“The eighth wonder of the world,” was the verdict of legendary Brazilian striker Dada Maravilha, charismatic goalscorer extraordinaire and known for his knack for providing a catchy soundbite, on the new Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, which was handed over this Friday 21 December.
Third on the list of goals scored at the original Mineirao, with 129 strikes, Dada said he felt like he was entering a time machine. “It’s different now, but for the better,” said the former Brazil and Atletico-MG attacker. “In my day the fans were a long way from the pitch. At this new Mineirao, I could have scored my goals and run to the fans to celebrate with them. Being close to the supporters makes players more inspired.
“The responsibility on the players’ shoulders is much greater after these renovations,” continued Dada, who was born in Rio de Janeiro but whose heart belongs to Minas Gerais state. “The dressing rooms are excellent. If they can’t score goals with all these creature comforts, I’ll have to come out of retirement – at 66 years of age – and show them how it’s done.”
Dada also underlined his belief that the FIFA Confederations Cup and FIFA World Cup™ matches held in Belo Horizonte will be successful, with the nature of the local people such that they will “adopt” the national teams that play at the Estadio Mineirao.
“Spain and Argentina are the favourites to win, but Brazil can spring a surprise,” said Dada. “In my view, because of the way the game is played nowadays, youth will reign supreme come 2014.”
Another man already feeling at home in the new Estadio Mineirao is 73-year-old storeman Ze Franca, who has dedicated 50 years of his life to the temple of Minas Gerais football. Ze Franca started working at the arena back in 1961, overseeing both the hiring and firing of workers and managing the stadium’s material supplies.
“This isn’t just construction work, it’s a work of art. As was the case 47 years ago [when the original Mineirao was officially opened], today one of the most modern stadiums in the world is being unveiled,” said Ze Franca, who was at Belo Horizonte’s Estadio Independencia during the 1950 FIFA World Cup and can now barely wait for Brazil 2014 to come to the city. “This stadium’s different now, but it gets top marks. I’m now looking forward to seeing a packed Estadio Mineirao once more.”