Brazil’s world famous Maracana stadium is to get a new name, after the Rio de Janeiro state legislature voted on Tuesday to change its official title to the Edson Arantes do Nascimento – Rei Pele stadium.
The 80-year-old Pele, whose full name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, played at the stadium many times for Brazil and scored his 1,000th goal there in 1969 – for Santos against local club Vasco da Gama.
“It is a worthy homage to a man who is recognized 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. ‘Rei’ means ‘king’ in Portuguese.
The stadium, host of the final match in the 1950 and 2014 World Cup tournaments, as well as the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics, has long been named after Mario Filho, a journalist who lobbied for its construction in the 1940s.
The legislature said the football stadium will be renamed but the larger sports complex around the ground can retain its current name.
Most Brazilians call it simply the Maracana, after the neighborhood in which it is located.
The Rio state governor must give the go-ahead to the name change, which was not met with universal acclaim by soccer fans.
Some said that Mario Filho was more worthy of the honor, while others argued that any new honoree 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.