The timeless ticket -- but not for World Cup
Luis Meyer Blumberg, the owner of Dimono clothing stores and one of some 3,000 lifetime ticket holders of the Maracana stadium, poses at his store in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on June 14, 2014 - by Yasuyoshi Chiba
His ticket may very well be stamped "special seat in perpetuity," but FIFA has pressed the pause button on his eternal access.
"For what this piece of plastic is worth today I could virtually have bought an apartment a few years ago. Just a shame it can't get me a World Cup seat," Blumberg told AFP.
The grey-haired, sporty Blumberg is among a select band -- including several family members -- who can normally attend as many matches as they want, as well as other events.
When the Maracana was first built between 1948 and 1950, finances were tight as the project neared completion, so the authorities assigned some 3,000 tickets "in perpetuity" to wealthy fans chipping in.
Blumberg, who is in his mid-50s, managed to buy one almost two decades ago to add to others held by family members.
"I had to look lively -- they don't come on the market very often. People who have them generally pass them down to their sons," said Blumberg, a loyal fan of Rio football giants Flamengo.
But the owner of four Dimona clothing stores in Rio will have to watch the World Cup on television.
FIFA took over his coveted seat to the Maracana stadium for the seven matches there, including the July 13 final.
- FIFA rules -
Blumberg estimated that his seat is worth about $40,000 -- a fortune in a country where the per capita income is $11,340, according to the World Bank.
Rio authorities paid "perpetual ticket" holders around $2,250 as compensation for losing their seats for the tournament.
"FIFA have bought the ticketing rights wholesale for the entire month of the tournament; they own the event," he said.
He showed off an original ticket pre-dating the Maracana refurbishment ahead of last year's Confederations Cup alongside the new one for the expensively remodeled stadium.
The original was for row 19, seat 10; the new one is for row K, seat 23 -- more or less comparable to watch action in the temple of Brazilian football.
The Maracana has gone from a capacity of 200,000 people to 74,738 after drastic changes were made for the World Cup.
"After the refurbishment, everyone who had one of these tickets had to go and re-register for their new seat" in an area below the television gantry, Blumberg said.
"Everyone was hoping they would get World Cup access thrown in -- some initially threatened legal action," he said.
- Maracana spirit 'intact' -
Still, Blumberg has fond memories of the events he has attended at the historic stadium.
"I saw Madonna, the Rolling Stones, Rock in Rio. Oh, and Frank Sinatra," he said, though that was before he acquired the lifetime ticket.
"This card means I own my little piece of the Maracana," Blumberg said.
"When people ask me, 'what's your hobby?' I say: 'I go to see matches and concerts at the Maracana,'" he said.
The Maracana hosts Rio's top teams such as Flamengo and their bitter cross-town rivals Fluminense.
"For Brazil games, though, the stadium is for everyone. That's why at internationals people chant, 'ooh, aah, the Maracana is ours," he said.
While he plans to reclaim his seat after the World Cup, Blumberg lamented that the Maracana had lost some of its allure following its modernization.
"They didn't have to completely rebuild it and spend 1.3 billion reais ($580 million) on it. It was a work of art and they could have remodeled it for maybe 300 million," he said.
"But the spirit of the Maracana remains intact."