Chic venue in poor Argentina region draw flak



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Argentina Estadio Único Madre de Ciudades first event Image: Fede Gonzalez (Twitter @federix12)

Built in Santiago del Estero, one of the poorest provinces in Argentina, the state-of-the-art brand new Estadio Único Madre de Ciudades, a 30,000-capacity stadium, has staked its claim to be one of the most advanced stadia in the South American country and has also received brickbats for its opulence, set as it is amidst the squalor.

The swanky facility was opened on March 4th, 2021 by Argentina’s President, Alberto Fernández, and Gerado Zamora, Governor of the province of Santiago del Estero, graced the opening ceremony among others just a day ahead of the Argentina Supercopa football final.

The inaugural match staged in Estadio Unico was the playoff between premier football clubs River Plate and Racing Club, which the former won 5-0 on March 5th, 2021.

The Supercopa Argentina is an official National association football cup of Argentina organized by the Argentine Football Association. The annual football match was played for the first time in 2012, being contested by the reigning champions of Primera División and Copa Argentina, respectively.

Club Atlético River Plate, commonly known as River Plate, is an Argentine professional sports club based in the Núñez neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Racing Club de Avellaneda, simply Racing, is an Argentine professional sports club based in Avellaneda, a City in Buenos Aires Province.

Top-flight Argentina National Football Team or Selección de fútbol de Argentina, which represents Argentina in the men’s international football, are the new tenants of the spectacular stadium.

The iconic stadium design that complies with FIFA, South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) and the governing body of football in Argentina based in Buenos Aires – Argentine Football Association (AFA) standards and would be a host venue for Copa América 2021 fixtures scheduled to begin on June 12th.

AFA has announced that the rescheduled 2020 Copa America would be co-hosted with South American nation Colombia from June 12th to June 29th, 2021.

The South American Football Confederation is the continental governing body of football in South America, and is one of FIFA’s six continental confederations.

Groundbreaking of this innovative stadium began in June 2018, two months after the proposal was floated in the April of that year. In May 2020, the stadium was ready to host major events but it limped to an opening on March 4th, 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic which crippled the sports venue sector globally.

‘Infobae’ reported that the avant-garde stadium has an eye-catching cylindrical design with covered grandstands. Constructed on a 20-hectare site, the stadium has a sprawling area surrounding it for recreational activities, restaurants and an interactive museum. The stadium bowl feature two giant LED screens measuring 14 by eight meters. An underground parking located below the stands can hold 460 cars.

What drew the flak was the expenditure which ran up to 1.5 billion pesos with the VIP boxes and state-of-the-art technology in one of the poorest provinces in Argentina. The stadium may be the cynosure of all eyes but the contention is that there is a lot of other pressing issues on hand in the province to be addressed, the prime among them being poverty.

With an initial budget of 970 million pesos (£7.8m/€9m/$10.7m), the price tag for the stadium eventually stood at 1.5 billion pesos – the extravagance presented a complete contrast picture in a district with low indices of human development.

‘Infobae’ added that the opulence and luxury of the stadia is something which was not called for. As a whim, the Estadio Único was constructed on the banks of the Río Dulce in an uninhabited area of Santiago del Estero, in which what was missing stands out: Empty land and streets with unpainted curbs. In the surroundings are no large buildings, no industries, or large service companies. It has “European level” in a province that registers the worst human and social development indices in Argentina.

However, it was reported that what jarred was the stadium’s 23 VIP boxes due to their lavish fittings. One is for the exclusive use of Zamora, and with Santiago del Estero said to be one of Argentina’s poorest provinces, with 42.5 percent of its residents living below the poverty line, spending on the stadium has come in for huge criticism.

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Fernández justified the whopping expenditure on the venue – “Who said that in Santiago del Estero there cannot be a football stadium like this? Where is that written? When we are advancing in works of this type and we are carrying out public works – school infrastructure, hospitals, more sports, and more tourism – what we are doing is generating equality in Argentina.”

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