Top Ten South American Stadia

First things first I’ve lied a little bit. This actually includes stadia from all of Latin America not just South America but the title wouldn’t have been as catchy. Of the 10 I’ve visited 6 so much of the blog is based on my personal experiences although there were some stadia that are just too impressive to keep off the list. Thoughts and comments appreciated as always!

10. Estadio OMNILIFE – Guadalajara, Mexico

I said I was going to cheat so might as well start cheating with of with Latin America’s newest stadium. The Estadio OMNILIFE is the new home of Chivas Guadaljara and is set to host next year’s Pan-American Games. It is unusual in that the pitch is artificial which led to some complaints (notably Carlos Vela) but when I went there it we witnessed a 30 minute downpour just before half time which would have ruined the game as a spectacle had it been natural grass. Also it has one of the ultimate stadium accessories – a cup holder on each seat for your beer. Stadium developers take note, this should be an obligatory feature. 

9. Estadio Monumental David Arellano – Santiago, Chile

Only Colo-Colo play here with the national team based at the aptly named Estadio Nacional. While there is only space for 45,000 here, they are treated to a beautiful backdrop of the Andes and they normally see their team win, Colo-Colo having picked up 14 league titles and the Copa Libertadores since it re-opened after extensive renovation in 1989. For the record I went there once, and they lost 2-0. Haven’t been allowed back since.

8. Estadio Monumental “U” – Lima, Peru

Peru’s largest stadium and the 2nd largest in South America. Home to Universitario de Deportes it can seat 80,093 fans. It took 9 years to build (even longer than Wembley!) and political in-fighting meant is wasn’t even used for the 2004 Copa America making me wonder if the “U” stands for Unbelievably-Under-Used! Ok maybe a tad unfair as it did play host to most of the 2010 World Cup Qualifiers, not that the national side enjoyed it only winning 2 of 7 games. It is uncovered, like most stadia in South America and like the David Arellano (above) you get an Andean backdrop if what’s happening on the pitch doesn’t excite you.

7. Estadio Hernando Siles – La Paz, Bolivia

It sits at 3,657 metres above sea level and FIFA tried to ban it, but an appeal led in part by President “The Ball Breaker” Evo Morales and Diego Maradona saw that decision reversed. Bolivia play all their home games there and it lends them a great advantage, they qualified for the 1994 World Cup on the back of their home form (wins, draws, no defeats) and more recently made Maradona wish the FIFA ban had stayed in place when his Argentina team suffered a 6-1 mauling.

6. Estádio do Morumbi – São Paulo, Brazil

Opened in 1960 the Morumbi missed out on Brazil’s last World Cup and financial disputes with the Brazilian FA means it won’t be used in 2014 – a shame for such a grand stadium. Over the years the capacity has been drastically reduced, today it accomdates 67, 428 people but in 1977 it somehow squeezed in 146,082 fans for the Brazilian State Championships. The current tenants are São Paulo and before the fall out with the suits at the Brazilian FA it was used occassionally for World Cup Qualifiers as part of the policy of rotating around the country.

5. Estadio Monumental – Buenos Aires, Argentina

Home to River Plate and the national team this stadium was built back in 1938 and renovated especially for the 1978 World Cup where it played host to 9 matches and of course that tickertape final against Holland. I was there during that torrential storm when Martín Palermo scored a stoppage time winner against Peru to keep Argentina’s hopes of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup alive. We were nearly washed away down the stairs as the water came gushing in from god knows where.

4. Estadio Centenario – Montevideo, Uruguay

The scene of the first ever World Cup Final (and 9 other games at the 1930 World Cup) this place sings of history. Over the years it has seen classic Uruguayan triumphs but it also acts as the venue for the country’s fiercest rivalry the derby between Nacional and Peñarol. Incredibly my friend and I got a personal guided tour and even got to sit on the subs bench!

3. Maracanã – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The largest football stadium in South America it was used for the 1950 World Cup Final between Uruguay and Brazil which drew the largest football crowd ever, an estimated 174,000 people. It also left the most football fans disappointed as well when Brazil inexplicably lost 1-0! The first game at the stadium (and the World Cup opener) was a happier affair with the host nation trouncing Mexico 4-0. These days after extensive redevelopment you will only get 82,238 fans watching Flamengo and Fluminense play but in 2014, the World Cup Final returns at the Maracanã will try and exorcise the ghost that has haunted it for 60 years.

2. La Bombonera – Buenos Aires, Argentina

“La Bombonera” (The Chocolate Box), or to award it its official title Estadio Alberto J.Armando (a former club President), has a capacity of 49,000 but it feels and sounds like much more. Partly it is due to the cramped stands that feel as if they are going to spill over onto the pitch but mainly it is due to “La Doce” the passionate Boca supporters. It is also one of the most colourful stadiums, doused in blue and yellow and with the planned redevelopment yet to take place it still has that classic football stadium feel (you know what I mean, Highbury instead of Emirates, Maine Road instead of City of Manchester).

Next Game: Boca Juniors vs Huracán – Argentinian Apertura – 17 Oct 2010

1. Estadio Azteca – Mexico City, Mexico

It is enormous! 105,000 spectators can cram into there to watch either Club América or the Mexican national side. Over 100,000 tonnes of concrete was used to build it (that was after they blasted away volcanic rock deposits to make enough space!). It is the only stadium to have hosted two World Cup Finals (1970 and 1986) and if that wasn’t enough it was used for the 1968 Olympic Games for the football tournament. It was also the venue for both the Goal of the Century and the Game of the Century – quite simply a stadium every football fan must visit in his/her lifetime.

South American (sort of) Soccer Stadia done! Check back next week for more Top Tens!

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About Ralph Hannah

Mid-Twenties football fanatic from London, UK originally but currently based in Asuncion, Paraguay.
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