By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The country’s capital city, Brasília, has been handed a brand new stadium and one of the most important roles in the upcoming FIFA World Cup, which is now just a few weeks away. The newly built Estádio Mané Garrincha will host no less than seven games over the course of the four weeks, the same number as the iconic Maracanã in Rio.
Of the twelve host cities, the capital has also been handed one of the prime games of the group stage. The Seleção Brasileira – the Brazilian national side – will play their third and final group game at the Mané Garrincha, against Cameroon, on June 23rd.
Switzerland versus Ecuador, on June 15th, Colombia versus Ivory Coast, on June 19th, and Portugal versus Ghana, on June 26th, will all take place in Brasília.
During the knock-out stages, a second round tie, on June 30th, a quarter-final, on July 5th, and the third placed play-off, on July 12th, make up the seven games to be played in the capital.
Despite its pivotal role, or perhaps because of it, the new stadium has attracted some heavy criticism during the preparations for the World Cup. The Estádio Mané Garrincha is the most expensive new arena in the country with building costs exceeded R$1 billion of public money, three times its initial estimated budget.
Yet Mark Lassise, an American living in Brazil who hosts and writes a TV series Olhar Estrangeiro as seen on Globo Esport every Thursday, has been visiting all the host cities in Brazil and tells The Rio Times the Mané Garrincha is about much more than just football.
“Its function is a lot more than to host football games. It has a solar panel roof that adds back up to the city grid when not in use. It also features a rooftop and ground level reservoirs that capture rain water to use in its plumbing system. Brasilia is the only planned city in Brazil and very well spaced out into segregated sections of the north and south wings.”
Brasília may be the capital of the country, but in terms of footballing heritage it is something of a backwater. No club from the city competes in the top two divisions of national football, and never has done. Larger national clubs have so far sent occasional games to the stadium in order to play a test event to satisfy FIFA’s safety demands, or to try to spread their fan-base.
Rio de Janeiro side, Flamengo, is the club who have used the Mané Garrincha the most, exploiting their nationwide fame. They played the first game of this year’s Campeonato Brasileiro at the stadium, a 0-0 draw with Goiás.
Carioca and football fanatic, Bruno Vasconcellos, has traveled frequently to Brasília and has watched domestic and international football at the Mané Garrincha. “I went to a Flamengo match at the Mané Garrincha, despite not being a Flamenguista, just to see what the stadium was like.”
“While it is modern and beautiful, the fans inside made it feel like a vacation rather than a competitive football match. There were a lot of people but not much noise. It was different during the Confederations Cup [and] I think it will be during the World Cup too.”
Mark Lassise offers this tip for any fans making their way there. “Tourist visiting for the World Cup will probably find [Estádio Mané Garrincha] the easiest to get to because it is located next to the hotel section. Impossible to miss and can be seen from all directions. One can arrive at the front gates after a 15 minute walk from any hotel.”