By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Following a 2010 series of articles detailing the World Cup host cities in Brazil, it is time again to review the progress leading to the 2014 World Cup with attention moving to the Northeastern city of Fortaleza. Local side Ceará, who were relegated to the national second division last year, are having their Arena Castelão stadium renovated for the tournament.
The Estádio Governador Plácido Castelo, to give the arena its full name, is the biggest stadium in the area. Before reformation works began on December 13th, 2010, the stadium could hold 60,326 people and has been used for some major events since its inauguration.
The Seleção (Brazilian national team) have graced the turf, as has Pope John Paul II, when he visited Fortaleza in 1980. And there are set to be some major events in the city over the next two years as football fever takes hold.
Fortaleza is one of the cities that will host Confederarions Cup matches next year leading up to the World Cup, including a semi-final. Not only is the exposure a major boost for the town, Foraleza has also been guaranteed at least one of Brazil’s matches during 2014 tournament.
Brazil will play their second group stage match at the Castelão, and should they qualify for the knock-out rounds will play either their second round or quarter-final tie in Fortaleza as well. The Castelão has also been promised at least three other major players in world football during the tournament.
In line with the stadium’s elevated sporting status, the architects are leaving no stone unturned in their quest to give fans the best possible experience. The pitch has been lowered four meters from its previous position, giving the spectators an elevated view of happenings on the field.
In addition, the distance between the seats and the field of play has been cut from forty metres to just ten. Like at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá, supporters will be far closer to the action, heightening the atmosphere as well as increasing the intensity on the pitch; “closed in” pitches usually make for an increased level of ferocity on the field, putting the players in a lion’s den.
The entire cost of this project is set at R$518.6 million. Of this, R$167 million has come from the State Treasury, with the remaining R$351.6 million being loaned by the BNDES (Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Ecônomio e Social).
The stadium capacity will have risen to 67,000 and unlike the Pantanal and Mané Garrincha it will not be reduced once the World Cup has left town. The hope in giving such prestige to a city far away from the recognised football nucleus of the South is to unearth more football (soccer) followers and subsequently talented players.
In total, the Castelão Stadium will host six matches at the 2014 World Cup, the most for a city in the Northeast. The stadium is the most advanced in the country; it is already sixty percent complete and at the time of publication the arena should be completed by December 21st, 2012.