If you’ve watched any football (or soccer) at all in the past twelve months, the chances are that you did so on television. There have been a few matches that were opened up to the public and a few countries where fans were allowed to attend games as normal, but football has gone on behind closed doors for the main part. That’s about to change. Slowly but surely, stadiums and sports arenas are beginning to open for business again. Because of that, we thought it would be a good time to talk about the most “must-see” football stadiums in the whole world!
Those of you who are fans of one specific team probably consider your club’s stadium as the most important theatre of football in the sport. Still, even with that in mind, there are probably stadiums you’ve always dreamed of visiting. With so many stadiums in so many countries, though, how do you go about the task of deciding which ones ought to be the top of the list when it comes to making visits? We have a simple answer to that question – you read this article, and check out the places we’re about to highlight!
The Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Brazil has given us some of the greatest football players in history and has also given us one of the sport’s best stadiums. The Maracana in beautiful Rio de Janeiro (which is worth visiting whether you’re interested in football or not) was built for the 1950 FIFA World Cup, which was hosted in Brazil. The stadium that exists today is still almost identical to the one that opened in 1950, albeit with a few modern tweaks. One of those tweaks is that the maximum attendance has been reduced for safety reasons. Just under two hundred thousand people crammed into the Maracana to watch the final World Cup group stage game in 1950. Today, the absolute maximum is 79,000. The design of the Maracana is considered to be iconic, and its rich history makes it a place every football fan should visit at some point in their life, even if they only do so once. You could almost consider it a pilgrimage.
Anfield, Liverpool, England
Anfield finds its way onto our list because of its history more than its architectural beauty. This is where Liverpool Football Club plays its world-famous brand of football. What started as a socialist enterprise well over a century ago is now something of a global brand, as is highlighted by the fact that the club’s logo even appears on official online slots games these days. We’re not sure what the people who founded Liverpool would make of the club’s crest showing up at Rose Slots for New Zealand or other online slots websites. What we do know, though, is that the fortunes of Liverpool have varied more dramatically over the club’s long history than any online slots game ever could. They’re considered by romantics as the most successful and beloved of all the teams in England, and so no football tour of the UK is complete without a stop off here. Just don’t tell any Everton fans we said so, OK? The atmosphere inside Anfield is electric at any home game and doubly so on a big European night. You’re missing out if you’ve never been part of it.
The San Siro, Milan, Italy
City rivalries are part of what makes football great. Whether it’s Manchester City and Manchester United facing each other, Celtic and Glasgow battling it out for the pride of Glasgow in Scotland, or Real and Atletico going head-to-head in Madrid, derbies mean everything to the fans of the clubs involved in them. In almost every case, big teams that share the same city have their own stadiums. That’s not true of Milan. Both AC Milan and Inter Milan call the San Siro home. That must surely make it one of the most important stadiums in world football. Attending the San Siro for one of those AC vs Inter fixtures, which is known as the derby della Madonnina, is the dream of many a football fan. Tickets for that fixture can be extremely difficult to get your hands on, so you might have to make do with visiting for a lesser game. You’re guaranteed a great view of both the pitch and the stadium, no matter which of the 80,018 seats you’re allocated.
The Azteca, Mexico City, Mexico
We don’t know whether to describe the Azteca as a stadium or a cultural icon. Perhaps it’s both. The 87,523 capacity stadium, which is home to the Mexican national football team and domestic clubs Cruz Azul and Club America, is the only stadium in history to host the World Cup final twice. It will also forever be remembered as the place where the legendary Diego Maradona scored his infamous “Hand of God” goal against England at the 1986 World Cup. At over seven thousand feet above sea level, it can be a difficult place for opposing players to come and acclimatize themselves to. Any team playing at home at the Azteca tends to have an automatic advantage because of that. When it’s not hosting soccer matches, you might find it hosting concerts or NFL games. Over 100,000 people were present when the San Francisco 49ers played the Arizona Cardinals here in October 2005.
The Nou Camp, Barcelona, Spain
It’s impossible to definitively say that Barcelona is the greatest club in world football. Their fierce rivals Real Madrid would disagree with that assessment in the strongest possible terms. There’s no debate about which of the two Spanish giants has the best stadium, though. It’s Barcelona’s Nou Camp, and it’s not even close. This is the largest football stadium in Europe, with a capacity of just under 100,000, and is probably the most iconic “home” stadium of any European football club. It was once able to hold even more people than it does now, peaking at 120,000 for the World Cup final in 1982. Every player dreams of playing at the Nou Camp (whether for Barcelona or not), and every fan should visit it at least once, even if they only go in for the stadium tour.
Wembley Stadium, London, England
Football was invented in England. That makes Wembley Stadium the home of football. This is, without a doubt, the most iconic football stadium in the world. The total redevelopment of the stadium in the early years of the 21st century wasn’t to everybody’s tastes, but the arch that now curves across the sky above it is every bit as famous as the Wembley towers that were demolished to make way for it. Tournament events that are played at Wembley feel more special than games played anywhere else. Even players who’ve never played for an English club and don’t intend to do so still hope to play at Wembley one day. Part of the allure of the stadium is the fact that it’s reserved for special events only – unlike almost every other stadium in the world, no club uses this as its “home” ground. When a game is played at Wembley, it becomes important by default.
That’s where we’re leaving our list, which probably means we owe an apology to anyone who was expecting us to mention the Bernabeu, Old Trafford, or the Allianz Arena. We gave them all serious consideration, but the stadiums we’ve mentioned above are, in our eyes, superior. Opinions are all about differences, though, so feel free to disagree!