Hot on the heels of the Estadio das Dunas, in Natal, and the Estadio Beira-Rio, in Porto Alegre, another sparkling new venue was inaugurated in Brazil on Sunday 9 March. The Arena Amazonia, in Manaus, was the third stadium to be opened in 2014. The first match there saw local side Nacional held 2-2 by Para outfit Remo, which knocked the Manaus team out at the last-eight stage of the Copa Verde, a competition for clubs from Brazil’s northern region.

The Arena Amazonia will host four group-stage fixtures at the FIFA World Cup™: the eagerly awaited clash of England and Italy in Group D on 14 June; the meeting of Croatia and Cameroon in Group A on 18 June; USA versus Portugal in Group G on 22 June, as well as Switzerland-Honduras in Group E three days later.

At the historic first match at the new stadium, only half the seats at what will be a 40,000 capacity stadium at the World Cup were filled. Among the crowd was Brazil's Sports Minister, Aldo Rebelo, the Governor of Amazonas State, Omar Jose Abdel Aziz, the Mayor of Manaus, Artur Virgilio Neto and the CEO of the 2014 FIFA World Cup LOC, Ricardo Trade.

“This game proved the stadium is ready for the test events," Rebelo said. "The State of Amazonas, the whole Amazonia region and Brazil itself should be proud."

The State of Amazonas, the whole Amazonia region and Brazil itself should be proud

Aldo Rebelo, Brazil's Sports Minister

As well as the dignitaries, local celebrities were in attendance, such as the mixed martial arts fighter Jose Aldo, the current UFC featherweight world champion.

Born in Alvorada, the very neighbourhood where the stadium is located, Aldo is a football fanatic. He fondly looks back on the kickabouts in the street he had with his childhood friends and the afternoons spent watching games at the Vivaldao, the stadium that was demolished in 2010 to make way for the Arena Amazonia.

“As a regular in the stands at the Vivaldao, it’s a special feeling being here today. I’ve seen the different World Cup stadiums and I believe that the Arena Amazonia is among the most stunning,” he said.

Amazonia beauty to boost Manaus 
The beauty of the stadium was also highlighted by LOC CEO Trade, who pointed out the important role the venue could play in local football development.

“The view from outside the stadium and the way its architecture incorporates the Amazonian nature is marvellous. It is very comfortable and the venue fulfils all the LOC and FIFA requirements. I’m convinced the Arena Amazonia can leave a lasting legacy to football in the region, along with the two Official Training Camps in Amazonas, one of which has capacity for 15,000 spectators and other 5,000,” said Trade.

The match was the first test for the FIFA World Cup. No surprise, therefore, that Governor Abdel Aziz was both excited and apprehensive ahead of the test event.

“We have to fine-tune a few aspects over time. It’s like building a house. It’s only truly finished when we move in and make a few adjustments here and there,” he said, before expressing his gratitude to the local community. “It is the Amazonas people who built this work of art who deserve the praise. I hope our football and the state of Amazonas take full advantage of it.”

Manaus Mayor Neto, for his part, believes the Arena Amazonia can boost the city’s image both in Brazil and abroad: “We now have a world-class facility in Manaus. Our goal in constructing the stadium and the Conference Centre beside it was to put Manaus on the map as far as sports and events tourism goes. Everything is now in place to make this happen.”