The most legendary, the main stadium of the greatest football nation. No superlatives are enough to describe the Maracana — it is the heart of Brazil, the symbol of Flamengo’s victories, the greatest stadium in the world. We will tell you about the history of this stadium, about the most interesting events and facts related to Maracana
I warn you right away, there will be a lot of text, but I will try to accompany it with interesting photographs. The history of Maracanã was originally linked to the history of the 1950 FIFA World Cup. The competition was revived in Rome (1946) after the Second World War, and in 1950 was organized in Brazil, which was the only applicant country. For this event, the Brazilian state decided to build a giant stadium, which became the largest in the world, and also the most spacious — for a long time the capacity of Maracana was 200,000 people
In fact, the exact maximum capacity of the stadium is unknown. Brazil claims it could be more than 200.000, the Guinness Book indicates 180.000 fans, other sources indicate approximately 155.000. The first stone of the stadium was laid on August 2, 1948 — this is the official date of birth of the Maracanã stadium. Five weeks before the start of an international competition, FIFA sends Ottorino Barassi, president of the Italian Football Federation and organizer of the previous competition, to Brazil to help the Brazilians make final preparations for the championship. On June 16, 1950, the championship begins with the opening match between the youth teams of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the Sao Paulo team wins with a score of 3–1. The first goal in the history of Maracana is scored by a young football player Didi. Despite the hosting of the World Cup, the Maracanã stadium was still not completed — the press box had not yet been completed, there were not enough toilets. But all this did not matter at that time — the main part of the stadium was finished, the competition could begin (it is worth noting that it took another 15 years to complete the stadium)
Due to the disorganization of national football federations in the post-war period, only thirteen teams were qualified for the competition. The USSR refused to take part for political reasons, and the French team invited to replace the Soviet team was not yet ready for such a trip. India refused due to FIFA’s refusal to comply with their request — they wanted to play with bare feet. There were also positive moments: for the first time, the England team agreed to play in such high temperatures. The peculiarity of the championship was in four uneven groups, in each of which a mini-championship was held. The first group included four teams (Brazil, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Mexico), the second group also had 4 teams (England, Spain, United States, Chile), the third group had 3 teams (Sweden, Paraguay, Italy), and the fourth only two (Bolivia and Uruguay). The reasons for this distribution were purely financial — Brazil demanded that the most attractive teams play the Maracanã
Games held in groups: in group 1, Brazil-Mexico (4–0, 82.000 spectators) and Brazil-Yugoslavia (2–0, 142.000 spectators); and in group 2, England-Chile (2–0, 30.000 spectators), Spain-Chile (2–0, 16.000 people) and Spain-England (1–0, 74.000). Brazil, having played 2–2 with Switzerland (the team was the opening of the championship, surprising everyone) in São Paulo, were qualified for the next round. Popular enthusiasm was huge, and the government announced a holiday on the day of the national team matches. The final group was formed by Brazil, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay (qualified after a single match against Bolivia, 8–0 win!). I was surprised by the relegation of the England team, who lost to the USA with a score of 1–0 and Spain with the same score. Italy was also eliminated, defeated in the group by Sweden
Brazil confirmed their position as favorites during their first matches in the final group. Sweden was beaten on July 9, 1950, with a score of 7–1 (139,000), and Spain on July 13, with a score of 6–1 (153,000 fans). Huge crowds of fans supported their team, general euphoria reigned. During the final match against Uruguay, there were 173,000 spectators in the stadium — almost a tenth of the population of Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilian national team had enough of a draw to become the world champion, before the match no one bet on Uruguay — everyone was confident in the victory of the Brazilian ball magicians. From the very beginning of the match, the Brazilians dominated, constantly attacking, but Uruguay defended well and kept a draw in the first half of the match. On the way to the locker room, the disappointed stands of Marakana saw off their players with a whistle — they demanded to go on the attack and score
At the beginning of the second half, the audience fell silent, they were seized with doubts. But all this uncertainty quickly evaporated, for 46 minutes the Brazilians opened the scoring, forcing Maracana to rejoice. But this scored goal did not guarantee Brazil a successful final result — the score was too dangerous. The players understood this and began to play nervously on hold, while Uruguay had nothing to lose and played their game. This brought the result, in the 65th minute the Uruguayan Juan Schiaffino scores, the score becomes 1:1. Brazil continues to play to keep the score, which still guarantees victory. But Uruguay played out in earnest, and in the 79th minute Alides Chiggia scored the second goal, realizing the advantage of Uruguay — this goal was fatal for the Brazilians. It’s all over, the stands are furious — a real war has been declared. Referee George Reeder blows the final whistle: the Brazilian players collapse on the grass, helpless, mourning the loss, the Maracana stands are furious (a few fans even had a heart attack). Later, the police evacuate the players from both teams and the referee to avoid bloodshed. Brazilian coach Flavio Costa flees angry fans
In the memory of the Uruguayan fans, this competition has forever received the name: Maracanazzo. In the memories of the Brazilians, this loss will forever remain as a catastrophe on a national scale, even after many decades. Moasir Barbosa, the goalkeeper of the Brazilians, lived the rest of his life in agony, being on the one hand the best goalkeeper in the history of Brazilian football, and on the other, the goalkeeper who missed the ill-fated goal in the final. Barbosa died in 2000, never forgiven by many fans. It is worth noting that in parallel with Maracanazzo there was a match for third place, where the Spaniards unexpectedly lost to Sweden with a score of 3–1
But the story of Maracana does not end there, although the next 50 years can simply be listed as details. Maracanã hosted big matches of the three main clubs in Rio de Janeiro: Botafogo, Flamengo and Fluminense. But to understand how deeply this stadium embodies Brazilian football, you need to list the names that played here and became legends. You can start with the same Barbosa and the infamous final, Dida — the best goalscorer of Maracana, who scored 244 goals in official matches for Flamengo (the second goalscorer after Zico) and of course Pele, who was called the King. The god of all Brazilians, but the opponent of the Rio de Janeiro clubs, who played for the São Paulo team. On March 5, 1961, Pelé scored the most beautiful goal in the history of Maracana, beating six Fluminense defenders and the goalkeeper. Here, on Maracana, Pele scores the thousandth goal of his career.
