By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The FIFA World Cup is eight days away and the excitement is continuing to grow across Brazil and the rest of the globe. Like most stadium construction projects across the country, the Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá received a heap of negative criticism, but the capital of the state of Matto Grosso is nevertheless now ready for FIFA action to kick off.
Of the twelve cities hosting the tournament, Cuiabá is one of the smallest and hottest, with temperatures likely to reach the mid 30s, even during the Brazilian winter.
Cuiabá has arguably the smallest role to play of any host city and after the World Cup the stadium’s capacity will be reduced to a more sustainable 27,000. The brand new Arena Pantanal will only be playing host to four games over the course of the competition and neither the Brazilian national side nor any other former world champion are scheduled to touch down in the Central Western metropolis.
Unfortunately for locals, they will only see sides with little glorious history in the World Cup. At a capacity of 42,968 it is also one of the smallest FIFA World Cup stadiums in the country. Chile versus Australia, on June 13th; Russia versus South Korea, on June 17th; Nigeria versus Bosnia and Herzegovina, on June 21st; and Japan versus Colombia, on June 24th, make up Cuiabá’s World Cup involvement.
Mark Lassise, an American living in Rio who hosts and writes the television series, Olhar Estrangeiro, as seen on SporTV’s “Tá Na Area” every Thursday, has been visiting all the host cities and tells The Rio Times that the Arena Pantanal has divided Brazilian opinion. “Arena Pantanal is the stadium that was questioned the most by the opposition to the twelve stadium plan,” he said.
He commented, “It took us two hours to navigate the way to the stadium with a dozen detours. We missed the first goal scored at the new stadium,” before going on to say, “The city itself is simply inside out with construction everywhere. Cuiabá in my estimation has the worst roads to navigate because the construction is so intense.”
For those who want to explore the Matto Grosso state a little more extensively and see what the region has to offer, Lassise has a suggestion: “If you are going to Cuiabá get out of the city and go to the Pantanal, 110 km from the city, or Chapada dos Guimarães, 80 km from the city. Go and enjoy the natural paradises that this region is known by.”
After work began on the stadium in mid 2010, the final seats were finally installed last month, meaning the project took over three and a half years to complete. As part of its final test events, the Arena Pantanal has seen two of Brazil’s biggest clubs play in the city; both Vasco da Gama and Santos used the stadium for Copa do Brasil ties earlier this year, games which served as FIFA test-events.
According to government organizers, the “Pantanal Arena stands out because of its architecture design and sustainability actions. The stands’ lower ring does not go all the way round with the goal of facilitating cross ventilation in the venue. In addition, there are gardens and trees on the side openings, which lower the temperature inside the ground.”
Once the World Cup mega-event has disbanded, local sides Cuiabá and Mixto, neither of which occupy a place in the top two divisions of domestic Brazilian football, will use the Arena Pantanal for league and cup ties. Cuiabá, the biggest side in the area, currently sit third in Group A of the Campeonato Brasileiro Série C after six rounds.