Go behind the scenes at the Maracana stadium

In Brazil, it's common to say that there are two religions: Jesus and football. Brazil lives for football. It is in Rio de Janeiro that a monument to Brazilian football represents the fervour of Brazilians for this sport: the Maracana stadium. Like Christ the Redeemer, it has become one of the city's must-see attractions, and a must-see for all football fans visiting the city.

© marchello74 / Shutterstock

A mythical story

Brazil was awarded the World Cup, originally scheduled for 1949 but postponed until 1950. This award was due to the complicated situation in Europe. After the Second World War, most of the stadiums on the old continent had to be rebuilt. Brazil did not have a stadium big enough to host a World Cup final. An agreement was reached between the federal government of Rio and the Ministry of Sport.

The stadium was to be built in the Maracana district, which was more centrally located than the Jacarepagua district. Construction of the stadium began on 20 January 1948, but work did not really start until August of the same year. Despite the tight schedule, the building was finished in time for the start of the 1950 World Cup. The capacity of the newly-built stadium was 183,254 and 220,000 if you count standing room only. The Brazilian monument became the largest stadium in the world, surpassing Glasgow's Hampden Park and its 150,000 seats. In 1966, the stadium was named Mario Filho after the sports journalist who was instrumental in its construction.

An emotional place

In the final of the 1950 World Cup, Brazil lost 2-1 to Uruguay, who went on to win the tournament. The shock was so severe that a Brazilian fan threw himself from the stands, and the defeat led to a wave of suicides across the country. On 19 November 1969, Pele scored the 1,000th goal of his career in this stadium during a match between Santos FC and Vasco de Gama. The crowd in the stadium greeted the performance of "King Pele" by invading the pitch. Flamengo and Fluminense are the stadium's resident clubs. The Norwegian music group a-Ha entered the Guinness Book of Records for having attracted the largest number of paying spectators, with over 199,000 people in the stadium that day. Pope John Paul II also celebrated two masses at the stadium.

Typical activities

The temple of Brazilian football opens its doors to you. You can visit the Maracana stadium accompanied by a guide who will take you behind the scenes of this legendary venue. The players' dressing room, warm-up room, press room, players' tunnel, substitutes' bench - the stadium will hold no secrets for you. You'll even be able to go out onto the pitch. The tour lasts around 45 minutes. A permanent exhibition completes the tour.

© Catarina Belova / Shutterstock

Seeing a match of the resident clubs, Flamengo and Fluminense, is also a must, as you'll be immersed in the atmosphere and fervour that are so special here. You'll be able to see for yourself just how passionate Brazilians are about football.

© Celso Pupo / Shutterstock

Where to stay near the Maracana stadium?

Located just 200 metres from the stadium, the Arena Maracana Hostel allows you to relax while soaking up the football atmosphere. There is a breathtaking view of the stadium and the match players from resident clubs Fluminense and Flamengo.

Arena Maracanã Hotel Rio de Janeiro
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Arena Maracanã Hotel

Hotel a stone's throw from the Maracana stadium
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Practical info

How do I get to the Maracana stadium?

Line 2 of the metro will take you to the stadium from the city centres of Botafogo and Flamengo in 15 minutes.

You can also get there by bus, but the journey will take longer. It takes around an hour to get there, taking bus line 432 from Copacabana Beach to the "Maracana stadium" stop.

To visit the Maracana stadium, the entrance fee is 65 real (15 euros) for an adult, 32.50 real for a young person (6-12 years) and a senior citizen (over 60 years) and free for children under 4.

by Val HANCOCK
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