By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup is just two months away and Brazil is putting the finishing touches to what will be its first taste of hosting such a mammoth global footbal (soccer) spectacle for over fifty years. The latest positive news on the stadium front is with Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova officially opened last week by President Dilma Rousseff.
The Confederations Cup is the first in a series of mega sporting events to come to the Cidade Maravilhosa in the coming years. The 2014 World Cup kicks-off twelve months later (along with other cities in Brazil) while the 2016 Olympic Games arrive in Rio two years after that.
Renovations on Rio’s own Maracanã Stadium is estimated to be ninety-five percent complete. According to local press reports it could be finished as early as next week as the final seats are put into place and the rest of the roof is laid. The first match is already confirmed as the friends of Ronaldo versus friends of Bebeto exhibition.
Brazil enter the eight-team Confederations Cup tournament as hosts and to give FIFA, world football’s governing body, an idea of how preparations are progressing in anticipation of the much larger 2014 World Cup event. Delays have been widely publicized, but June’s tournament will give a definitive answer to how well construction and governmental organization has actually been.
“Hosts of the World Cup go in at a distinct disadvantage. We [the Seleção] haven’t played a meaningful match in two years, but the team needs to show its strength,” said Carioca football fan Rafael Melo, who is planning to take time off from work to travel from Rio de Janeiro to the opening ceremony in Brasília on June 15th.
Yet despite the lack of competitive playing time demand is at a high for tickets, as of last week (April 3rd), ticket sales stood at an incredible 546,000. Interest in this tournament – never prioritized by players, coaches or fans – stands at unprecedented levels.
Some of the stadiums set to be used during the tournament are vast, with the Maracanã and Estádio Mané Garrincha capable of holding 77,000 and 70,000 fans respectively. Now with tickets selling like hot cakes the likelihood of games played in muted atmospheres is now improbable.
“These figures prove that the FIFA Confederations Cup, including four FIFA World Cup champions in the line-up, is a highly anticipated event, especially for those fans and local residents hoping to experience the action live in one of the six FIFA World Cup stadiums, said Thierry Weil, FIFA Marketing Director.
There are still just under 250,000 tickets remaining for the June competition, which can be purchased online at www.fifa.com/ticketing. “Despite the huge demand, there is still a good chance for fans to secure tickets for most of the matches before the end of the current sales phase on May 28th,” Weil said.
Rather surprisingly, the match in Rio most in demand is not the final. Whilst 58,860 tickets have been sold for the decider, so far the Maracanã’s most popular contest has been the group stage clash between Mexico and Italy. Over 60,000 tickets have been snapped up for the clash. Rio’s other group game, Spain vs Tahiti, has so far moved just over 36,000 tickets.