São Paulo is getting a new stadium to host the opening game of the 2014 World Cup. It’s been a long and winding road. Pipping Brasília, Rio and Salvador to the post, São Paulo has won the honour of hosting the opening game of the 2014 World Cup, which will launch the city onto the global stage in an unprecedented fashion.
FIFA boss Joseph Blatter is due in town to run his ruler over the figures following last month’s announcement, after a protracted, messy process that first saw FC São Paulo’s Morumbi stadium vetoed. At one point, it looked like the city would lose out altogether. There is political controversy over the choice and over the financing of the brand new 65,000-seater stadium, set to cost R$600 million.
With just three and a half years to go, the decision has come late; and with construction yet to begin, the site is still a wasteland. Situated at Itaquera in the team’s East Zone heartlands, the stadium will be a new home for Corinthians, São Paulo’s most popular team, following years of renting the municipal stadium, Pacaembu. Nobody will be happier than their organised supporters club, the Gaviões de Fiel – ‘hawks of the faithful’.
Originally scheduled to hold 48,000, it will be expanded to accommodate FIFA demands,although who is funding the full cost is still to be revealed. Already dubbed Fielzão, or ‘the big faithful’, the stadium’s official moniker will go under the hammer in a multi-million- dollar ‘naming rights’ contest.
But whatever the backroom deals, the building of Itaquerão marks a new beginning for Corinthians and for Sampa. When Brazil walk out on to the pitch as host nation on 13 June, 2014, the face of the city will have changed forever. ‘Humanity’s biggest party,’ in the words of São Paulo’s mayor, Gilberto Kassab, is coming to town.
This article was published in Time Out São Paulo in December 2010