Thousands of people have already been to see the new Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasilia and been impressed by its beauty and sheer size. Since it opened exactly one year ago on 18 May 2013, with the final of the Brasiliense Championship, more than twice as many people have visited the arena as went to the old stadium during its 36 years of existence. The stadium is Brasilia’s newest tourist attraction and has already become a part of life in the national capital. Most touchingly of all, it represents an unforgettable chapter in the lives of those who helped to build one of the most beautiful venues in Brazil.
A total of 14,000 workers were involved in the construction of the stadium, which hosted the opening game of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil. Now, as, the arena celebrates its first birthday, a documentary paying tribute to their efforts entitled “Operarios da Bola” (“Football Workers”) is on release in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia.
“It’s a film about workers. A simple film about good people with big dreams,” said the director of the film, Virna Smith. “They care so much about the stadium they built because they love the raw material that lies at its heart: football.”
A character in every nook and cranny
There is no shortage of moving personal stories among those who helped to build the stadium which has already become a source of great pride for the people of Brasilia. Each arguably deserves a film of its own. One such tale is that of Sidney de Matos da Silva, a 39-year-old from Bahia, who was hired on 1 September 2010 and is one of the stadium’s longest-serving workers. He still works at the venue today.
In charge of building materials, Sidney was responsible for checking the millions of tons of supplies used in the construction of the new Mane Garrincha, from tiny screws to the most complex metallic structures. “Building a World Cup stadium is historic. It’s something that I’ll probably do just once in my life and that I can tell my children and grandchildren about,” said an emotional Sidney, who was involved in every phase of the construction of the stadium. And all his hard work has been worth it. With the money he has earned from working at the stadium, Sidney can finish his degree in accountancy. “I thought about quitting a couple of times, but here I found the strength to carry on.”
Sidney’s relationship with the structure of the stadium is similar to that which Antonio Aparecido Vieira da Silva, 35, has with the pitch of the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasilia. Responsible for looking after the playing surface, Antonio helps cut the grass, apply fertilizer and other agricultural products and plant new seeds – all in accordance with a strict time-frame that began when the first rolls of grass arrived from Sergipe in April 2013. “We had to unload the rolls from the trucks. They must have weighed about 500kg,” he laughed. “It was hard work, but when I saw the grass laid out for the first time it gave me a wonderful feeling of a job well done.”
The next step, however, is the most important of all: making sure everything is perfect for the seven games that will be played at the stadium during the World Cup, beginning with Switzerland v Ecuador on 15 June, followed by Colombia v Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon v Brazil, Portugal v Ghana, one game in the Round of 16, one in the quarter-finals and the play-off for third place. Until then, Antonio will continue to jealously guard the pitch that he helped to create. “The tension is terrible, because I get very worried. Everything has to be perfect for the big day.”
The first year of the life of the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasilia as a great stage of Brazilian football has produced hundreds of such touching personal stories. And all this before the “big day” has even arrived.