FourFourTwo's 100 Best Football Stadiums in the World: 20-11

Up into the big league with an old bike track, a sausage train and a couple of places you'll never walk alone...

Words: Gary Parkinson, Gregor MacGregor, Martin MazurChris FlanaganJames Fielden, Lee RodenTom Kundert and Nick Moore.

20. Anfield

Stadium facts

  • Location Liverpool, England
  • Opened 1884
  • Tenants Liverpool
  • Capacity 45,276
  • Record attendance 61,905

Older than the club itself – the ground was Everton’s from 1884 until the 1892 rent dispute that caused the creation of Liverpool FC – Anfield is one of football’s most evocative names, with the Kop one of its most famous stands.

It helped that the club spent two decades hoovering trophies, encouraging a colourful mythology around the stadium’s sacred spaces. Underneath the Main Stand, the revered Boot Room think-tank hatched the plans that prompted the 30,000-capacity Kop into delighted song: few terraces were so renowned for their wit and, frankly, intimidation of opponents and officials. 

Much has changed since that golden period – the Boot Room is gone and the Kop now a 12,000-seater, while the Anfield Road and Kemlyn Road stands are now overhauled two-tiered affairs, the latter renamed the Centenary Stand – but the history remains. And so will the club, with relocation shelved in favour of expansion to as much as 59,000. Will it bring back the good times? – GP

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19. Millerntor-Stadion

Stadium facts

  • Located Hamburg, Germany
  • Opened 1963
  • Tenants St. Pauli
  • Capacity 29,546
  • Record attendance 29,546

Sausage train. Need we say more when explaining why the German zweite bundesliga outfit’s ground features here? How many other stadiums have a stand containing personal beer pumps located under each seat and a train running past serving hot German sausage every five minutes?

If that doesn’t get your pork juices flowing, then how about the renowned ambience in situ at one of Germany’s most popular ‘kult’ clubs? In the December 2015 issue of FourFourTwo we said its club shop is arguably the best in the world – and that’s before you even get into the stands, wherein a cracking match atmosphere marries football passion and heavy metal music with skull-and-crossbones flags.

Terraced sections, beer in the ground, no trouble, and a community-supporting club campaigning against racism and the far-right via football and rock music. The distinguished-looking arena is in the shadow of a huge Second World War bunker and located on the edge of Hamburg’s infamous Reeperbahn, the popular after-hours zone which The Beatles frequented at the time the stadium was being built. – GM

 

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here

FFT's 100 Best Stadiums: 100-91 • 90-81 • 80-71 • 70-61 • 60-51 • 50-41 • 40-31 • 30-21 • 20-11 • 10 • 9 • 8 • 7 • 6 • 5 • 4 • 3 • 2 • 1

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here 

18. Stadion Feijenoord

Stadium facts

  • Located Rotterdam, Netherlands
  • Opened 1937
  • Tenants Feyenoord
  • Capacity 51,117
  • Record attendance 65,427

Inspired by the old Highbury, the stadium more commonly known as De Kuip (The Tub) has been Feyenoord’s home since the 1930s and quickly became a football temple. Hosting 11 European finals over the years, it became a particularly fertile ground for English teams, hosting glory nights for Tottenham (1963), Everton (1985) and Manchester United (1991) in the Cup Winners’ Cup plus Aston Villa’s 1982 European Cup Final win against Bayern Munich.

None of this could have happened had the Nazis progressed in their plan to destroy the stadium, which had been occupied by their forces. The steel and glass structure survived and it’s one of the reasons its acoustic is unique. De Kuip is all about atmosphere. For players it’s quite special, too: the tunnel that leads to the pitch depicts Feyenoord legends lifting the European Cup, while the pitch itself reputedly has the best grass in the world.

After disappointing Dutch performances in the Euro 2016 qualifiers (all played at Amsterdam Arena), many fans want the Netherlands to play back at De Kuip. But the stadium faces its own problems, as discussions over its future continue. A year after their plans for building a new 85,000-seat stadium were rejected, Feyenoord announced the 70,000-seat redevelopment of De Kuip for 2015, but the plan was once again postponed. – MM 

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17. Estadio Monumental Isidro Romero Carbo

Stadium facts

  • Located Guayaquil, Ecuador
  • Opened 1987
  • Tenants Barcelona SC
  • Capacity 75,000
  • Record attendance 102,000

From the air, it looks like a football pitch inside two giant square brackets. But once you step inside Barcelona’s massive stadium, you realise there’s much more than that. Not for nothing did Pelé call it “one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world”, a quote that now appears written on one of the walls, and signed by the Brazilian legend in 1993.

