One of football’s great arena is turning 70 today. It was on June 16, 1950, that the first game was played in Rio de Janeiro’s magnificent Maracana stadium.
Like some giant spaceship parked to the north of the city center, the Maracana is awe-inspiring today. Seven decades ago a trip to the stadium must have felt like time travel — it was built with the idea of carrying Brazil straight onto the top table of the global game of football.
The inaugural match, between teams from Rio and Sao Paulo, was a test event. The real thing, starting a few days later, was the fourth World Cup ever — Brazil hoped to win it. Thumping victories over Mexico and Yugoslavia established them as candidates, second round thrashings of Sweden and Spain (7-1 and 6-1 respectively) set them up as favorites. There were famous scenes of singing, dancing, and handkerchief waving in the huge concrete stands. Around like 190,000 fans, supporters and spectators crammed in for the last game against Uruguay, when the hosts needed just a draw to seal the trophy and the mayor of Rio proclaimed them as champions before the kickoff. That’s some amazing numbers,