Rio abandons plan to rename Maracana stadium after Pele

(Reuters) – Rio de Janeiro abandoned plans to rename its famous Maracana Stadium in tribute to Pele yesterday after widespread backlash from fans.

The official proposal to put Pele’s name to the ground that hosted the 2014 World Cup final and the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics was vetted by state governor Claudio Castro.

The Rio de Janeiro state legislature voted last month to call it “King Pele Stadium”, but supporters were furious at the removal of the stadium’s current official name, Mario Filho, after the former journalist lobbied for it to be built in the 1940s.

Most Brazilians simply call the stadium Maracana, after the neighborhood in which it is located. Many critics of the name change also considered it inappropriate to rename Rio’s iconic landmark after a player who never lived in the state.

Castro vetoed the change after the state legislator who made the proposal withdrew his support because of the fight. Opponents of the project included Gerson, a friend of Pele’s team in the 1970 World Cup side, and grandson of Mario Filho. Gerson called the idea “absurd”.

Pele, who turned 80 last year, played at the stadium many times for Brazil and scored his 1000th goal there in 1969, for Santos against local club Vasco da Gama, but was born and lived in the state of Minas Gerais most of his life in Sao Paulo State.