Few iconic stadiums in the world can rightly claim to be genuinely historical monuments as well as sporting arenas. But the Maracana Stadium, popularly known as the Estadio Jornalista Mario Filho, with its enormous expanse, colossal seating capacity, and majestic architecture, is one of them.
The government of Rio de Janeiro owns the Maracana stadium, unlike most sporting stadiums in many countries that are owned by clubs.
Mário Filho is the official name of the stadium. It was named after an old journalist from Pernambuco who firmly supported the stadium’s construction after his death in 1966.
Its popular name, however, was derived from the Maracana river.
The stadium was poorly maintained after the 2016 Summer Olympic games. There were squabbles between the stadium owner and the Rio Olympics organizing committee about who was responsible for stadium maintenance.
The stadium was looted of valuable items, including fire extinguishers, televisions, and a bronze bust of journalist Mário Filho.
The greatest goal in the history of this stadium was scored by Pele. In 1969, he scored successively against six defenders and the goalkeeper to score for his club team, Santos.
Where Is The Maracana Stadium
Inaugurated for the 1950 FIFA World Cup, the colossal stadium has seen some of the most incredible moments in Brazilian and world soccer history.
Throughout South American soccer, the Maracana stadium has taken on mythical proportions and has become an almost impregnable fortress. However, even a good performance at this national landmark does not guarantee victory there.
World’s Biggest Soccer Stadium
The Brazilians set out to build the world’s largest soccer stadium under the guise of the FIFA World Cup. A truly majestic structure was to be constructed to mark the victory of the host country at the 1950 world championships.
Over 10,000 laborers toiled in the hot sun of Rio de Janeiro for over a year beginning in 1948. The Guinness Book of World Records estimates it could seat 180,000 people, while the Brazilian government claims it can seat over 200,000 people when it was completed.
The Maracanã stadium surpassed Hampden Park in Glasgow, the previous record attendance for a football match. The world’s largest stadium was opened on June 16, 1950, just days from the start of the tournament.
Back in 1950, Brazilians were filled with great pride: “Today, Brazilians claim that they still have the largest and best stadium in the world. Now the world can marvel at our sporting prowess and grandeur.”
1950 World Cup
The Maracanã stadium was officially introduced to the world before the opening match of the 1950 FIFA World Cup, where the hosts would play five of their six games (one would be at the Pacaembu).
After shocking Sweden and Spain 7-1 and 6-1 respectively, Brazil faced Uruguay as firm favorites and with the swagger of champions-elect going into the final match.
A draw was all Brazil needed to win the championship that year, as the final was played as a final group stage match.
One hundred seventy-four thousand people attended the World Cup final on 16 July 1950. However, according to reliable sources, this figure is much higher.
Experts claim that there were 220,000 people in the Maracana stadium on that day, which was equivalent to 10 percent of Rio de Janeiro’s population at the time, recalled Joao Havelange, the President of FIFA between 1974 and 1988.
Things appeared to plan when Friaca gave the home side the lead, but Uruguay’s response was to rock Brazil to its core. The Charrúa won their title with a 2-1 victory, thanks to Juan Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia.
The updated modified Maracanã stadium is still the largest soccer stadium in Brazil by more than 6,050 seats over the Mané Garrincha stadium. (current biggest seating capacity – 72,788)
Without a doubt, the saddest moment in the history of Brazilian soccer was met by an eerie, haunting silence in the gigantic football stadium. After that, the world’s media dubbed Uruguay’s shock victory as the Maracanazo, which is still used today whenever a visiting team wins at the iconic stadium.
After the match, grown men fought back tears. Some fans left with the game at all square, thinking Brazil were champions, but by the time they reached the gates, their FIFA World Cup dream was already gone.
World Cup Presentation
As the story goes, Jules Rimet, then FIFA’s president, walked down to the field to present the trophy to the Brazilians. However, by the time he reached the pitch, Uruguay turned the game around and became world champions.
A little taken aback by the sudden events, Rimet discarded the congratulatory speech he had prepared for the Brazilians and handed the cup over to the Uruguayan hero Obdulio Varela.
Some say that Brazil has never fully avenged the defeat, but on 16 July 1989, a goal by Romario was enough to beat Uruguay in the final of that year’s Copa America on the same ground.
Maracana Stadium Records
In addition to hosting its ‘big four’ teams – Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense, and Vasco – the Maracana is a state property in Rio de Janeiro.
The Maracanã stadium set a record for a national soccer match, with the sale of 177,656 tickets for a match between Flamengo and Fluminense (the classic Fla-Flu) on December 15, 1963.
Some of the greatest sporting events in Brazilian soccer have originated at the Maracana, such as Pele scored his 1000th career goal against Vasco in 1969.
