Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Sergio Moraes
Last Sunday, June 2, I returned to Maracana to cover Brazil and England playing a friendly soccer match that was also the re-inauguration of this iconic stadium. The first sensation I felt when entering the building was nostalgia for the old Maracana. The new one is beautiful and modern with fantastic lighting, but it didn’t move me. The truth is, it’s no longer Maracana, but rather a different stadium built for the 2014 World Cup. Even the acoustics are different.
It is no longer, as legendary player Nilton Santos called it in the 50’s, “an enormous pressure cooker.”
My first experience with Maracana was when I was 6 years old. That was in 1968, a magic year for a boy who just began to become passionate about soccer and with the Botafogo club, known in Rio as “O Glorioso,” or The Glorious One. That year I witnessed Botafogo being crowned champion of the state championship, and winning the Brazil Cup the following year.
I was guided through that initiation by my father, who was also a photographer, from the stadium’s cement bleachers. Maracana was divided into bleachers, special seats on the same level as the bleachers, seats at the field level, and general admission. When I was old enough to go with my friends we went to the general admission section, the most popular. That section was standing room only, and we used to run from one side to the other to follow the players on the field.
There was no live TV transmission then. We would stand on the side opposite the cameras, and when there was a corner kick we would race behind the kicker to appear on the video, which we could watch later at home when it was finally transmitted to viewers.