By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Maracanã Stadium reopened its doors on Saturday, April 27th, 2013, for the first test-event in preparation for June’s FIFA Confederations Cup. The evening was a grand celebration for all who had helped renovate the stadium over the past two and a half years, as well as the press and special guests.
The game featured an exhibition made up of some of Brazil’s biggest former World Cup stars. The two sides were captained by legends Ronaldo and Bebeto, and other greats on show included Carlos Germano, Aldair, Serginho and Junior.
A celebratory atmosphere had been building on the streets surrounding the stage for the World Cup Final since 4PM on Saturday afternoon. There was some violence as well however as protests were staged against the proposed sale of the Maracanã Stadium to Brazilian business magnate Eike Batista.
Many Cariocas are passionate about keeping the football stadium as city property – dubbed Maracanosso – as fan Luzia Rocha told The Rio Times. “Everyone knows the figures that have been spent on the stadium. Public money was used and it should remain for the people,” she said.
Close to 30,000 guests were inside the renovated arena for the historic event, providing an astonishing view. Gone are the two tiered structure of terraces and seating, replaced by one sweeping stand of yellow and blue seats from pitch level all the way up to the roof.
Those lucky enough to be at the event experienced the newly minted modern facilities, complete with presentation and a live concert. Prior to kick-off a short film told the history of the 64-year-old stadium, first built for the 1950 World Cup. Then followed the live music event, headed by Naldo and Neguinho.
At precisely 7:16 PM, the whistle was blown and the first match at the new Maracanã kicked-off. The opening fifteen minutes were slow going but with the first goal, headed in by former Fluminense striker Washington, and the substitution of some of the older players, a lively encounter ensued.
In the end Ronaldo’s team won 8-5 with two goals from the former Seleção striker. His second was worthy of the front man at his prime and brought the crowd to their feet, expertly bursting past two markers before finishing with his world-renowned efficiency. Before yesterday O Fenomeno had never scored a goal at the Maracanã.
“As a professional I never managed to score here [the Maracanã]. It is a huge pleasure to see the stadium ready,” Ronaldo told reporters after the game.
Captain of the opposition Bebeto said, “I experienced fantastic moments here. I was extremely anxious to see how it had been reformed. To return here to play was emotional and to receive such affection from the fans is priceless.”
There are still slight alterations to be made to the stadium – the remaining chairs are waiting to be installed and at present there are no electrical outlets in the press area – but Saturday evening was an encouraging start to a new era for the Maracanã, passing all FIFA tests and judged fit for the 2014 World Cup.