By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup kicks off in just over a month and the six host cities are putting the finishing touches to their respective stadiums, as well as preparing to receive tens of thousands of ardent football fans. On June 15th the ball will start to roll in the World Cup dress rehearsal, when hosts Brazil face Asian champions Japan at the Estádio Mané Garrincha in the nation’s capital, Brasília.
Despite facing alarming delays so close to the start of the competition it has been guaranteed the brand new arena will be ready on May 18th, four weeks before the Confederations Cup. The stadium was originally slated to be opened on April 21st but sporting test events have taken a back seat to continued building works.
The good news is that the stadium’s pitch has at last been laid after a delay of nine days. It took three days and sixty workers to get the turf into place, with under three weeks to prepare the pitch to international standards before the stadium’s opening.
Claudio Monteiro, World Cup executive secretary, explained the process that will now take place to tender the grass prior to action. “The entire process was performed on a level area, with all drainage, irrigation and compacted soil ready. We now have fifteen days to between the laying and use of the pitch,” he said.
Initially pitch treatment would have lasted thirty days but now will have to be rushed to make up for lost time. Progress was blighted by constant rain in the city throughout March and April, also holding up important drainage work underneath the pitch.
Now after a lengthy list of set-backs, the first match at the Mané Garrincha will happen this month. The setting will be the final of the local state championship.
Eight days later, on May 26th, the stadium will host a Campeonato Brasileirão first round fixture. Due to the closing of the Engenhão Stadium in Rio, and the continued preparations at the Maracanã, Carioca club Flamengo will “host” Santos in Brasília.
If stadiums in Rio de Janeiro continue to be unavailable, the Mané Garrincha could see a prolonged exposure to club football over the coming months. The news is a positive for the city which has never previously seen top flight football.
While Brasília will play an important role during the 2014 World Cup, its involvement this year is more understated. The Mané Garrincha will only host the opening ceremony and match.
Next year however, the stadium is set to host seven FIFA World Cup games. Alongside Rio’s Maracanã Stadium, this is the highest number any host city has been allocated. The amount underlines the emergence of Brasília and its position in the country’s football (soccer) heritage, with no major teams based in the city, the two biggest clubs are Brasiliense and Sociedade Esportiva da Gama, neither of which have graced the national first division.
To boost the city’s sporting prowess the Mané Garrincha will also host preliminary football tournaments before the 2016 Olympic Games. All efforts are being made to turn Brasília into a sporting as well as political stage for the future.