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A Tale of Two Stadiums

Last weekend I went with some friends to Maracanã watch Italy vs Mexico at the first round of the Confederations Cup. We got some cheap tickets (R$ 57, about US$ 25) on an area meant for Brazilians only (and that's why they were so cheap, usually tickets cost at least double). And it was so good to go again to a stadium, it's a very different experience from watching a game on TV, where the camera give you a limited perspective. Our seats were behind one of the goals, and we were lucky: we saw two goals on our side, one from Mexico (a penalty kick) and one from Italy, a beautiful goal by Balotelli, who was a bit of a diva, by the way, always complaining and making drama.

It was the third time I went to a stadium. Previous ones were Grêmio matches, one versus River Plate in 2002 and other versus Figueirense in 2008. These games were on Grêmio's last stadium, Olímpico Monumental, which gave way to a new one, the Arena, built at the entrance of the city (and far from the old one). This is happening a lot around here, given that next year we have the World Cup and there are at least ten new stadiums built or reformed for the competition. At first they should have been prepared with private funding, but as time passed and they were all late public funding came into the picture, and only in Maracanã more than one billion brazilian reais were spent.

They are now much closer to developed countries' stadiums, like those we used to see on TV. By brazilian standards they aren't even stadiums anymore, looking more like theaters, were you just sit and watch the game. It shouldn't be bad, but I couldn't avoid a comparison between this weekend game and my previous experience. OK, this time the crowd didn't have a prefered side and so it wasn't cheering up as much as I saw before, but it was worrisome because it was obvious that almost everyone at the match was people that could pay for the expensive tickets, and sometimes didn't even have a strong connection with football, something that always gave a match that catarsis aura.

Last week I tried to go with my family to see the new Grêmio stadium and we weren't so lucky. Cheapest tickets cost almost R$ 100 each, and for the four of us this meant R$ 400 less, not out of league but way too expensive. This high cost ticket means the usual fan can't go to the stadium anymore, and is replaced by this new fan, a consumer above everything else. And maybe it's just a romantic vision, and of course there were a lot of problems before, but the price paid for comfort might be too expensive in the long run.