Rio backs away from renaming of Maracanã

Plans to rename Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracanã stadium after Brazilian football legend Pele are set to be reversed following opposition from critics.

Last month, the Rio de Janeiro state legislature (ALERJ) voted in favour of a proposal to rename the venue after Pele. ‘Maracanã’ is the stadium’s informal name, with the venue officially known as Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho in tribute to Mário Filho, a journalist who lobbied for the construction of the stadium in the 1940s.

Under the proposal voted on last month, the stadium would have been 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 proposal was set for ratification by Rio’s acting Governor, Cláudio Castro, earlier this week. However, legislative speaker Andre Ceciliano, who initially sponsored the bill, requested that Castro veto the proposal instead.

The decision has been taken after many locals questioned whether the renaming of the Maracanã should be a priority as Brazil continues to suffer from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Others felt that Filho’s name should be retained in the official moniker of the stadium.

“My intention was to pay tribute to the king of football, the best player of all time,” Ceciliano said, according to the AFP news agency. “But the Maracanã will always be called the Maracanã.”

The proposal would have kept Filho’s name in the official title of the surrounding sports complex at the Maracanã, but the change in the stadium’s name was met with opposition from his family.

Pele, who won three World Cups with Brazil as a player, was not involved in the campaign to rename the Maracanã in his honour.

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.

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: Brazilian Government/CC BY 3.0 BR/Edited for size