Name: Estadio Azteca (the Azteca stadium)
Address: Calzada de Tlaplan; Col. Santa Ursula Coapa de Coyoacan, Mexico City, Mexico
Year of construction: 1966
Last renovation: 1986
No. of seats: 91,221
Total capacity: 105,064
Covered: Approx. 70%
Home to: Mexican national team, Club America, Atlante, Necaxa, Cruz Azul
THE AZTECA STADIUM – AT THE FOOT OF A VOLCANO
On 29 May 2006, the Azteca stadium in the Santa Ursula district of Mexico City celebrated its 40th anniversary. Chosen in a competition, the stadium’s name will live forever as a symbol of Mexican and world football. The 105,000 capacity stadium was built using 100,000 tones of concrete on a 64,000 m2 site consisting of rock from the extinct Xitle volcano.
It is the work of the famous architect, Pedro Ramirez Vazquez, and was constructed during former FIFA vice-president Guillermo Canedo’s presidency of the Mexican football association. The decision to build the stadium had been taken by Emilio Azcarraga Milmo in 1962.
The pitch size of 68 by 105 m complies with the regulations laid down in FIFA’s Laws of the Game. The stadium is located 9.8 m above the Calzada de Tlalpan, the main access road to the arena by car or bus, and has an excellent drainage system, which enables a match to commence just minutes after a storm. Its facilities have further been enhanced by the installation of giant screens.
DESTINED FOR DEFEAT
The Azteca stadium was a venue at the 1970 and 1986 FIFA World Cups TM, the 1968 Olympic Football Tournament, the 1971 unofficial women’s championship, the 1975 Pan American Games, the FIFA World Youth Championship 1983, the 1993 and 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cups and the FIFA Confederations Cup 1999. Since 1998 the stadium has also been the home of the Mexican national team and has been used for Copa Libertadores matches, thus proving that Mexico’s true passion is to play host.
While clubs such as the now defunct Atletico Espanol, Cruz Azul, Necaxa or Atlante have played as the home side at this famous arena, since 1966 its main tenants have been Club America and it has also been the venue of a mass by Pope John Paul II, numerous concerts and boxing and American football matches.
THE “GAME OF THE CENTURY”
A visit to the Azteca stadium usually spells certain defeat for any foreign team, as Mexico City has an altitude of 2,200m above sea level, which can make breathing difficult for the visiting team. On top of that, the grass on the pitch is cut to the height of 1.25 cm, which makes it very quick and tiring for footballers not used to such conditions.
In a period, which saw several new stadiums being inaugurated in Mexico, the friendly match between Club America and Italian club Torino (2 – 2) on 29 May 1966 to mark the opening of the Azteca is probably the match that is best remembered. A ceremonial kick-off was taken by then President of Mexico, Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, and former FIFA President Sir Stanley Rous. The Brazilian, Arlindo Dos Santos, known as “the chocolate baby”, scored the first goal in the stadium’s history with a powerful finish.
“The Colossus of Santa Ursula”, as the stadium is known, is also the place where two footballing greats shone. Pele won the FIFA World Cup TM there with Brazil in 1970, while Diego Maradona lifted the 1986 FIFA World Cup TM following Argentina’s victory in the same arena. Said Pele after the final; “The twelfth man – the crowd – was an important factor in our victory, not just the Brazilians who traveled to Mexico, but also the Mexicans, who, with the same vibrancy, transformed the Azteca into the Maracana. I think that that the Mexicans deserve 30 per cent of the credit for our victory.”
Many consider the 1970 semi-final between Italy and West Germany (4 – 3) to be the “Game of the Century” because of the quality of the football and the excitement that it produced. To date, the Azteca is the only stadium where two FIFA World Cup TM finals have been played.