It may currently be winter in the Amazon but as the woven steel structure of Manaus’s World Cup stadium rises, so too does the humidity.
While the sun sets and storm clouds build over the Arena da Amazonia, the temperature remains a stifling 31C (88F).
It is this climate that prompted Roy Hodgson to mark Manaus as the city to avoid for England’s group games during next year’s tournament.
The rainforest region has two seasons: a hot, wet winter and then a hot, dry summer, with average highs of 30C (87F) and more than 80 per cent humidity.
“It’s going to be hot, in all aspects,” said Miguel Capobiango Neto, co-ordinator of the World Cup Management Unit in Manaus. “From the weather to the warmth of the fans. They’re going to experience an Amazonian summer.”
The saving grace, he said, was that the first game in Manaus would be played at 9pm when temperatures had cooled.
“There has been some discussion with Fifa about changing the times of the other games but it’s complicated,” he added. “At 3pm or 4pm, it’s hot almost everywhere in Brazil. The south will be cooler but the north and north-east will be hot.”
If anyone appreciates the challenges posed by the Amazonian climate, it is Mr Capobiango.
Construction workers are working to a tight deadline to deliver the stadium to Fifa by the end of December but the real race is against the weather.
The tropical winter rains began early this year, falling heavily by the beginning of November and frequently disrupting the all-important welding work on the £170 million arena’s structure.
There is now a serious chance the stadium will not be delivered as planned by Dec 31, despite reaching 92 per cent completion.
“There are many construction challenges,” Mr Capobiango said. “The winter is starting, the rainy season, so our worries have to be accompanied with technical concerns.
“And every time the rain comes, we have to stop the welding because it can’t carry on when it’s wet.
“The construction challenge is very big because we are in the centre of the Amazon forest. The principal access route for the region is by river, and big, heavy structures such as those we received here have required logistical solutions.”
The stadium, built on the grounds of the dated Vivaldo Lima arena, has largely been constructed elsewhere and assembled in Manaus.
The structure was produced in 756 pieces and shipped in from Portugal while the near-2,000 workers are still finishing the membrane of the German-sourced roof.
The grass, frequently saturated with the heavy rain, was grown at a farm in São Paulo.
Nevertheless, there is an Amazonian feel to the stadium, with the colours of the seats reflecting regional fruits like papayas, mangoes and pineapples, and the structure resembling an indigenous basket.
Mr Capobiango said hosting England at the Arena da Amazonia would be “important” to Manaus but said Colombia and the US would also be desirable visitors because of their proximity.
However, critics fear it could be the last time the stadium is used to its full capacity.
Branded “absurd” by Brazilian football legend turned congressman Romario, there are many who feel the arena should never have been built at all.
For a city hosting four World Cup games, local football is so underwhelming that the majority of fans support teams based more than 1,500 miles away in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo.
Manaus’s oldest team, Nacional, attracts fewer than 1,000 fans to its fourth division matches, leaving the prospect of its new home – the 44,000-seat World Cup stadium – simply fading in the Amazonian sun after the tournament.
Frequently described as a “white elephant”, an overzealous official even proposed turning it into a triage centre for nearby prisons to ease overcrowding and ensure the ground is occupied.
Mr Capobiango laughed off the suggestion as unworkable but recognised the challenge ahead to secure the legacy of the stadium.
As well as hosting football, the intention is to market the stadium, along with the neighbouring sports complex, conventions centre and Sambodromo – a purpose-built Carnival arena – as a huge conference venue.
Organisers also hope the arena will attract A list shows and concerts as well as harnessing local support for the country’s most successful clubs such as Flamengo from Rio and Corinthians from São Paulo with show matches.
But if the logic of building a stadium in the Amazon to bring the World Cup to the rainforest for the first time is questionable, the enthusiasm, pride and desire in Manaus is indubitable.
On the other side of the city, at the Nacional training centre, the club is carrying out its own renovations as it prepares for another hopeful promotion campaign.
Far from expecting to be dwarfed by the new stadium, the Nacional fans are convinced the Arena da Amazonia signals the rebirth of Amazonian football.
Jeferson Fatin Castro, 36, a member of the official Nacional supporters organisation, Apaixonaça, said support for the club was dormant but would be awakened with the arrival of the World Cup in Manaus.
He rejected the suggestion that the stadium would be a white elephant, citing the example of the Teatro Amazonas, Manaus’s stunning and opulent Opera House, built during Brazil’s rubber boom in 1896.
“The Opera House is a beautiful, rich theatre, and at the time, people also said Eduardo Ribeiro, the then-governor, was crazy, doing this is the middle of the Amazon,” Mr Fatin added.
“It’s the same with the Arena da Amazonia. There are pessimistic people, who are against it.
“But I believe it won’t be a white elephant because our football will be revived.”
Originally published by The Daily Telegraph