Maracana – Peles 1000th Goal
For the next 30 years or so, the Maracana’s history was one of superlatives. Brazilian football was at its artistic peak and the exodus of the country’s top players had not yet begun. The stadium witnessed, among other things, Brazil’s 5-1 demolition of England in 1963, Santos’s dramatic win over AC Milan in the Intercontinental Cup final and Pele’s 1,000th goal, scored from the penalty spot against Vasco da Gama in 1969. That year also produced the stadium’s official record attendance of 183,513 for the World Cup qualifier against Paraguay. Two years later, the stadium witnessed Pele’s final game in a Brazil shirt, a 2-2 draw against Yugoslavia.
Illustrious visitors from outside football have included Queen Elizabeth II, the Harlem Globetrotters, Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II and Paul McCartney, who played in front of the biggest audience of his career when he performed on the pitch in 1991.
By then, the decline had set in. The stadium has since been refurbished on several occasions, notably in 1999 when it became all-seater arena to host the following year’s inaugural FIFA Club World Championship, and in 2005, when the pitch was lowered by two metres to improve the notoriously poor view from the lower tier. The capacity has shrunk as a result and is now set at 103,022. However, it seemed to be a case of taking one step forward and two back as the operational problems
- especially in terms of ticket sales
Now, however, there is hope for the future. Last year, Sergio Cabral was elected as governor of Rio de Janeiro state and one of his first moves was to meet CBF president Ricardo Teixeira to plot the stadium’s future. Teixeira promised to include the Maracana in Brazil’s bid to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ after Cabral had said he would provide the investment needed to bring it up to scratch. The idea is to rebuild the stadium in the same way that Germany reconstructed the historic Olympiastadion in Berlin for 2006.
“We had tried several times already to get some sort of confirmation from the state government that the necessary modifications would be made but that did not happen,” said Teixeira.
“Now, for the first time, we’ve spoken to the government and the government is willing to implement a German model.” The future is suddenly looking much brighter.