Estádio Raimundo Sampaio is the official name, but I have never heard of this name before. Everybody calls this football stadium by its nickname: Arena Independência. But, I don’t believe most people know how it got its nickname and the history behind the second biggest football stadium in Belo Horizonte.
Sometimes, people ask me where I come from, and when I say Belo Horizonte, most people have blank stare on their faces. Typically, I say that Belo Horizonte is Sepultura’s hometown since it is the biggest thing that came out of the city, in my opinion.
Since the World Cup in 2014, sometimes, I describe Belo Horizonte as the place where Germany destroyed Brazil with that 7×1 that is still stuck in my head as a Brazilian living in Germany. But let’s forget about that game for a while.
When I decided to visit my family in Belo Horizonte, I knew I had to watch a football game there. But the game grew on me through the years.
Once in Belo Horizonte, I knew I had to watch a football game. Which game? I had no idea. Then, my friend Pedro Villalobos told me he could score some tickets for me if I wanted to see América playing against Avaí. For those who don’t know, both teams are in the second division of Brazil.
I don’t think I ever saw América playing before this game. My grandmother used to say she cheered for them, but I don’t remember her watching football matches outside the World Cup. This would be my first time watching América play and my first time back at Arena Independência in over 10 years. The game didn’t need to be good; I knew I would enjoy everything.
A Little Bit of Arena Independência’s History
Estádio Raimundo Sampaio is the official name, but nobody calls this stadium like that. It’s always Independência, and it has always been like that.
This came to be because the club that owned the stadium was Sete de Setembro Futebol Clube, and the team’s name, September seven, is Brazil’s Independence Day. Since 1989, after Sete de Setembro’s demise, América rented the stadium and is leasing it until 2019.
But Arena Independência’s history started long ago when the 1950 World Cup happened in Brazil. Construction began a little earlier than that, in 1947, and the inaugural match was between Yugoslavia and Switzerland, won by the former by 3-0 and played on June 25, 1950.
There is where the United States scored 1-0 over England in one of the most famous games of that 1950 World Cup.
In 2010, the stadium was almost entirely demolished, and a new modern stadium was built to host the games of América and Atlético Mineiro. All the construction work was over by 2012, and the pictures here are from the new stadium. And I have to say it looks way better than it used to be the last time I was there over 10 years ago.
América and Avaí
When I got to Independência, it was raining, but I didn’t care. I arrived in Belo Horizonte a few hours earlier and was pumped up to see my friends and have some beers. After a few problems trying to get into the stadium with my tripod, I was inside the new Arena Independência like it is now.
América and Avaí started with América putting pressure and trying to score at every opportunity, but… Avaí was holding its place and didn’t allow any goals. It was only in the second half that América scored against Avaí, but once it cut, it was 3 beautiful goals from Adalberto, Obina, and Willians, in this order.
I left the game happy to see my first America game with a victory. I went to Independência, so I’m glad to see it brand new and way better than I expected. I left the stadium delighted to forget that the last football experience I had regarding Belo Horizonte was that game against Germany. Next time, the match needs to be here in Berlin.
If you happen to be traveling in Belo Horizonte and like football, don’t forget to try your luck at any game happening at Independência. Atlético Mineiro and América host their home games there, and you can enjoy what you see there. The stadium is ample and safe, and cheap beer is around the bars.
Take a look at Independência’s website and see what is happening there. Any taxi you take will know where you want to go, but write the address down just in case.
Arena Independência: A visit to the Estádio Raimundo Sampaio in Belo Horizonte
Rua Pitangui, 3230, Horto