RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The man who made Maracana Stadium his own paid tribute on Monday to the sparkling World Cup goal by Lionel Messi that graced the iconic venue.
A day after the Argentine scored in the cathedral of Brazilian football, Zico applauded the strike on the 64th anniversary of the first match at Maracana.
"Maracana did deserve a goal like he scored," Zico said of the stadium built for the 1950 World Cup.
A statue of the former Brazil and Flamengo great stands in Maracana to mark his 333 goals there.
Zico recalled the original Maracana holding 177,000 fans including him when Flamengo played city rival Fluminense in 1963.
"I was only 10 years old," Zico said through a translator at the stadium. "When we came out on the sixth floor ... you see the colors of black and red, and green. It was a great joy for me."
He also remembered that one year earlier he saw the great Garrincha score a hat trick in Maracana for Botafogo.
"My history started there," Zico said. "I didn't imagine I would make history as an athlete."
Today, the three-time World Cup player — representing Brazil from 1974-82 without ever winning a title — has the same affection for the revamped venue.
"It's more comfortable, a lot safer, more beautiful, more cozy," Zico said of the 75,000-capacity stadium which will stage the final on July 13.