Your list of must-visit football stadiums from around the world, below. By Jagdish Singh
Every year, millions of pilgrims travel to places with unique spiritual significance in hopes of experiencing elevation, transformation, and attaining a new degree of wisdom. For those who accept football as their religion, let this guide help you as you embark on your own football pilgrimage.
The 10 stadiums below, listed in no particular order, are pilgrimage destinations where a football god was born, where miracles have happened, or where the football world holds in sacred significance.
Also known as the Signal Iduna Park, it has one of the best atmospheres in world football on game day. Home to Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, the 80, 720 capacity stadium houses the South Stand, the largest free-standing terrace in European football. Fans of Dortmund take great pride in displaying organised shows of unity with decorative banners and placards. They drum up an amazing atmosphere, beer in hand, as they cheer on their team.
Best time to visit: The local Ruhr derby between Dortmund and arch rivals Schalke 04 is a must-watch!
Spain’s largest football stadium, Camp Nou, sits close to 99, 000 spectators and is also the home to arguably Europe’s greatest football team right now, FC Barcelona. Its sheer size and intense atmosphere on match days make the Camp Nou a must-visit. The stadium has also been home to many footballing greats over the years, most notably Lionel Messi, who still plays his mesmerizing brand of football on its pitch.
Best time to visit: Without a doubt, it would be every fans’ dream to watch the El Clasico against Real Madrid.
San Siro is home to Serie A giants, Inter Milan and AC Milan, who share the stadium, playing their home games on alternate weekends. This dominant structure is one of the historic European grounds and, with a capacity of 80 000, the stadium was designed to give maximum visibility to each spectator. Despite the two clubs struggling for form, the stadium is still a must visit as it holds much history and tradition in the footballing world.
Best time to visit: None other than the Milan derby, when the city is divided as Inter and AC battle at the San Siro.
Opened way back in 1884, Anfield is one of England’s most iconic football stadiums, and there are few – if any – more stirring moments in football than when the famous Liverpool anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” rings out at Anfield before a game. The hair on your arms and at the back of neck will stand as the Kop End cheers on their team. This place is the true Mecca for all Liverpool fans, with many having their loved ones scatter their ashes at the ground after they have passed on.
Best time to visit: When Manchester United visit Anfield, you can always expect a buzzing stadium and a feisty atmosphere.
Mexico City, Mexico
One of only two stadiums to have hosted two World Cup finals, this stadium will probably go down in history amongst English football fans as the place where Diego Maradona’s infamous “hand of God” goal was scored in 1986. A glorious arena that holds more than 100, 000 fans, the stadium is currently home to the Mexico national team and league side Club America.
Best time to visit: Mexico vs. neighbours USA has always been a fierce rivalry and is the best opportunity for a great experience.
Estadio Do Maracana
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This stadium can lay claim to being the home of Brazilian football. The stadium remains a historic landmark in Rio despite having undergone renovations in preparation for the 2014 World Cup. With a 78, 000 capacity, the Maracana is home to Brazilian clubs Flamengo and Fluminense, which have produced countless Brazilian greats over the years. The most iconic thing about the stadium is the fact that Christ the Redeemer Statue overlooks it.
Best time to visit: Anytime there is Brazilian derby, as the atmosphere gets really hostile while the players display their silky samba skills on the pitch.
Nicknamed the “Theatre of Dreams”, it is the home ground of England’s most successful side Manchester United. The pitch has been grazed by countless of legends and has seen numerous trophies hoisted over the years. That is the reason why the 75, 000 seater stadium is sold out almost every home game, with fans from across the world coming to fulfill their dream of watching their dream team play. Many say that there is something strangely poetic about Old Trafford.
Best time to visit: Old Trafford comes to life when the city is divided during the Manchester derby.
The stunningly beautiful Allianz Arena does not yet have the prestige or history to compete with other stadiums as it was only opened in 2005, but it is a must visit because when lit up at night, it is one of the most impressive arenas in world football. It has already played host to the Champions League Final in 2012, and is guaranteed to host more big games in the coming years. Home to current Bundesliga champions, Bayern Munich, many of the world cup winning German national team call this stadium home.
Best time to visit: Champions league nights are amazing at the Allianz Arena, when the stadium is fully filled.
Home to the 10-time UEFA Champions League winners, Real Madrid, the Santiago Bernabeu has seen multiple galaticos take centre stage over the years. Footballing greats such as Di Stefano, Zidane, Beckham, Raul and both the Ronaldos have displayed their talents on the pitch at this stadium full of history. The crowd is vociferous, with the noise level reaching a fever pitch on match days.
Best time to visit: Champions league nights are magnificent at the Bernabeu.
Estadio Municipal Braga
This stadium is unknown to many and does not hold history or significance in the footballing world. However what is unique about this stadium is that it has been carved out of a rock at the site of a former quarry, and only consists of two lateral stands. Architect Eduardo Souto won an award for the design and the stadium also won the best new global design in 2006. Just to admire its uniqueness and stunning backdrop, the Estadio Municipal Braga has to be visited.
Best time to visit: Anytime that Portuguese side Braga are playing their home match.