Brazil’s emblematic Maracana stadium will be renamed “The Edson Arantes do Nascimento-Rei Pele stadium,” in honour of the country’s football legend Pele.
The Rio de Janeiro state legislators approved the name change of the stadium in the city that hosted the final of the 1950 and 2014 World Cups, as well as the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics. However, Rio state governor Claudio Castro must now approve the name change.
Pele, 80, won three World Cups with Brazil and is considered by many the best football player of all time. The venue, owned by the state, is officially called the Mario Filho stadium, but known as the Maracana, in reference to the neighbourhood where it is located.
It was opened in 1950 ahead of that year’s World Cup and has been the home of the national team ever since. Pele scored his 1000th goal there in 1969 while playing for Santos and helped make the stadium famous.
“King Pele is the best player of all time,” politician Andre Ceciliano, who proposed the name change said. “It’s a just tribute. Although I have no doubt that everyone will continue to call it the Maracana stadium.”
“Rei” means “king” in Portuguese.
While the stadium will change its name, officials have said that the large sports complex around the venue will retain its current name.
The change has been met with controversy from the family of the late Mario Filho, as well as historians and football fans.
Unlike Pele, Filho, a sports journalist and writer, was born in Rio. Filho was considered the main driving force behind the idea for Brazil to build the biggest stadium in the world and for that stadium to be located in Maracana.
“It is a worthy homage to a man who is recognised the world over for his legacy in Brazilian football and for the corresponding services rendered to our country,” the deputy responsible for the project said.
Some said that Mario Filho was more worthy of the honour, while others argued that any new honouree should be from Rio — unlike Pele, who was born in Minas Gerais state and lived most of his life in the state of Sao Paulo.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.