The imposing, yellowish structure is also known as El Coloso del Salado (The Colossus from the River Salado), and it was named among the most exciting grounds of the Copa Libertadores not only for the excellent construction and safety standards, but also for the atmosphere.

 

Monumental’s unusual shape also enhances the acoustic, offering an unforgettable overall experience. “Playing at El Monumental is an undescribable moment for a player,” agrees defender Frickson Erazo. “Not to mention the grass, which is like playing on a billiard table.” – MM 

 

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here

FFT's 100 Best Stadiums: 100-91 • 90-81 • 80-71 • 70-61 • 60-51 • 50-41 • 40-31 • 30-21 • 20-11 • 10 • 9 • 8 • 7 • 6 • 5 • 4 • 3 • 2 • 1

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here 

16. Stade de France

Stadium facts

  • Located Paris, France
  • Opened 1998
  • Tenants France
  • Capacity 81,338
  • Record attendance 81,000

The fifth-largest stadium in Europe, the 81,000-capacity Stade de France played host to the only World Cup final that Zinedine Zidane managed to get through without headbutting anyone.

Opened in time for France 98, it turned into the glorious venue where Zidane used his head productively, nodding home twice in a 3-0 victory over Brazil in the final. It’s the only stadium to have hosted World Cup finals in football and rugby.

Situated in Saint-Denis on the outskirts of Paris, accessible by metro, it was also the stage for Real Madrid’s 2000 Champions League Final victory over Valencia and Barcelona’s 2006 triumph against Arsenal.

The Stade de France’s sheer size is a sight to behold, particularly from the top tier. The Euro 2016 Final will take place there but attempts to lure a club side on a permanent basis proved unsuccessful, with Paris Saint-Germain opting to stay at the more fillable 49,000-seat Parc des Princes. – CF 

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15. Azadi Stadium

Stadium facts

  • Location Tehran, Iran 
  • Opened 1973
  • Tenants Esteghlal, Persepolis, Iran
  • Capacity 84,412
  • Record attendance 128,000

Although not quite as big as it once was, the Azadi (Persian for ‘freedom’, renamed after the Iranian revolution) still generates an incredible noise despite having an athletics track and no roof. First inaugurated in 1974 for the prestigious Asian games, it now hosts three teams, with players like former Villa and Bolton lefty Jlloyd Samuel having played there for Esteghlal in recent years. With a record attendance close to 130,000 for a game against Australia in the late 1990s, FIFA declared it the biggest-ever crowd for a World Cup qualifier. 

Talking of international football, Iranian fans were lucky enough to see the legendary Ali Daei score 40 of his 103 international goals here over the years. Sadly, a 2003 renovation ended the days of such enormous crowds, but when at capacity it is still one of the most intimidating arenas to play in. – JF 

 

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here

FFT's 100 Best Stadiums: 100-91 • 90-81 • 80-71 • 70-61 • 60-51 • 50-41 • 40-31 • 30-21 • 20-11 • 10 • 9 • 8 • 7 • 6 • 5 • 4 • 3 • 2 • 1

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here 

14. Stade Velodrome

Stadium facts

  • Location Marseille, France
  • Opened 1937
  • Tenants Olympique de Marseille
  • Capacity 67,394
  • Record attendance 65,148

In an age of uniform, box-shaped modern stadiums, the swooping curves of the Stade Velodrome stand out for all the right reasons. Initially constructed in the 1930s, it remains France’s biggest club football ground, and home to arguably its most successful team, Olympique de Marseille.

The Velodrome was renovated extensively for the 1998 World Cup, but required a further facelift to meet modern standards ahead of Euro 2016. That meant a 95% reconstruction of the western Jean Bouin stand, while the upper tier of the Ganay stand on the opposite side was also refitted. Both were necessary to accommodate the most striking change to the building come the end of restoration works in 2014: the fitting of an ellipsoidal roof.

