With stadium locations ranging from the Stade Velodrome in Marseille, France to Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, the diversity of pitches highlights the regional differences in architecture and construction which makes each match feel like you’re viewing an artist’s masterwork from a new angle.
While the mention of historic institutions like Old Trafford, the Bernabeu, Estadio Azteca, La Bombonera, The Maracanã, and Camp Nou evoke thoughts of wonderful victories as well as crushing defeats for both club and country, the popularity of the beautiful game has allowed the sport to exist in unique places other than simply in the city center in major international destinations.
For those looking for some of the most truly unique locales to take in 90 minutes of sheer bliss, look no further than these five pitches.
Stadion Gospin dolac
Built in 1989 to serve as home stadium for the NK Imotski soccer club who play in Druga HNL, Croatia’s second level, the Stadion Gospin dolac is truly one of the great wonders of the fútbol world thanks to surrounding hints of bygone relics of both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, rocky cliffs, and a jaw-dropping 500-meter drop into the Modro Jezero (Blue Lake) just behind the grandstand.
Estádio Janguito Malucelli
Where: Curitiba, Brazil
Home to Brazilian side J. Malucelli FC – who has been known both as Malutrom and as Corinthians Paranaense in their tenure playing in Brazil’s Campeonato Brasileiro Série D – the Estádio Janguito Malucelli is often referred to as “Ecoestadio” after it became the first eco-friendly pitch in the entire country.
Since the club is named after an energy-producing company, the thought was to to cause the least possible impact to the environment, and also looked to enhance the majestic beauty of nearby Barigui Park which had already been a landmark in Curitiba.
Highlights include bleachers that have been dug into the ground, reclaimed wood, and iron for the infrastructure from disabled railway sleepers.
Where: Belgrade, Serbia
When one thinks of awe-inspiring rooftop venues for sport, your first thought is probably the tennis court atop the Burj al Arab luxury hotel in Dubai where Roger Federer and Andre Agassi notably squared off for a friendly match 211 meters off the ground.
Although majestic, the Dubai location will never host any matches of any real importance – unlike Voždovac Stadium in Belgrade whose elevated perch atop a shopping center is the home ground of FK Voždovac who play in the Serbian SuperLiga which is the countries primary soccer competition.
First opened in August 2013 after two years of construction, the result is one of the few rooftop pitches in the world that meets the criteria for matches of both the Europa and Champions League.
Estádio Municipal de Braga
Where: Braga, Portugal
Carved from the face of Monte do Castro by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Eduardo Souto Moura in 2003 as the home pitch for Sporting Clube de Braga – who most notably earned a UEFA Champions League bid in 2012-13 – the Estádio Municipal de Braga has earned the nickname A Pedreira/The Quarry thanks to its integration into the terrain and notable flares like a canopy-style roof that is connected by a dozen steel strings that harkens back to South American Incan bridges.
Even President Barack Obama was in awe of the stadium, commenting, “Perhaps Eduardo’s most famous work is the stadium he designed in Braga, Portugal. Never one to settle for the easy answer, Eduardo wanted to build this particular stadium on the side of a mountain. So he blasted out nearly a million and a half cubic yards of granite from the mountainside, then crushed it to make the concrete necessary to build the stadium. He also took great care to position the stadium in such a way that anyone who couldn’t afford a ticket could watch the match from the surrounding hillsides. Kind of like Portugal’s version of Wrigley Field.”
Where: Toftir, Faroe Islands
Although the Faroe Islands doesn’t immediately scream thoughts of memorable fútbol moments, the Svangaskard Stadium has been home to several international clashes after serving as the home stadium for the national team for several years before they relocated to Tórsvøllur in the city of Tórshavn.
Perched precariously on the edge of rugged rocks that frame the Atlantic Ocean down below, rumor has it that a man in a boat is often down below to retrieve any balls that have fell off the edge of the world.
As ESPN noted, “[it] provides a serious world’s-edge vibe.”
Ottmar Hitzfeld Stadium
Where: Gspon, Switzerland
Swiss village side FC Gspon holds the distinction of playing at the highest soccer pitch in all of Europe, Ottmar Hitzfeld Stadium, near the resort of Zermatt, which is carved into a mountainside 2,000 meters (6,561 feet) above sea level which forces players and fans to travel by cable car to reach the grounds.
Employing artificial turf because natural grass won’t grow at this altitude, the field is relatively tame in terms of altitude in comparison to the Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz, Bolivia which sits 3,600 meters above sea level and was once unable to be used after FIFA enacted a rule where no matches could be played at altitudes greater than 2,750 meters.
The Float at Marina Bay
Where: Marina Bay, Singapore
Although there is no official club attached to the grounds on the waters of the Marina Reservoir, in Marina Bay, Singapore, the pitch is the world’s largest fútbol floating stage which makes it truly a gem.
Created as a temporary location for events while the Singapore National Stadium was refurbished, engineers used a seabed of six pylons which act as the structure’s foundation and heavy-duty rubber rollers that are used to keep it from being rocked by tides and current.
In November 2008, the Singapore Cup final between SAFFC and Woodlands Wellington FC was supposed to take place at the stadium. However, problem relating to the metal beams casting a shadow on the pitch forced the match to be played elsewhere. The first soccer match to be played on the platform was a Sunday League ESPZEN amateur match between Tuan Gemuk Athletic and VNNTU FC.