Name: Cicero Pompeu de Toledo (Morumbi)
Address: Praca Roberto Gomes Pedrosa, Sao Paulo, SP; Brazil
Last renovation: 1998
No. of seats: 80,000
Total capacity: 80,000
Home to: Sao Paulo FC, SC Corinthians Paulista
MORUMBI – FROM 138,000 TO 60,000
It took nearly 17 years to complete the Morumbi stadium, the pride of Sao Paulo FC and Brazil’s most famous arena after the Maracana. The first brick was symbolically laid by Cicero Pompeu de Toledo on 15 August 1952, the club president at the time and after whom the stadium is officially completed on 25 January 1970 when Sao Paulo drew 1 – 1 with FC Porto, specially invited over from Portugal for the occasion.
During that time, Sao Paulo fun-nelled nearly all of their investment into the stadium as it became a near obsession for the club. In the meantime, the titles dried up – the Paulista championship of 1953 and 1957 were their only conquests – as the team itself played second fiddle to Toledo’s dream.
Today, the Morumbi is the envy of Sao Paulo’s man main rivals Palmeiras and Corinthians. The stadium hosts most of the city’s main derbies, including many Palmeiras-Corinthians clashes, as well as its biggest rock concerts. It was also the venue of the mass by Pope John Paul II in 1980.
The stadium follows the oval design typical of the huge stadiums built in Brazil between 1950 and 1980. it has three tiers, the largest being the upper tier known as the “Arquibancada”, home of the most fanatical supporters.
The record attendance was 138,032 for a match between Corinthians and Ponte Preta, but safety regulations have since reduced the capacity to 80,000, although nowadays no more than 60,000 tickets are sold for a single game.
During the days when Brazil played most of their games in Rio and Sao Paulo, the Morumbi was a regular venue for international games. However, since the Brazilian football association (CBF) began taking the national team to more distant points of the country, it has fallen out of favor.
Another problem is that Paulista crowd has earned a reputation for being fickle. Their furious reaction when Brazil “only” beat Colombia 1 – 0 in a FIFA World Cup TM qualifier in 2000 was fairly typical as supporters threw flags onto the pitch in protest and insulted Rivaldo. Their last visit to the stadium was for a 3 – 1 win over Bolivia in a FIFA World Cup TM qualifier in August 2004.
The stadium is located in the heart of Morumbi neighborhood, one of the most up-market in Sao Paulo. Yet, when work started on the arena in 1952, critics, unaware of the phenomenal growth the city was about to undergo, complained that it was isolated and too far from the city center.
Toledo, who died before his dream had been fulfilled, had wanted the stadium to be built in Ibirapuera but the city government turned down his idea. Instead, they donated the land in Morumbi.
The stadium was partially completed in 1960 with a capacity of 70,000 and its first inauguration took place with a game between Sao Paulo and Sporting Lisbon. However, it took another 10 years before the “Arquibancada” was put in place the arena was complete.
Although the stadium was ahead of its time in many ways, the designers had not anticipated the changing habits of football fans. During the 1990s, the upper tier began to wobble when thousands of fans jumped up and down in unison. At one stage, the upper tier was closed altogether as new shock absorbers were put in place.
The Morumbi has witnessed two Libertadores Cup triumphs for Sao Paulo – in 1992 when they beat Newell’s Old Boys, and in 2005 when they beat Atletico Paranaense – and they also clinched the 2006 Brazilian championship there with a 1 – 1 draw also, coincidentally, against Paranaense. The stadium has witnessed the club winning 12 Paulista titles, but it has also seen its fair share of tragedy and the bizarre. In 1999, the Paulista championship final was suspended following a huge brawl between the players of Corinthians and Palmeiras. The fight started when Corinthians striker Edilson, his team three goals ahead with 10 minutes to play, celebrated by playing keep-up near to the touchline. Furious Palmeiras players saw this as a provocation and chase him off the pitch, sparking the brawl.
There was tragedy in 2004 too when Sao Caetano defender Serginho collapsed on the pitch during a game against Sao Paulo due to a heart attack and died in hospital shortly afterwards. That was followed by another bizarre incident during a Libertadores Cup games against Argentina’s Quilmes. At the end of the game, police came onto the field and arrested Quilmes defender Leandro Desabato, saying he had racially insulted Sao Paulo forward Grafite. Desabato spent two days in custody and was at one stage hand-cuffed before being allowed to return to Argentina. The charges were later dropped as it transpired that the only evidence had come from two people who claimed to have lip-read Desabato while watching the game on television.