The New York Times Magazine – This is what a cursed soccer stadium looks like

3rd June 2014

The place was built for a coronation, a colossal theater where hundreds of thousands could bear witness and celebrate. When Maracanã opened in 1950, in the heart of Rio, it was the world’s largest stadium, the site of what Brazil was certain would be its first World Cup championship. And things started well enough: The host country breezed through to the final match, where, because of tournament rules at the time, it needed only a draw against Uruguay to win the whole event. With little more than 10 minutes to go, the score was 1-1, and the fans were on edge. Then the Uruguayan winger Alcides Ghiggia put them over with a sudden strike. “Only three people have, with just one motion, silenced the Maracanã,” he famously said later. “Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II and me.”

The loss, known as the Maracanaço (since used to refer to any loss by the national team on its home field), became a defining moment for Brazilian soccer. Just last month, Pelé, a three-time World Cup winner himself, was still talking about the defeat as his earliest soccer memory and “the first time I’d seen so many people depressed and so many people crying.” He also told FIFA’s website: “I hope nobody comes and does what Ghiggia did. . . . I don’t want to remember 1950. I have to have confidence and believe in victory.”

The New York Times Magazine – 2014

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