The history of one of world football’s most iconic stadiums – Estadio Azteca

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The excellent, Andries Oosterveen returns with the history of one of the most famous stadiums in world football….

When one thinks of iconic football stadiums around the world the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City always comes to mind.  Today it has a capacity of 105,064 and is home not only to the Mexican national team but to local footballing giants Club America.  The Azteca is the one of the largest stadiums in the world and the most famous in North America.

It was given the name “Azteca” in respect of the Aztec history and heritage of Mexico City.  Today the stadium is owned by Mexican television company Televisa.  In 1997 they changed the name of the stadium to Guillermo Canedo who was an executive of Televisa.  This was a very unpopular decision with the public and quietly over the years Televisa changed the name back to the Azteca Stadium.  Despite this people have always called the stadium the Azteca.  Interestingly, the Azteca also has the nickname of “Coloso de Santa Ursula” which in English means Colossus of Santa Ursula, due to it’s gigantic size and the area of Mexico City in which it is located.

The Azteca’s architects were Pedro Ramirez Vasquez and Rafael Mijares who drew inspiration for their design by visiting stadiums all over the world in cities such as London, Madrid, Milan and Paris.  Building the stadium was not so easy as at the site in the Santa Ursula district of Mexico City there was an ancient volcano which meant that in order to build the stadium’s foundations volcanic rock had to be blasted away.

Construction of the actual stadium started in 1962 and finished in 1966 with a cost of 260 million Mexican Pesos, just in time for the 1968 Olympic Games and the 1970 football World Cup which were to be held in Mexico.  The end result was a gigantic stadium with an original capacity of 114,600, three tiers, a massive upper level and a perfect home for local team Club America and most importantly the Mexican national team, El Tri.

estadio azteca

What is evident is that the Azteca is an intimidating and daunting stadium for opposing teams to play in.  It is located 7,200 feet above sea level and when full, the noise of the home supporters fills the air with high pitch shrieks which are deafening and play on the minds of the other team’s players.  The Azteca is one of the loudest stadiums in the world and when one combines that with the heat, the altitude and the smog it is not very welcoming for visiting teams and to this day it still remains a powerful fortress for the Mexican national team.  As a result the results of Mexico since 1962 at the Azteca have been something all El Tri fans should be very proud of as in World Cup Qualifiers they have only lost once which was 2-1 against Costa Rica in 2001.

Over the years the Azteca has been witness to some important and golden footballing moments in the history of the game.  It was the first stadium in the world to host two football World Cup finals, 1970 Brazil versus Italy and in 1986 Argentina versus West Germany.  It was also here where Diego Maradona scored his infamous Hand of God goal versus England and another goal which many feel is the goal of the century.  The still famous photo of Pele jumping into the arms of Jairzinho after scoring a superb header against Italy was taken here too.

The Estadio Azteca is an amazing piece of architecture and a credit to Mexico.  It has a special history, a powerful aura and will continue to provide many spectators, visitors and future generations with more memories and hopefully one day will be the home of Mexico the future World Cup winners.

Andries is a 37 year old Dutchman and has been living in Mexico for the last 6 years with his fiancee. Previously he spent most of his life living, travelling and working all over the world in a variety of countries including Vietnam, Australia and South Africa. He has been writing for Golazo Mexicano, Total Dutch Football and Soccerlens since July 2014. You can follow Andries on Twitter @oosters76
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