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On Sunday, I’m going to Maracanã. I’ll support my team, I’ll take fireworks and banners, this time it’s no joke, and my team will be the champion. I don’t sit in the lower seats, I only sit at the stands, it’s more exciting… On Monday, the 29 April 2013, Rio de Janeiro woke up differently. At all the beaches, squares, streets and homes, people would only talk about one thing: Maracanã is back.
On Saturday, Mário Filho Stadium, the Maracanã, had its first test event. It started with a huge party and Neguinho da Beija-Flor’s most successful work, a song appreciated by all Carioca Football fans. Naldo, Preta Gil and Martinho da Vila also made the crowd cheer. The public was formed by people who worked in the renovation and their families.
The stage for the Rio 2016™ Olympic and Paralympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as well as the men’s and women’s Football finals, the stadium hosted some of Brazilian Football greatest stars for a festive match. Ronaldo’s friends beat Bebeto’s friends by 8 x 5, a match with the participation of five Olympic medallists.
The test event went as the authorities had expected. Equipment, facilities and infrastructure were inspected for the stadium’s full functioning that will begin during its official inauguration, on 2 June, for the friendly match between Brazil and England. The players praised and approved the pitch and the stadium received a positive assessment by Emop (Rio de Janeiro State Public Construction Company in Portuguese) President, Ícaro Moreno.
“It was great. We tested the pitch lighting, sound, screens, air-conditioning, mobility, stands and Bellini’s ramp vibration, sewage and drinking water systems and elevators. We had minor problems with urinals pressurisation and two elevators but these were solved in a few minutes. All other items worked perfectly”, Ícaro Moreno said.
Five Olympic medallists present on the Football pitch
Júnior, the maestro, a veteran who played at the Montreal 1976 Games, when Brazil finished fourth after being defeated by the Soviet Union 2X0 in the dispute for the bronze medal, was also the only player on the pitch to have represented Brazil at the Olympic Games without making it to the podium. He played on Bebeto’s team for a few minutes but did not show the same level of play as when he represented Brazil in the 1982 and 1986 World Cups.
Two Seoul 1988 Olympic vice-champions were also present on the pitch. The current Flamengo coach and former right defender Jorginho and forward Bebeto were both part of the team that beat Australia, Yugoslavia, Nigeria, Argentina and West Germany, but lost the final for the Soviet Union 2X1, in extra time.
Apart from the silver in 1988, Bebeto also won a bronze medal in Atlanta 1996, when he became top scorer with six goals, three of them scored during the 5X0 victory over Portugal. Apart from Bebeto, that Brazilian team had other three players present at Maracanã’s first test-event: Ronaldo, central defender Aldair and defensive midfielder Amaral.
Brazilian Men’s Football won five medals in 12 participations in the Olympic Games – three silvers and two bronzes. Last year, in London, Brazil won the first five matches, scoring three goals every time. But it was defeated by Mexico 2X1 at the final that took place at Wembley Stadium. None of the London 2012 Olympic vice-champions were present at the Maracanã celebration.
And of all those present on the pitch only Bebeto’s son, Matheus, honoured during the unforgettable cradle-rocking goal celebration during the 3X2 victory over the Netherlands in the 1994 World Cup quarter-finals, is young enough to play during Rio 2016™. “I’ve already left my mark at the new Maracanã. I hope this is the first of many to come”, Matheus said right after the match.