This moment was planned in advance, because the King really wanted to score 1000 goals in this stadium. It happened in a match with Vasco da Gama in front of 125,000 fans, the ball was scored from the penalty spot. There is no shortage of football talent in Brazil, so the list of celebrities who have played the Maracanã is endless.
Maracana hosted the most important matches many times and the capacity of the stadium was simply amazing. Attendance records have always been rising: after 173,830 spectators at the Maracanazzo match (Brazil-Uruguay), a new level was reached on March 21, 1954 at the Brazil-Paraguay match, which was attended by 183,513 fans. However, it was always believed that the maximum number of spectators was precisely at the Brazil-Uruguay match in 1950, it was just that many made their way to the stadium for free, which made it difficult to accurately determine the attendance. Maracana holds the record for the highest attendance for a match between clubs in the history of world football. At the 1963 Flamengo vs Fluminense match, there were 177,656 spectators who bought tickets (imagine how many fans sneaked into the stadium for free). It sounds funny, but the lowest number of visitors was registered at the match between the clubs Bangu Tsunami and Deportivo de Quito
The official name of Maracana is Mario Filho (Estadio Jornalista Mario Filho), in honor of the famous sports journalist who died in 1966. He was the founder of the country’s leading sports magazine, a friend of many players, the author of numerous football books, and one of the contributors to the construction of Brazil’s greatest stadium. Many believe that Mario Filho should be buried in the stadium
The heart of Brazilian football has also hosted other important events. One of the legends of Maracana is John Paul II blessing the Brazilian people at the stadium. The stadium’s thirtieth anniversary was celebrated with a Brazil-USSR match, and Frank Sinatra also comes and holds one of his most successful concerts here. Kiss, Sting, Tina Turner, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Rolling Stones performed at the Marakana. Music stars liked to feel the spirit of a huge crowd, so the concerts were always held with a special mood. Football at that time faded into the background, not to mention volleyball (Brazil-USSR in 1983)
Maracana is a historic building, immortal in every sense. The stadium has been officially a historical monument since 1998, so it cannot be seriously modified. All restoration and modernization projects are related to improving the safety and comfort of spectators. In 1992, part of the fence collapsed due to the pressure of the fans, three people died. After this incident, several stands of the stadium were closed, a thorough inspection of the structure was carried out and strong signs of structural fatigue were found.
Due to the huge number of visitors, the concrete structure of the stadium needed a major renovation, which happened in 2000, when the stadium turned 50 years old. The stadium’s capacity has been reduced to 103,045.
After years of planning and nine months of renovation in 2005–2006, the stadium was reopened in 2007, but the capacity was again reduced to 88,992 spectators. Due to FIFA’s requirement for only numbered seats, the newly built Maracanã was eliminated the “geral” sector — standing places outside the goal and benches where the poorest fans sat. A ticket to the geral cost only one dollar — a purely symbolic price that allows almost everyone to attend the match of their favorite team. Geral was considered the most democratic sector of the Maracanã and became an integral part of Brazilian football culture.
Due to the changes in this sector, the capacity of the stadium will increase again — up to 95,000 fans. Because of all these reconstructions, the Maracanã has lost the status of the largest stadium in South America, yielding to the Monumental Stadium in Ecuador. If we talk about iconic stadiums, then in Europe we can cite the no less legendary Camp Nou in Barcelona as an example.
The future of the stadium is indeed not yet finalized. Rumors of privatization subsided after the acquisition of Maracana by the Brazilian state. But the stadium will not last long without further renovations, which will certainly take place, because it is unthinkable to imagine the Brazilian nation without football, and without this stadium, which is an integral part of the Brazilian culture.