By Santiago Carbone
Montevideo, Oct 20 (EFE).- With just a month to go before it hosts the first of three soccer finals, Uruguay’s capital is making final preparations for what figures to be a veritable festival of the world’s most popular sport.
Final renovation work is continuing on a daily basis at Montevideo’s storied Estadio Centenario, where a pair of Brazilian clubs – Athletico Paranaense and Red Bull Bragantino – will square off on Nov. 20 in the final of the Copa Sudamericana, South America’s secondary club soccer tournament.
FIFA’s only Historical Monument of World Football also is preparing to host the final of South America’s most prestigious club soccer tournament, Copa Libertadores, which will be played on Nov. 27 and feature a clash between two other Brazilian teams: Flamengo and Palmeiras.
It will mark the 21st time that the Estadio Centenario has hosted a Copa Libertadores final match, more than any other venue.
The press area, VIP suites, locker rooms and grandstands have all been overhauled, as have the lights and playing field of a stadium where the first World Cup final was contested in 1930.
Passers-by also will observe that the mural by Spaniard Antoni Selles that had adorned the outside of Estadio Centenario since the early 1990s is being covered up with gray paint and will be replaced by a new design.
With plans in the works to open the country’s borders to all fully vaccinated foreigners starting Nov. 1, Uruguay expects that thousands of fans will arrive from abroad to enjoy those two major single-match finals.
The final of the Copa Libertadores Femenina, South America’s premier women’s club soccer tournament, also will be played in Montevideo on Nov. 21 at Gran Parque Central stadium. The two teams have not yet been determined.
According to Conmebol, South America’s soccer confederation and the organizer of all three events, tickets to the two men’s finals will cost between $100 and $650 per person.
Francisco Rodriguez, president of Uruguay’s Hotel and Restaurant Association, told Efe that expectations are high that those events will provide a big boost to local businesses hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said the hotel occupancy rate in Montevideo will rise to 100 percent between Nov. 20 and Nov. 27 and that some fans also will seek accommodation in other cities in the days leading up to the Copa Libertadores final.
The gastronomy sector, meanwhile, sees these events as an opportunity to showcase Uruguayan food and drink and hopefully lure some soccer tourists back for a repeat visit in the future.
“For Montevideo, Brazilian tourists are always the best because they like meats and wines, to say nothing about beer,” Rodriguez said. EFE