Football is the most popular sport globally. According to the Huffington Post, the FIFA World Cup is the sporting event with the highest television viewership worldwide, reaching an audience of 3.5 billion viewers. Other popular multi-sport events, such as the Olympics, attract only 2 billion viewers. Similarly, in Indonesia, football is the sport that mobilizes the largest crowds for spectating.
While I am not a fervent football fan, I appreciate the sport. So, what is the connection between football and architecture? There is, indeed, a significant link. Sporting events, in this case, football matches, are typically played at a venue, which can be a field or a stadium. A stadium is a crucial aspect of the infrastructure that a football club must have to participate in national or continental competitions. Its function extends beyond being a venue for matches; it is also a source of revenue. It's not surprising that major clubs strive to enhance their stadium facilities and appearance to attract more visitors.
Speaking of football and stadiums, the epicenter is Europe. In this post, I will discuss the stadiums I visited during my travels there. While there are several other stadiums, I'll focus on three because coincidentally, these stadiums belong to major European clubs.
Johan Cruijff Arena (AFC Ajax)
Formerly known as the Amsterdam Arena, this stadium is the home ground of the Dutch club AFC Ajax. Built between 1993 and 1996 at a cost of €140 million, it is the largest stadium in the Netherlands. The first match held at this stadium was on August 4, 1996, between Ajax Amsterdam and AC Milan. UEFA categorizes this stadium as Category 4 (perhaps comparable to a 4-star hotel). Like other prominent European stadiums, the Johan Cruijff Arena features facilities such as a museum and a merchandise store.
The original design was by Dutch architects Rob Schuurman and Sjoerd Soeters, while construction was carried out by Ballast Nedam and Royal BAM Group. With a seating capacity of around 50,000, this stadium was the first in Europe to use a retractable roof system. Its roof structure consists of a spaceframe arch supported by four large pillars on the outer sides of the building. The spaceframe arch is connected through two longitudinal beams that support semi-transparent panels as roof coverings. It takes about 30 minutes to fully open and close the stadium roof.
In addition to football matches, the stadium is often used as a venue for concerts by world-class artists such as Coldplay, Take That, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, and Rihanna. For musical concerts, the capacity can be expanded to 68,000.
To reach the stadium, take Metro M50 towards Gein and alight at Bijlmer/Arena station. From Bijlmer station, it's just a 5-minute walk along the Boulevard area.
Stadium Tour Ticket Prices: Above 12 years (€15.50), Children 5-11 years (€10.50), Children 0-4 years (Free)
Giuseppe Meazza / San Siro (AC Milan & Inter Milan)
The pride of two Italian giants, AC Milan and Inter Milan, this stadium was built in 1925 and has undergone several renovations to become what it is today. With a seating capacity of around 80,000, it is the largest stadium in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. Similar to the Johan Cruijff Arena, UEFA also categorizes this stadium as Category 4.
The first major renovation took place from 1948 to 1955 and was entrusted to architects Armando Ronca and Ferruccio Calzolari. They developed a project for the expansion and capacity increase of the stadium from 50,000 to 150,000 seats. However, only an addition of 60,000 seats was made due to safety reasons. The last significant renovation was carried out before the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy, where the stadium's capacity was increased to 85,000. The city of Milan entrusted architects Giancarlo Ragazzi, Enrico Hoffer, and engineer Leo Finzi for this project. To increase the capacity to 85,000, the third floor was added (only in the North and South curves and the West stand), supported by 11 spiral concrete towers. Four of these eleven concrete towers are located at each corner and serve as the supporting structure for the roof frame, as we see it now.
The existence of this stadium may not last much longer, as in June 2019, both AC Milan and Inter Milan announced plans to build a new, more modern stadium, and there is a possibility that this stadium will be demolished. To reach this stadium, take Subway M5 towards San Siro and alight at the last station.
Stadium Tour Ticket Prices: Above 12 years (€18), Children 6-12 years (€12), Below 6 years (Free)
Allianz Arena (FC Bayern)
The home stadium of the German club FC Bayern, located about 15 km from the center of Munich, was built between 2002 and 2005. It is one of the modern stadiums globally and is the second-largest stadium in Germany (after Borussia Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park) with a capacity of 75,000 seats. UEFA also categorizes this stadium as Category 4. FC Bayern began using this stadium in 2005, having previously been based at the Olympiastadion Munich. The name Allianz is derived from the insurance company Allianz, which bought the naming rights for 30 years as they significantly contributed to the stadium's construction.
The architects of this stadium are Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, with the architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron from Switzerland. The stadium's roof is designed with a built-in roller blind system that can be advanced and retracted during games to provide sun protection for spectators. Allianz Arena has a modern design not only in its structure but also in its innovative façade lighting. The outer facade consists of 3,000 diamond-shaped ETFE-foil panels covering the entire building facade, with each panel capable of emitting light in different colors (most often red, blue, or white). These colors can change depending on the team playing; if FC Bayern is playing, the color will be red, and it will turn white when the German national team is using the stadium.
To reach this stadium, take U-Bahn U6 towards Garching Forschungszentrum and alight at Fröttmaning station. From Fröttmaning station, it's about a 15-minute walk to the stadium.
Stadium Tour + Museum Ticket Prices: Above 14 years (€19), Children 6-13 years (€11), Children 0-5 years (Free)