Marakana, the legendary stadium in Belgrade

Belegrade - MarakanaBelegrade - Marakana 26.03.2017: This is the place which saw Antonín Panenka’s famous penalty, his chipping the ball lightly into the middle of the net – a penalty, which went down in football history. Thanks to Panenka’s legendary kick Czechoslovakia won sensationally against West Germany in the 1976 European Championship final. The stadium, which is the home ground of the Serbian football club Crvena Zvezda (‘Red Star’) Belgrade, was officially renamed in December 2014 to Stadium ‘Rajko Mitić’, in commemoration of the club legend.

However, it is still called Marakana by most. And why Marakana? At one time the stadium could hold up to 110,000 spectators, so given its large capacity it seemed appropriate to give it a nickname after the well-known stadium in Rio de Janeiro – Maracanã.

The story of the stadium began on 24th April 1927. Back then it was the home ground of SK Jugoslavija and it had a capacity of 30,000. SK Jugoslavija had been playing their home matches at the stadium until the end of World War II, when the club was disbanded by Yugoslav authorities. Subsequently, a new club was formed and was called Crvena Zvezda Belgrade. The last match to be played at the dilapidating stadium was against FK Novi Sad on 27th December 1959. After the match the stadium was demolished and replaced by a modern multi-purpose stadium, which was inaugurated on 1st September 1963, its construction being completed within three years. Even though the stands had not been completely built then, the first match was watched by 55,000 spectators who saw their team defeat Rijeka 2:1 in a Yugoslav League match.

 
Foto: Vlada Marinković (CC BY-SA 3.0)
 

Marakana was the scene of many unforgettable matches. In 1973 the stadium hosted the 1972/1973 European Champion Clubs’ Cup final between Ajax and Juventus (1:0). Another notable match played there was the already mentioned 1976 European Championship final, in which Czechoslovakia played against West Germany. And last but not least, it was the fantastic European Cup semi-final rematch, in which Crvena Zvezda Belgrade played Bayern Munich and had a chance to play in the first European Cup final in the club’s history. When Mihajlović scored a last-minute free kick goal, thus levelling the score to 2:2 (Crvena Zvezda had won the first match 2:1), the fans at the Marakana stadium erupted into euphoric celebrations.

Foto: Darwinek (CC BY-SA 3.0)

In the mid-1990s the stadium capacity was significantly reduced, as the stadium was turned into an all-seater to meet UEFA requirements. Thus the capacity decreased to 60,000 seats. Nowadays the stadium can hold up to 55,538 spectators. In 2012 a discussion about the renovation of the dilapidating Marakana was opened, however, due to the club’s bad financial situation this is a mere plan.
   
Marakana - Belegrade Maracana - Rio de Janeiro


Stadion Crvena Zvezda
(capacity: 55,538)
Estadio do Maracana
(capacity: 76,804)

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