 

Rather than masking the structure of the ground, as a roof can sometimes do, the smooth shape of the cover only further emphasises the uniqueness of the Stade Velodrome’s design. It also helps amp up the other distinguishing feature of this stadium: the noise of its passionate, renowned fans. – LR 

 

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13. Amsterdam Arena

Stadium facts

  • Located Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Opened 1996
  • Tenants Ajax, Netherlands 
  • Capacity 53,502
  • Record attendance 53,502

To put it simply, Ajax’s De Meer stadium was frankly insufficient. The 1930s ground was never particularly big, and with safety concerns its capacity had dwindled to below 20,000. The club had always played their big games at the city’s Olympic Stadium, but clearly needed a more suitable solution.

Costing more than £100m and inaugurated by Queen Beatrix, the Amsterdam Arena certainly fits the bill: retractable roof, amazing visibility (even from lower-tier seats near the corner flag), security cameras everywhere, easy access via public transport, proximity to a tailored shopping mall built in front of the stadium, restaurants with typical and delicious kroketten, and a Skybar named Johan.

A UEFA top-rated stadium, the Arena has hosted the 1998 Champions League Final, 2013 Europa League Final, five Euro 2000 games and the majority of the Netherlands’ recent home games. During construction, Louis van Gaal’s side reached two successive Champions League finals – but that squad was broken up by the Bosman ruling and sales which helped pay the debts, although the fascinating 70-minute tour (€16) will never say so.

History is important at Ajax. The new club museum here quickly became one of the most popular museums in Amsterdam. And since legendary manager Rinus Michels died in 2005, there has been a popular desire to name the stadium after him; the board has refused, but fans keep showing up with banners that read Rinus Michels Stadion. – MM 

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here

FFT's 100 Best Stadiums: 100-91 • 90-81 • 80-71 • 70-61 • 60-51 • 50-41 • 40-31 • 30-21 • 20-11 • 10 • 9 • 8 • 7 • 6 • 5 • 4 • 3 • 2 • 1

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here  

12. Estadio da Luz

Stadium facts

  • Location Lisbon, Portugal
  • Opened 2003
  • Tenants Benfica
  • Capacity 65,000
  • Record attendance 65,550

When it came to building a brand spanking new stadium ahead of Euro 2004 for the most popular club in the football-obsessed country that is Portugal, there was no option: it had to be something special. The designers did not disappoint.

Four layers of brilliant red-swathed stands swoop around the playing field, the lowest of which is very close to pitchside. The outstanding conditions for watching the football and imbibing the atmosphere are ensured by a complete absence of view-obstructing pillars and a beautifully balanced, shapely and symmetrical sound-retaining roof. Looking from the outside or above, the eye-catching curvaceous mesh of enormous red girders keeps the whole thing up and adds to the stunning aesthetics of the stadium which hosted the Euro 2004 and Champions League 2014 finals.

 

Perched above the main entrance of the venue, the stadium inherited from its synonymous predecessor the enormous statue of the club’s symbol, the Eagle, and on the ample concourse circling the ground is the statue of iconic club legend Eusébio. – TK

 

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11. Celtic Park

Stadium facts

  • Location Glasgow, Scotland
  • Opened 1892
  • Tenants Celtic
  • Capacity 60,411
  • Record attendance 83,500

No aficionado of football atmospheres can truly say they’ve savoured the best until they enjoy a trip to Paradise – particularly for an Old Firm civil war, where the volume can become truly hair-raising.

There’s history dripping out of the bricks at Scotland’s largest stadium, too – even if wholesale modernisation does mean that little of the actual structure erected in 1892 remains. Back then, it was a multi-sports venue with an athletics track and concrete loop for cycle races, but its traditional ties to Ireland were always in place: the first turf was brought over from County Donegal, and shinty was played as often as football.

 

Now, it’s a thoroughly modern all-seater that manages to somehow retain the raw madness of the old ‘Jungle’ (Northern Terrace). Aptly for a stadium with a stand cantilevered over a graveyard, there are ghosts in the air here too: of Jimmy Johnstone and Jock Stein – both immortalised in statues outside – and many more hooped legends who have given this place a mythic feel beyond its physical self. – NM

 

FFT's 100 Best Stadiums: 100-91 • 90-81 • 80-71 • 70-61 • 60-51 • 50-41 • 40-31 • 30-21 • 20-11 • 10 • 9 • 8 • 7 • 6 • 5 • 4 • 3 • 2 • 1

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here