The Rio de Janeiro state legislature (ALERJ) has voted in favour of a proposal to rename the iconic Maracanã stadium after Brazilian football legend, Pele.

The Maracanã is currently officially known as Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, paying tribute to Mário Filho, a journalist who lobbied for the construction of the stadium in the 1940s, as part of a wider sporting complex that also includes the Ginásio Maracanãzinho and Estádio de Atletismo Célio de Barros.

Under the proposed change, which still needs to be approved by Rio’s acting Governor, Cláudio Castro, the stadium will be renamed as Estádio Edson Arantes do Nascimento – Rei Pelé. The 80-year-old Pele’s full name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, while Rei translates to ‘king’ in Portuguese.

The ALERJ President, André Ceciliano, is one of four officials who have proposed the name change. “The use of the names of living people in entities that are public assets has been a concern of society to ensure these entities belong to everyone and to prevent the privatisation of public assets,” said Ceciliano, according to the Agência Brasil news agency.

“But, in this case, this is a fair tribute to a person recognised worldwide for his legacy in Brazilian football and for providing relevant services to our country.”

At the end of the 1940s, Filho led a campaign against then councilman Carlos Lacerda, who wanted to develop a municipal stadium in the Jacarepaguá neighbourhood of Rio for Brazil’s staging of the  1950 FIFA World Cup.

Filho died in Rio in 1966 and his family have opposed the renaming, while others have argued the stadium should be named in honour of a Rio citizen. Pele was born in Minas Gerais state and lived most of his life in the state of Sao Paulo.

Mário Filho’s grandson, Mário Neto, said: “This attitude is unfortunate. A barbarity. They took it out with a pen. I will not fight with those who do not know Mário Filho, do not know anything about sports.”

In November, Campeonato Brasileiro Série A football clubs Flamengo and Fluminense agreed a further extension to their management contract for the Maracanã. The two teams extended the deal with the Rio de Janeiro State Government, owner of the venue, for a further 180 days through to April 30.

In April 2019, Flamengo and Fluminense agreed a six-month deal to manage the Maracanã Complex. The deal came after the Rio government announced that it would regain control of the 78,000-seat stadium following the annulment of a contract with its private administrators.

The government stated at the time that it was owed around BRL38m (£4.7m/€5.5m/$6.5m) by Maracanã SA, the group that used to run the stadium. This group was led by the Odebrecht conglomerate and operated the stadium from 2017 after securing a 35-year contract.

Flamengo and Fluminense had further extended their contract through to November and the new agreement is designed to grant the Rio government additional time as it continues to draw up a tender to secure an operator under another 35-year deal.

Flamengo and Fluminense both play their games at the Maracanã, which underwent substantial redevelopment to serve as the centrepiece of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The stadium also hosted matches during Rio’s staging of the Olympic Games in 2016, while it will stage the final of the rescheduled Copa America national team football tournament this summer.

Image: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size