Collapse 80 years ago helped build Maracanã – 09/18/2023 – Sports

Collapse 80 years ago helped build Maracanã – 09/18/2023 – Sports

“The stands collapsed!”, reported Folha da Noite, which would become Folha de S.Paulo, impressed by “the disaster at the São Cristóvão stadium”. Football still had stricter state limits, but the impact of the case went beyond the borders of Rio de Janeiro.

80 years ago, on September 19, 1943, the wooden structure in which Flamengo fans were standing did not survive. São Cristóvão’s game with the red and black team was interrupted, 19 minutes into the first half, due to the shocking scene of people crowded together. There were more than 200 injuries – and, somewhat miraculously, no deaths were reported.

It is an episode forgotten throughout history, but there is no exaggeration in saying that it is directly related to the construction of Maracanã. At the time, there was already discussion about the need to inaugurate a larger sports venue, which would accompany and allow for the growth of “football”, and supporters of the new stadium gained a tangible argument.

Among these defenders was Mario Filho, who would later give Maracanã its name after his death. The journalist, one of the many shocked by the collapse, described the scene with his style. “I lost track of time. Where had I seen that? Only in the cinema. In the cinema, however, the impression couldn’t be so strong. I didn’t see the blood, I didn’t hear the screams”, he wrote in Jornal dos Sports. “Figueira de Melo Street looked like London after the bombing.”

The President of the Republic, Getúlio Vargas, who was present in the Figueira de Melo field that day, also saw the blood and heard the screams. He was involved in the plans for the new stadium, which would come to fruition in the second half of that decade, with the choice of Brazil as host for the 1950 World Cup.

The entire process was detailed by Renato Coutinho, who researched the 30s and 40s in depth. In the article “‘Football is not to blame’: the fall of the São Cristovão stand and the dilemmas of professional football in Rio de Janeiro in the 1940s “, he noted that Vargas’ work had an important tool in football – his nephew, Vargas Netto, was the president of the Metropolitan Federation, which organized the Carioca Championship.

Football in Rio was problematic at the beginning of the 40s, with unattractive competition formulas, a stadium without a reasonable structure and a small audience. Some of these problems were being resolved. The calendar was organized, the competition became more balanced, and the first organized fan groups emerged – such as Legião da Vitória, from Vasco, and Avante Flamengo, later known as Charanga. But a problem persisted: the physical limits of the sports venues.

The Campeonato Carioca seemed to be experiencing a turning point in 1942, with greater general interest, and the 1943 tournament began with great expectations. “The formula for the tragedy was ready: better teams, more public interest, fewer stadiums in conditions for the growth of football in the city. The logical result, according to journalists at the time, occurred on September 19, 1943, on the street Figueira de Melo”, reported Coutinho, PhD in social history from UFF (Universidade Federal Fluminense).

Then, the process accelerated.

“It is consolidated in the social imagination that the stadium […] it was built for the World Cup. Without a doubt, the objective conditions for carrying out the works were associated with the international tournament. FIFA’s decision to hold the World Cup in Brazil, taken in 1946, was decisive in getting the project for a large stadium off the ground. But the idea of ​​a large stadium along the lines of what Maracanã became […] was nothing new in 1946,” the historian wrote.

“The campaign for the municipal stadium was created at a time of crisis among the Rio football public, and was not related to the need for a stadium to host a national team tournament. The campaign that emerged in 1943 claimed the municipal stadium as a project linked to progress of football and the city of Rio de Janeiro, even before thinking about the World Cup”, he added.

The popular commotion over the collapse contributed decisively to the press mobilizing political actors from the municipal and federal governments. The construction of a stadium “aimed at erecting a symbol of national progress and a place of recognition and dialogue between the nation-state and society.” “The fan, the urban worker, would have a place in the stadium to recognize his protagonism”, published Coutinho.

Projects were designed, models were presented. And the definitive push was, in fact, the choice of Brazil as the host of the World Cup. Work began in 1947, and 200,000 people watched the decisive game of the World Cup, the Maracanazo, Uruguay’s historic triumph over the hosts.

Brazil hosted the competition again in 2014, which is why the Maracanã, now known as Mario Filho, was rebuilt. New arenas emerged, such as Corinthians, the stage for the opening of the tournament, and new squares continued to be opened – the most recent being Atlético Mineiro. But the logic is different.

“If in the 40s the principle of the stadium had a political meaning, a symbolic element of valuing progress, a public square that would express the modernity of Brazilian society, of the federal capital, today the stadium is not the expression of the modernity of a society , it is not a monument to Brazilian engineering. No, it is not that. The stadium is a place of multiple consumer experiences, fundamentally because the State is no longer the builder. It is the clubs, private companies”, Coutinho told Folha. “The main motivation is always to produce a profitable stadium.”

The historian makes a point of making it clear that he is not nostalgic, citing the average attendance records that have been broken in Brazilian football. In any case, there is no doubt, the concept is different from that observed 80 years ago.

“[O Maracanã] emerged from the effort of inclusion and social interaction of fans, the press and the State based on a social pact that understood the popular layers as the true representatives of Brazilian modernity. More than a stadium for the World Cup, the municipal stadium emerged to be the place for historically forgotten crowds in Brazil.”

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