BEST XI Stadiums
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Stadium – a stage where the script of the beautiful game gets unfolded; where all the actions take place, where the highs and lows are experienced and where history is made. The word originates from the town of Olympia in ancient Greece. The Olympians used to run a race over a distance of 192m – a Greek unit of measurement called a stadion, which over the course of time became the name for the venue of play. Ancient Greece and, subsequently, ancient Rome pioneered in building such sports arena, referred to as an amphitheatre; the Colosseum still stands reminiscent of the ancient sporting venues. Since those days, the stadium concept has developed considerably and most of the current football stadiums are examples of modern architectural marvels. Let us look around the globe and try to create a team of football stadiums that can be proclaimed as the Best XI. Every stadium is its own special case; they are defined by its unique history and traditions. So it is never going to be a simple task to select such a special group of stadiums.
AZTECA STADIUM, MEXICO
Guillermo Cañedo stadium stands in south of Mexico as one of the most prolific stadiums of the world. Popularly known as Azteca, it has overseen some of the most memorable incidents of world football. 1970’s Brazil, considered one of the best teams to ever take home the Jules Rimet trophy after their mesmerising display against Italy. Diego Maradona wowed the world scoring one of the finest goals of all times and enraged the world audience by scoring the most controversial goal in world football, at the 1986 World Cup quarter-final match against England. With a capacity to hold over 100,000 spectators, it is one of the earliest, as well as finest stadiums to grace football history.
Borussia Dortmund’s upsurge in the last 4-5 years has caught everyone’s attention. But make no mistake, Westfalenstadion and its more than 80,000 vociferous fans play as the 12th man and provide a great source of inspiration to the players in their pursuit to achieve silverwares. Built in the early 70s and last upgraded before 2006 World Cup, this stadium currently is one of the finest in terms of in-match atmosphere. The passionate supporters in Südtribüne (South Stand), the largest standing terrace in the world with a 24,454 capacity, and their innovative mosaics are the striking features of this brilliant stadium.
LA BOMBONERA, ARGENTINA
Alberto J. Armando, or the fabled La Bombonera, is one of the historic stadiums in the present football world. It is home to Maradona’s Boca Juniors. Located between the streets of Del Valle Iberlucea and the Aristobulus valley, the stadium officially started its journey on May 25, 1940. Its architecture was quite extra-ordinary given the time which helps create a very intense and dynamic atmosphere when full house. Very few clubs are fortunate to play before such a passionate group of fans and the passion reaches a different level during the Superclásicos with fierce rivals River Plate. This rivalry has etched some incredible stories on the pastures of Bombonera.
CENTENARIO STADIUM, URUGUAY
Centenario stadium, situated in Uruguayan capital Montevideo, is one of its kinds. No other stadium can rival its historical significance – it was declared in 1983 by FIFA as “World Football Historical Monument”; and termed as Uruguay’s sacred “Temple of Football,” by none other than Jules Rimet, to boot. It flagged off the start of the journey of football World Cup which later would become one of the grandest sporting events in the world. It has held the finals of four Copa Americas and is the official home to Uruguay national football team. The intimidating atmosphere inside the stadium inspires the sky blue Garra Charrúa and makes it difficult for the opposition to take away any positive result. For the record, no European opponent has ever beaten Uruguay at home. Also it is the battleground of the fierce derby between Peñarol and Nacional, the oldest rivalry outside Britain. There is a popular saying: “Other countries have their history. Uruguay has its football.”
MARACANÃ STADIUM, BRAZIL
In the land of football stands one of the greatest abode of the beautiful game – the Maracanã stadium. Before the upcoming 2014 World Cup, the Maracanã has undergone significant renovation. Modern architectural makeover has definitely added gloss to it but that is not what defines Maracanã. Even a few years back, more than 150,000 people could watch a game here and these football crazy people did not come to watch only a win but bask in the glory of Joga Bonito that defines Brazil. From Pelé and Garrincha, to Zico and Romário, all have enthralled the crowd on the field of Maracanã. It is a dream of every footballer to perform here, and in that quest, all the best players will be gathering in Brazil in June 2014. Maracanã is gearing up once again to host the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ come next year. 1950s ignominious defeat against Uruguay still bleeds the grass of Maracanã and the Seleção will be eager to put the records straight.
