Destroying Temples to Football - World Cup edition

In the rush to suck money out of supporters, many of the world's historic stadiums have been remodelled or rebuilt to create greater "amenities" and "improve the game day experience". Also know as the ability to raise ticket prices and place greater control over what happens within the stadium. Such remodelling often comes at the expense of the work-class culture that has made football an international spectator sport in the first place. Two of the most notable examples are the rebuilt Wembley Stadium and the destruction of Arsenal's Highbury, replaced with the the corporately named Emirates. Both stadiums are equipped with luxury boxes and all-seater configuration, designed to maximize seated viewing angles. Seated because charging higher prices for seats is easier; currently Arsenal are among the highest priced tickets in the Premier League.

In Brazil, in preparation for the 2014 World Cup, one of the most historic stadiums has been all but destroyed for the demands of the modern corporate game. The Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro is considered a temple to the game, having hosted the biggest match in history: the historic 1950 World Cup final match between Brazil and Uruguay. In front of 200 000 plus national supporters, Brazil, needing only to tie, lost to Uruguay 1-2 after second half goals by Schiaffino and Ghiggia. The Maracanazo, as the match is remembered, is etched into the footballing memory and undoubably has been shown over and over again in the lead up to 2014.

Brazil has taken the risk of once again hosting the final match in the Maracanã, hoping a second time will bring national glory instead of national shame. By after successive remodelling has diminished the Maracanã from a stadium for 150 000+, to recent years less than 90 000, the historic stadium has finally met its ultimate destructive face-lift. Similar to a person after repeated plastic surgery, what is being built will only resemble the original Maracanã in only the most freakish of manners.

In an article about the overall assault on the working poor of Brazil that FIFA's world cup is bringing, Raúl Zibechi relates on the symbolic destruction of the Maracanã:
In reality, the stadium was gutted and only the shell remains- a shell considered to be national patrimony. The reconstruction will be handled by private interests, cost billions of reales (at least 600 million dollars), and will have even less seating that will only get more and more expensive.

The original Maracanã was designed for the 1950s World Cup and became the inspiration of other monumental stadiums in Brazi: Morumbi in São Paulo and Mineirão in Belo Horizonte. Maracanã's circular shape with slowly sloping terraces is designed to give maximum capacity to the standing masses; admittedly sight lines from the individualized seats were horrible. It is the lack of 'quality' for the individual seat purchaser that drives FIFA demands for "modern" stadia, in order to drive up the ticket prices and financial benefit for the international organization.

In order to carryout the remodelling of the Maracanã, the stadium has been completely gutted:
Gone are the circular stands, to be replaced by more oval shaped - straightened for the side-lines - all-seater terraces with steeper angles enabled by a lowered pitch. The emblematic roof is also being modified to cover the oval shaped stands. No doubt the spectator 'experience', from the perspective of the individual seat purchaser will be greatly improved.

What is being cut out and thrown away, beside the architectural history of populist architecture, is the possibility for creating the working-class stadium experience, which made such stadiums temples to football. Large sections of many South American stadium are left to 'general admission' terraces because such spaces enable the 'mass' experience; the spatial organization of a stadium directly affects the possibilities of the emotional experience. A individualized numbered seat creates an individualized numbered experience; the price of that seat transforms the culture from participant to paying customer.

Specific stadiums can be considered temples to football because of their ability to be part of the ritualistic production of collectively-shared devotion; transforming these spaces transforms the meaning and significance of that collective experience.

As an aside, a good academic perspective on the stadiums of Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro is written by Chris Gaffney, "Temples of Earthbound Gods".

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