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|| News Item: Posted 2000-06-28

Fifty Years of Maracana
By Ivo Gonzalez, O Globo

Photo by Ivo Gonzalez/O Globo

Photo by Ivo Gonzalez/O Globo
Everything began during World War II in 1943 when Jules Rimet of France (who had been in Rio de Janeiro in 1939) had the idea to organize a World Cup outside Europe. His idea was completely destroyed because of the war. Rimet promised to give the World Cup to Brazil, but they had to prove that they were able to organize the event and one of the requests was the construction of a big stadium.

Only one year later the first project was presented and they named it "Estadio Nacional" (National Stadium). Unfortunately the building of Maracana still took a little time. More than all of the soccer fans wanted. Politicians and intellectuals, unlike soccer buffs, were against the great amount of money that would be expended in the huge project. They wanted the money invested in hospitals, schools and education.

In 1948 the construction began. After many discussions the beginning of the work was authorized on August 10th. The construction process was a race against time. FIFA inspectors, journalists and international team managers came to Rio de Janeiro to accompany the construction of what would be the most important place of the 1950 World Cup, already confirmed to take place in Brazil.

Photo by Ivo Gonzalez/O Globo

Photo by Ivo Gonzalez/O Globo
So, on June 16, 1950 the dream came true. The Maracana Stadium was finally inaugurated. On July 16 the final match of the 1950 World Cup gathered the astonishing amount of 200,000 people. Fans from the whole country came to Rio de Janeiro to support Brazil against Uruguay.

Each one of them with the conviction that Brazil would beat Uruguay very easily. Unfortunately things happened the other way. The Uruguayan executioner Alcides Edgardo Ghiggia stroke a goal and the final score was Uruguay 2, Brazil 1. With that goal Ghiggia silenced 200,000 people that couldn't believe their eyes.

The sureness of a victory and the conquest of the first World Cup had to wait until 1958 in Sweden. After that Brazil won four World Cups and became the most important soccer team in the world. It's the only country that has won four World Cups.

Not only sad things happened in Maracana. Many matches and many excellent soccer players that made history in the soccer world played there. Garrincha, Zico, Romario and Pele just to name a few. Among them, the most famous and the best, undoubtedly was Pele, the greatest soccer player of all time.

There were many games and many happy and sad moments. Many players, many teams and many anonymous fans gave their contribution to the wonderful soccer history of Maracana. During the last fifty years, the stadium suffered many transformations.

From the capacity of 200,000 places (including the "geral" where the assistants watch the matches standing up) now the capacity has been reduced to 100,000 for security reasons. Only in great matches the stadium gets fully packed. For many people, Maracana is an obsolete stadium. It's a gigantic arena that rarely attracts more than 50,000 fans.

Photo by Ivo Gonzalez/O Globo

Photo by Ivo Gonzalez/O Globo
Television broadcasting and violence are the most important reasons for the public non-attendance. Nowadays, the trend around the world is the building of smaller stadiums. Even the "Mecca" of soccer, Wembley, in London, is being demolished and a modern and smaller stadium will be built.

Maracana has hosted other events besides soccer games. Great music concerts like the ones from Madonna, Rolling Stones and Frank Sinatra. The Pope John Paul II celebrated two masses in his visits to Brazil. The pop star Madonna didn't resist and at the end of her concert dressed in the shirt of Flamengo, the most popular soccer team in Brazil.

No matter what event takes place we photographers are always there. Many photographers have worked in Maracana. Not only Brazilian, but also many foreigners have experienced the emotion of taking pictures in the biggest soccer stadium in the world.

Besides the emotion the photographers have to deal with many difficulties. The lighting conditions are not as good as they should be. On night matches it's necessary to shoot at 1600 ISO with an exposure of 1/320 at f/2.8. although the best shutter speed would be 1/500. In this condition it becomes almost impossible to use the 600mm (the best lens for soccer pictures in my opinion) because of it's maximum aperture of f/4.

(Ivo Gonzalez is a staff photographer for O Globo, Brazil's largest daily newspaper. This is his second article for Sports Shooter.)

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