Hey French Fries,
I was up super late last night working on a couple projects, and I’m really exhausted today, so I’m going to cop out and do a non-technical post that’s not too mentally strenuous. Since the World Cup is coming up and I’m getting pumped up, I’m going to list the 10 coolest stadiums to play home to a national men’s soccer team in a completely non-scientific and totally subjective list.
1.) Changlimithang Stadium, Thimphu, Bhutan
Bhutan’s national team might not be very good, but they play in a friggin’ Buddhist monastery, or at least a stadium that looks very much like one. I think it’s old school level dope, and it fits around 18,000 spectators.
2.) Helsinki Olympic Stadium, Helsinki, Finland
Finland’s national stadium played host to the 1952 Summer Olympics, and has a really cool and sleek mid century Bauhaus modernist design. It seats a shade over 42,000 spectators. The observation tower is a icon of the city of Helsinki, and from what I remember when I was there at the age of 11, the view from the top is a spectacular panoramic sight of the entire city and the Gulf of Finland beyond. It’s currently closed for upgrades and renovations, and will reopen in 2019.
3.) Estadio Hernando Silas, La Paz, Boliva
While not as architecturally interesting as some of the other stadiums on this list, Bolivia’s Estadio Hernando Silas is here because of it’s stunning setting and location. Right in the middle of a gorgeous walkable urban neighborhood flanked by the deep mountain peaks and cliff walls that define La Paz’s canyon, this stadium is surrounded by a stunning backdrop for the enjoyment of it’s 41,143 fans. If the picturesque view doesn’t take your breath away, the 11,983 foot elevation surely will.
4.) Soccer City, Johannesburg, South Africa
Also known as FNB Stadium, Soccer City gained international attention as the host of the thrilling and legendary 2010 World Cup final. With a gorgeous architecture and color pattern that lights up at night, and a round shape intentionally evocative of traditional South African pottery gourds, it has gained the nickname of the Calabash. When the Bafana Bafana are playing, it’s 95,000 seat capacity provides an intimidating venue for the opposition.
5.) Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Rising out of the ashes of the legendary old Lansdowne Road along the banks of the River Dodder, Republic’s Aviva Stadium looks like a futuristic spaceship landed in working class Dublin. It’s translucent paneling allows natural light to enter the stadium while absorbing sound pollution for the benefit of it’s residential neighbors. The 52,000 emerald clad fans who pack this house for Republic’s games are world-renown for their passion and creativity.
6.) Bird’s Nest, Beijing, People’s Republic of China
While all four national teams from China (PRC, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau) play in sleek, modern and high tech national stadiums, the Bird’s Nest in Beijing is by far the most unique and interesting. Built as the home venue for the memorable 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing’s 80,000 capacity Bird’s Nest provides an iconic venue for the PRC national team to showcase it’s rising trajectory for a global emergence as it begins to challenge Japan, South Korea and Australia for dominance in the Asian Football Confederation.
7.) Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Costa Rica is a pretty darn good national team. They’ve emerged thrice in the past four cycles from CONCACAF’s Hex, which is one of the toughest qualifying regions and rounds to get through. Unlike some of the other powerhouses in the region (I’m looking at you USA), Costa Rica has succeeded in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. It helps that their home is the gorgeous, modern, high tech, and rocking Estadio Nacional. Opened in 2011, this 36,000 capacity venue has two canopies that I cannot decide if they resemble the wings of macaw, or a swallowtail emerging from it’s cocoon. Regardless, Costa Rica is an underrated soccer power on the rise, and have the perfect venue to showcase their potential.
8.) Stadion Narodowy, Warsaw, Poland
Poland has gained some negative press recently for their gaming of the new FIFA rankings format in order to inflate their ranking and gain a top pot seed for the upcoming 2018 World Cup. By not playing any friendlies, Poland avoided games that come with lower point totals, and thus could’ve lowered their overall points average. While technically legal, it’s feels like it’s against the spirit of the competition. The true crime though is that their lack of friendlies prevent us viewing public from watching Robert Lewandowski and Co. showcase their abilities in the gorgeous and unique 59,000 capacity Stadion Narodowy.
9.) Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand
While they play in the tiny Oceania Football Confederation, where their closest competition is the tiny French colony of Tahiti, New Zealand’s All Whites play in a gorgeous, sleek and modern multipurpose stadium for the games you’d see on television. Wellington is one of the Pacific’s hidden gems, and New Zealand is the dominant power in Oceania now that Australia has switched into the Asian confederation. While the All White’s do their haka in the smaller North Harbor Stadium outside of Auckland when hosting their smaller-time foes, they host the big boys and important games in this shiny 35,000 capacity venue.
10.) Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
While it is not as sleek or modern as the other stadiums on this list, Brazil’s Maracanã is THE soccer stadium. Brazil is the New York Yankees of international football. They are the standard bearers, the titans, the team too which every other team compares themselves. They are hated because of their success. A success which drives everyone else mad with envy and jealousy. If Brazil is the Yankees of soccer, then the Maracanã is the (old) Yankee Stadium of soccer. It’s venerable, it’s timeless, it’s seen so much great history, glory and tragedy that it’s become the iconic mother cathedral of the sport. The legends that have played there, the games that have thrilled, the many generations of fans and pilgrims who have journeyed to fill one of the 80,000 seats over the past 80 years all have felt the sporting equivalent of sacrimony. It also helps that it’s location in the heart of Rio de Janeiro, which is arguably the most picturesque metropolis on this planet, affords it one of the most stunning settings any fan could wish for. No ultimate stadium list is complete without THE Maracanã.
Do you agree or disagree with my list? Do you have any other stadium(s) you’d propose? Please share your thoughts in the comments!