Maracana backs down from flag and musical instrument ban

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazilian authorities have backed down from a threat to ban flags, musical instruments and shirtless fans from domestic games at the newly refurbished Maracana.

However, the use of pyrotechnics and firecrackers will not be allowed, said a statement by Rio de Janeiro state government’s sports ministry (Suderj) following a meeting with the police and supporters’ groups.

Neighbours Fluminense and Vasco da Gama meet on Sunday in the Brazilian championship, the first domestic match to be held since the rebuilding of the famous arena.

“Fans will be able to take flags with masts up of up to 10 metres, take off their shirts and watch the game standing up,” Suderj said in a statement.

“Taking off your shirt and swinging it around above your head is a typical gesture of the fans of Rio de Janeiro teams,” Suderj president Andre Lazaroni added.

“I’m in favour of tradition, although we are still looking to bring families back to football matches.

The Maracana, the spiritual home of Brazilian soccer, re-opened in June after a rebuilding programme plagued by delays and burgeoning costs.

Musical instruments and flags were banned from the stadium when it hosted matches at last month’s Confederations Cup, organised by FIFA.

Many Brazilians, including the government, are worried that the modernisation of Brazilian stadiums for next year’s World Cup could lead to ordinary fans being priced out of the new arena.

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by John O’Brien)

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