CAMP NOU, BARCELONA
Home to one of the most successful clubs in history of football, Camp Nou is a combination of tradition, elegance and majesty in accordance with the philosophy of the club. It is the largest stadium of Europe in terms of crowd capacity. Almost 100,000 die-hard Catalans in this huge stadium get behind their favourite club to create a breathtaking atmosphere on matchdays. Architecturally it has evolved through the years and constructional features add to its grandeur. Although previously named as Estadio del FC Barcelona, the name Camp Nou was chosen as the official one in 2000-01 season through a poll conducted among the members. Over the years, Camp Nou has seen some out-of-the-world performances from Barça and its magicians. There are further plans to upgrade the stadium as a part of celebration of the stadium’s 90th anniversary. As they refer to Barça as Més que un club, Camp Nou too is ‘more than a stadium’!
OLD TRAFFORD, ENGLAND
Legendary architect Archibald Leitch created the masterpiece back in 1910 and it went on to become one of the iconic grounds in world football. Interestingly, the first game held at OT was between Manchester United and Liverpool which later became one of the most talked about rivalries. In terms of history, OT has seen some landmark events in British football history. Sir Bobby Charlton once described OT as “Theatre of Dreams” and truly this ground has seen some inspirational tales of football starting from Busby Babes to Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. OT has four stands covering the stadium: Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, East, South and West. The Matt Busby Statue, Alex Ferguson Statue and the Holy Trinity Statue (of George Best, Dennis Law and Bobby Charlton) overlooking these stands are memoirs of the rich heritage of Manchester United.
SANTIAGO BERNABEU, SPAIN
Santiago Bernabeu, the home ground of Real Madrid, is one of the famous and prestigious venues in modern football. It started its journey in 1947. Although initially known as Nuevo Estadio Chamartín, the stadium was given its present name in honour of legendary club president Santiago Bernabeu. Just as the name Real Madrid not only refers to success on the pitch but a lot of glitz and glamour off the field too, the stadium reflects the same image. The stadium has seen a lot of memorable football moments starting from the record five consecutive European trophies by the club, staged the epic final of 1982 World Cup and is the place where Spain tested its first trophy in 1964 Euro Cup. It has been the breeding ground of so many superstars and galácticos. At the same time, in terms of infrastructure and facilities, there are very few stadiums which can match Santiago Bernabeu. All in all, this fabled cathedral is perfect fit to the club of the century as recognized by FIFA in 2000.
SAN SIRO, ITALY
San Siro is one of the elite stadiums of Europe as recognized by UEFA. San Siro stands for the unadulterated class that football is and it is home to two very special clubs whose historic rivalry has been cherished by fans all over the world. San Siro was built in 1926 by the then AC Milan president Piero Pirelli. From 1947, Inter Milan became the co-tenants and since then the two clubs have shared the stadium. In 1980, the stadium got its name after legendary striker Guiseppe Meazza who had played for both the Milan clubs. Built on an Anglo-Saxon model, it is an archetypal type stadium. Although it may not have the best infrastructure, this “Temple of Football” is the symbol of Italian football. Its history and stature is unique and unmatched.
ALLIANZ ARENA, GERMANY
Allianz Arena is the new kid on the block when compared to the other candidates in the list. However, it forces its way into the list because of the sheer brilliance of the constructional features of the stadium, it is a modern architectural wonder. The stadium may not yet have gathered the historical pedigree but nonetheless, none can ignore its magic. It is home to Bayern Munich, the most successful German club. The 2006 FIFA World Cup was the first major tournament that was held here followed by the 2012 Champions League final. It has already seen the historic treble season and more such laurels are on its way. At the time of construction, architects Herzog and De Meuron opted for a design that will refer to the old Olympic Munich stadium. But at the same time they added innovative designs like the roof structure which is world’s biggest roof made of air cushions. It has built in safeguards to protect from rain and snow and self-cleaning with ventilation. The illumination system is a spectacular feature with the stadium being lighted up with colours of respective home teams during matches. Seating arrangement is specially designed where all seats including the VIP and special boxes have uniform viewing experience unlike other stadiums. All these together make Allianz Arena a special venue in present football world.
Wembley is the capital of English football. It is one of the notable stadiums in Europe with a rich history. Wembley perfectly reflects the ever-changing face of English league football (aka EPL). If old Wembley represents the quintessential old English football, the new Wembley stands for the present modernisation and globalization of the English game. Old Wembley started its journey in 1923 with the FA Cup final between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham with a record official attendance of 126,047. Since then, Wembley has been the venue of numerous important football events. It’s the place where the English have been able to collect the only major silverware in 1966 World Cup. Brilliant European Cup finals have unfolded at the same venue. Euro 1996 was the last major event. Old Wembley got demolished in 2003 to make way for a new look modern stadium. It was reopened in 2007 with the “Wembley Arch” (largest span of roof structure in world) replacing the twin towers of Old Wembley. It has continued its journey as one of the finest venues for football. This year is the 90th anniversary of Wembley with several grand events lined up to celebrate the occasion.