We didn't understand it at first, but that's on us. We have severely underestimated the social phenomenons called Cerro Porteńo and La Nueva Olla. Credit where credit is due, Stadium of the Year Public Award goes to Paraguay!
It was like an instant knock-out in the very first hours of this year's Stadium of the Year Public Vote. We had just opened the voting platform and then one, two, three... over four thousand votes from Paraguay in less than 24 hours!
We had to check if those were legitimate, if no bots were involved. But no, it turns out it was a genuine, grassroots wave of overwhelming support for Estadio General Pablo Rojas, currently the largest stadium in Paraguay and home to Ciclón de Barrio Obrero, as Cerro Porteńo are sometimes called.
Just to be clear: we realise this stadium was one of the cheapest, whether you count the total budget or price per seat. It's not super-high-tech, but who ever said the Public Vote is about that? When you organise a popular vote, popularity has to be the key factor. And in football the strength of your fanbase is also your strength.
We found out just how strong this support is in an unprecedented campaign in Paraguay. We've seen links being forwarded by thousands of people, we've seen those people engaging local and national media. We've simply seen the biggest show of unprompted support in our competition's history.
In case you don't realise just how important this project is, Estadio General Pablo Rojas, or La Nueva Olla (the New Cauldron) had a hard to believe ratio of up to 70% of workers on site identifying with the club for whom they were building it. It was also a way to include troubled barra brava members in a constructive activity. It was a lot of things, but now it's simply... Stadium of the Year 2017!
Over the past few weeks we've been in touch with football communities in Ecuador, Russia, Mexico, Poland, Spain, Turkey, USA and many other countries. We've experienced a lot of enthusiasm, but nothing compares to that wave from Paraguay. Just look at the graphic below: they came, they voted, they conquered! Congratulations to all of Cerro!