast versus Japan, on June 14th, Italy versus Costa Rica, on June 20th and the USA team versus Germany, on June 26th, make up the Group stage games to be played at the Arena Pernambuco. In the knockout stages, a second round tie will also be held there on June 29th.
Mark Lassise, writer and host of television series Olhar Estrangeiro as seen on SporTV’s Tá Na Area every Thursday evening, says arriving at the stadium can be a tough obstacle to overcome. “Arena Pernambuco is the furthest away from anything you can get!”
“I have been there twice and both times missed the beginning of the game. This is a two and a half hour trek to your seats and pay close attention to the metro stops.”
For those spending a few days in the town, Lassise, as someone who has been there and seen the sights, has some top tips for tourists. “The historic district of Recife is very cool on weekends; concerts in the park, bars and an art gallery.”
“Check out this store called PeRetro in the mall by the Praça Mark’o’ […] they have the coolest vintage shirts representing seemingly every club and national team worldwide!”
In addition to hosting World Cup action, the Arena Pernambuco is the home of Campeonato Brasileiro Série B side Náutico. The club was in the top division last year but suffered relegation following a poor campaign, and currently sits in ninth place after four rounds.
After opening in April last year, Recife was part of hosting the FIFA Confederations Cup. It hosted Spain versus Uruguay, which ended in a 2-1 win for the Europeans.
It also hosted the mismatch between Uruguay and Tahiti, with the South Americans demolishing hapless opponents 8-0. The final match hosted at the Arena Pernambuco was the thrilling encounter between Italy and Japan, the Italians edging it 4-3.
This year Recife has had some trouble with security as protests and looting have recently made headlines. It should also be noted that of all twelve host cities so far Recife is the only to not be holding the FIFA Fan Fest event as organizers had originally planned.