To say that Brazilians love soccer (futebol) would be an understatement. The sport is an all-pervading national obsession, and with Brazil gearing up to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup, soccer fever is approaching boiling point in Rio de Janeiro.
Cariocas live, breathe and sleep soccer, and the legendary Maracana Stadium - formerly the largest soccer stadium in the world - is a spectacular stage on which to see the "beautiful game" played out in all its skillful glory. World Cup aside, this vast 78,000-capacity stadium hosts games between Rio sides and visiting rivals, and tickets are usually affordable (from R$30) and easy to come by.
The legendary Maracana was once the largest soccer stadium in the world — Photo courtesy of Ademar Ribeiro
Located to the north of Centro and with a dramatic mountain backdrop, the Stadium is looking better than ever, having been given a multi-million dollar revamp ahead of the 2014 World Cup. And spectators can expect a frenzy of drumming, chanting and flag-waving to accompany the drama on the pitch.
You don't need to be a soccer nut to enjoy a game here. The frenetic energy is infectious, and the chance to catch a game at one of the world's most famous sports stadiums is not to be passed up.
Tour companies offer trips out here with transport and tickets included, but it's not too difficult to get here independently. Maracana has its very own metro station, and ticket booths are clearly visible.
For finals and other important fixtures, it is necessary to buy tickets in advance to be assured of a seat.