A pitch invasion by hundreds of football fans and photographers followed Pele‘s 34th-minute penalty against Argentine goalkeeper Edgardo Andrada.
A poignant and evocative moment in the history of the Maracanã stadium came on 20 January 1983, when Garrincha passed away in the stadium, and his remains had to be brought there as a tribute. The idol was remembered and farewelled by thousands of fans.
First FIFA Club World Cup Final
The first FIFA Club World Cup final was played there in 2000, 50 years after the legendary Maracanazo. The cup was won by Corinthians against Vasco in front of 73,000 fans in an all-Brazilian affair.
In April 1990, the Maracanã set the public record for a musical recital in an open stadium, when former Beatle Paul McCartney and his band The Wings gave a concert for 189,000 people.
During the 1991 Rock in Rio festival in Rio de Janeiro, international pop stars A-HA broke the world attendance record for a fee-paying crowd. 198,000 people attended the event.
It also served as the stage for performances by Tina Turner and Frank Sinatra, among other international idols, but its greatest pride was having served as a temple for the mass offered by Pope John Paul II in 1997.
The football stadium is an Brazilian tourist attraction and of of the most famous landmarks in South America.
Maracana Stadium Renovation
Following its latest renovation in 2013, the Maracanã stadium capacity is 78,838 spectators, making it Brazil’s largest stadium and South America’s second-largest after Estadio Monumental in Peru.
The 2007 Pan American Games were held at this site, where the stadium hosted the football tournament and the opening and closing ceremonies.
Several football matches, including the 2014 World Cup final, were played in Rio De Janeiro at the Maracana stadium during the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2014 FIFA Confederations Cup.
In addition to hosting the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Rio Olympics and Paralympics, the football stadium hosted the main track and field events.
As usual, the last word falls to the great Pele: “The Maracanã stadium is a special place for all Brazilians, but especially for me. There, I scored my first goal for the Auriverde against Argentina and where I scored my 1000th professional goal years later.
Interesting Facts About The Maracanã
- The government of Rio de Janeiro owns the Maracanã stadium, unlike most sporting stadiums in many countries that are owned by clubs.
- Mário Filho is the official name of the stadium. It was named after an old journalist from Pernambuco who firmly supported the stadium’s construction after his death in 1966. Its popular name, however, was derived from the Maracanã river. It was inaugurated as the Municipal Stadium of Rio de Janeiro when it officially opened in 1950.
- State legislators voted in March 2021 to rename the football stadium Edson Arantes do Nascimento – Rei Pele. Before the name change becomes official, the governor of Rio de Janeiro must approve it.
- The format of the new stadium is oval, with a major axis of 317 meters and a minor axis of 279 meters. Its maximum height is 32 meters. The distance between the center of the court and the furthest spectator is 126 meters.
- The playing field is 110m long by 75m wide. It is surrounded by a moat 3m wide and deep. Access to the field is through four underground tunnels.
- Before the renovations it underwent for the Rio-2007 Pan-American Games, it underwent a restructuring in 2000 for the first FIFA Club World Championship – won by Corinthians – when it had 80,000 seats and the largest football capacity of 120,000 spectators.
- Maracanãzinho refers to a small arena that is attached to the stadium, which means “Little Maracanã” in Portuguese.
- More than 100,000 have gathered at the venue two hundred and eighty-four times, and the venue has witnessed the attendance of 150,000 or more 26 times.
- The stadium was poorly maintained after the 2016 Summer Olympic games. There were squabbles between the stadium owner and the Rio Olympics organizing committee about who was responsible for stadium maintenance. The stadium was looted of valuable items, including fire extinguishers, televisions, and a bronze bust of journalist Mário Filho.
- The greatest goal in the history of this stadium was scored by Pele. In 1969, he dribbled past six defenders and the goalkeeper to score for his club team, Santos.
- Three times in the 1980s, 1987s, and 1997s, Pope John Paul II celebrated mass at the Maracana stadium.
- The Maracana stadium has hosted 15 World Cup matches, including two World Cup finals in 1950 and 2014.
The stadium is usually used for football matches between Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo, and Vasco da Gama, which are the major football clubs in Rio de Janeiro.
A match was played in the stadium’s opening match on 16 June 1950. The Rio de Janeiro All-Stars defeated Sao Paulo All-Stars 3-0.
- Brazil and the USSR played volleyball matches in the Maracanã stadium in 1980 and 1983. One of those volleyball matches attracted 95,000 people, a world record.
Maracanã Stadium is located about 5 kilometers from downtown Rio de Janeiro toward the east. Approximately 12 kilometers north of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, it is located in the province of Rio de Janeiro.
Metro and train lines provide easy access to the stadium.
- In 1998, the Maracana stadium was designated a national landmark, so it cannot be demolished.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!