Prices keep many fans away
25 July ~ Three weeks after Brazil's Confederations Cup win and eight games into the domestic season, the reopened Maracanã held its first club game last Sunday evening. Returning home were Fluminense, who hosted Rio de Janeiro rivals Vasco da Gama. FIFA announced last Friday that Brazilians will be able to get tickets for next year's World Cup for £20 (£10 for concessions) – the cheapest tickets for Sunday's game, behind the goals, cost a similar price but it is still a significant amount of money in a country where the minimum wage is roughly £200 a month.
The pricier seats by the side of the pitch, costing £30 to £87, were almost completely empty as the two sets of fans concentrated behind each goal. The authorities overturned an initial ban on large flags, banners, musical instruments, going shirtless and standing but the alcohol sold at the Confederations Cup and due to be available at the World Cup was gone. The Fluminense fans sang throughout that the Maracanã is theirs. Also returning to the stadium was Fluminense forward Fred, after his two goals for Brazil against Spain in his last Maracanã appearance. In tribute to their star man the Fluminense fans flew a giant flag with "Fred vai te pegar" (Fred will get you) written underneath a silhouette of the No 9's face.
After Fluminense dominated the opening stages, Vasco took the lead through the 38-year-old Juninho Pernambucano, the former Lyon player who was making his first appearance since rejoining Vasco after a brief stint in MLS with New York Red Bulls. Things then fell apart for Fluminense on 25 minutes as Fred, chasing his own flick on, leaped into the air and smashed Vasco defender Jomar in the face with his elbow. He received a straight red card and walked off to a warm applause from the Fluminense faithful.
Vasco capitalised on their numerical advantage at the beginning of the second half, with Juninho playing in André who scooped the ball over former Liverpool reserve keeper Diego Cavalieri to put Vasco 2-0 up. Fluminense got a goal back but had another player sent off on the way to a 3-1 defeat.
In the final stages the big screens flashed up the attendance figures. Of the 46,860 people present, only 34,364 were paying customers. The Maracanã Consortium later made a statement saying that as this was the first derby since the stadium reopened they had limited ticket sales to 60,000, 18,000 below capacity, for safety reasons. That still leaves 25,000 seats unsold. Possibly a sign that the World Cup's legacy in Rio de Janeiro could be the pricing out of locals from their flagship stadium. Simon Meechan