With tonight marking the grand opening of Real Salt Lake’s new home, Rio Tinto Stadium, I couldn’t help but start to think about what were my most memorable soccer stadium experiences.
Think about it. What were the most memorable soccer stadium trips, moments or experiences in your history as a soccer fan? Was it a World Cup match? An MLS playoff match? Some European or South American match you were lucky enough to score tickets to?
Soccer stadium openings usually rank pretty high on such lists, but not always. I can recall attending the opening of Pizza Hut Park and while it was a good night with a good crowd, that game doesn’t really stand out in my mind for best experiences.
Here are three experiences that stood out in my mind as being among the best soccer stadium visits/moments:
Old Trafford, 2003
I was on assignment in Manchester England for a series of stories for the Herald News. Part of the trip included attending a Manchester Derby. Walking to Old Trafford that day and seeing the fans pour into that cathedral of soccer was a sight to behold, from the shielded Manchester City fans, to the loud chorus of sungs from the Stretford End. I can only imagine how much louder it would have been if Manchester United had actually won. (Side note- Tim Howard was in goal for Manchester United while Red Bulls head coach Juan Carlos Osorio was a Man City assistant and Claudio Reyna a Man City midfielder.
Signal Iduna Park, 2006
World Cup 2006 featured an unforgettable semifinal between Germany and Italy. Borussia Dortmund’s home stadium is one of the most imposing venues you will find because of the acoustics and promixity of fans to the field. I was fortunate enough to have press seats three rowns behind the Germany bench. I could have hit Juergen Klinsmann with a piece of gum, but chose not to. The Germany fans were out in force, but even more impressive was the haunting silence after Italy scored a pair of late goals to win and move a step closer to the World Cup final.
Estadio Azteca, 2005
Pulling up to the Mexican national team’s preferred stadium was a memorable moment. With no really large buildings in the vicinity, Azteca looks even more imposing than you would expect from a venue that seats more than 100,000 spectators. I remember writing that the stadium looked like Godzilla terrorizing a countryside. The U.S. national team was overwhelmed by a Mexican team that fed off the energy of the crowd (the heat and altitude didn’t help the Americans either). I must admit that I hope I live to attend a match in Azteca won by the United States. I can only imagine what the crowd would be like on that day.
Now it’s your turn. What is your most memorable stadium experience? Share your experiences below.