Dream lost in Brazil stadium collapse

Funeral held for football fan killed after crane smashed into Brazil’s almost completed World Cup stadium.

Fabio Luis Pereira had a dream, and it was about to come true.

After the Sao Paulo World Cup football stadium was completed, he was planning to take his wife and three daughters – aged 21, 19, and nine – to watch the first match of his beloved Corinthians football club.

Fabio, 42, was a self-described “fanatic” of the Corinthians, so he was especially proud of his job helping to build the stadium with his own hands that his team would soon call home.

The stadium would open for the World Cup next year but those tickets would be too expensive, too complicated to get for Fabio.

But the first Corinthians game? Fabio wasn’t going to miss it for anything. It would be a proud moment for him, and his family sitting in those stands, together.

Corinthians Stadium, or Itaquerao, as the name it’s known here by locally is something Fabio could forever say he helped build from the bottom up.

Fabio was a hard-working man from Limeira, a town of about 250,000 people about a two hour-drive outside Sao Paulo.

The commute was too much on a daily basis, so after Fabio finished his shift at the construction site he would stay at housing provided by the construction company.

Big smile and hugs

On Friday night Fabio would rush home and burst through the front door with a big smile and lots of hugs for his beloved daughters.

On weekends he would meet up with his neighbourhood buddies and tell them about the famous people he saw touring the stadium construction site that week: Ronaldo, the governor, some FIFA bigshots from Europe. He’d laugh. He was proud.

“There was not a bad moment spent with my father – he was always laughing, singing, dancing, being happy,” his daughter Karen Pereira told Al Jazeera’s Maria Elena Romero.

The dream of watching that first Corinthians match in the stadium he helped build was so close.

The stadium was nearly 95 percent done as of last week. That first match was scheduled for January.

But then, on Wednesday, a 1,500 tonne crane collapsed, crushing Fabio and his colleague, Ronaldo Oliveira Santos, as they rested in the shade during the end of their lunch break.

“One day my father told us, ‘I am such a hard-working person, I think I am going to die at work. I am sure of it’,” Karen Pereira told Al Jazeera at her father’s funeral on Thursday.

“He said that, and that is exactly what happened. But I didn’t expect it. He was still so young.”

On Thursday afternoon in Limeira, friends and family turned out to the local cemetery to pay their final respects to Fabio.

In a state of shock

Everyone was still in a state of shock. It all happened so fast.

The accident happened at 1pm on Wednesday. By 5am on Thursday his body was released from the morgue and by 11am it arrived home to Limeira. By 4:45pm Fabio was buried.

On Saturday the Corinthians have a game, and the players will wear Fabio’s name – and the name of Santos, the other man killed – on their jersey to honour them both.

Eventually the building of the Sao Paulo World Cup stadium will continue, perhaps as early as Monday.

There is extreme pressure from many sides to finish it quickly. The stadium will eventually be inaugurated, to much fanfare.

There’s a World Cup around the corner. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake.

But before then, at some point, there will be that first Corinthians game at the new place Fabio helped build.

The place will be packed. For sure, it’ll be sold out.

“My father always said when the stadium was ready and the first game was being played, we would all go there together,” Karen Pereira said after burying her dad.

“But that’s not going to happen now.”

She then looked off into the distance, fighting back tears, before adding one final thought: “I might still go, but my father won’t be there.”

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