The matter of atmosphere at soccer matches throughout history has been an ongoing discussion. The extent to which fans can affect the performance of the players on the pitch has been debated vigorously, with a general consensus, supported by a number of players themselves, suggesting that it does make a difference to players' performance levels.
Stadiums with a great atmosphere are often described as being ‘intimidating’ for an opposing team and a number of teams put their impressive home form down to the vocal backing they receive from the locals. Stadium atmosphere has been particularly under the microscope in England recently, where a number of teams are currently campaigning for ‘safe standing’ to be introduced in order to improve the recent decrease in atmospheres, as soccer fans in England have been required to remain seated ever since the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.
This list is regarding the current atmosphere at currently operating stadia worldwide; historical atmospheres are not accounted for. For example, historically Liverpool FC’s stadium, Anfield, can generate tremendous noise and a terrific atmosphere, and still can for occasional games, but generally speaking the atmosphere at Anfield is no longer particularly special for the majority of league games.
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20 Stade Geoffroy-Guichard - (AS Saint Etienne)
AS Saint-Etienne have not won the French First Division (Ligue 1) in over 30 years but they are still arguably the most successful team in the history of French football and have a formidable support. Currently fighting for a Champions League place, ‘Les Verts’ as they are known in France, show some signs of returning to their glory days, when the likes of Laurent Blanc and Michel Platini played for the club. Saint-Etienne have a core of five supporter groups who generate a lot of the noise at the 40,830 capacity stadium. The atmosphere at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard stadium is such that it has picked up two common nicknames; ‘le Chaudron’ and ‘l’enfer vert’, meaning ‘The Cauldron’ and ‘The Green Hell’. The stadium will play host to a number of high profile matches at the upcoming 2016 European Championships in France.
19 CenturyLink Field - (Seattle Sounders)
They may only be in their infancy, in soccer terms, but the Seattle Sounders have quickly established themselves as having by far the strongest support in the MLS and have firmly embraced European fan culture. Established in 2007, the Sounders boast what they have termed the ‘Sound Wave’, a 53-man marching band which creates a lot of the atmosphere at the CenturyLink Field stadium. Although the stadium can hold up to 72,000 spectators for certain events, it is restricted to 38,300 for MLS games and tends to see a capacity crowd. With seven recognized supporter groups who vote on a range of decisions at the club with genuine influence, it is little wonder Sounders fans feel such an affinity with their team.
18 Saitama Stadium - (Urawa Red Diamonds)
Home of Japanese side, Urawa Red Diamonds, the Saitama Stadium was built for the 2002 World Cup jointly hosted by Japan and South Korea. The striking design which holds an impressive 63,700 people received widespread notoriety as it played host to the World Cup semi-final between Brazil and Turkey. Since then, Urawa Red Diamonds have moved into the stadium and become the best supported team in Japan, with the highest average attendance in 14 of the last 20 J-League seasons and an atmosphere which has received critical acclaim, especially in their frequent rivalry games.
17 Wembley Stadium - (England)
There was much controversy surrounding the new Wembley when it first opened; it’s extensive delays, staggering final costs and then there were question marks surrounding the quality of the surface. Eight years after it’s opening though, Wembley has become a real landmark and a superb venue for English football’s most important events. Although the atmosphere is not always bouncing for the national teams games against lesser opponents and meaningless friendlies, for the big games it can create a great sound, as shown in a number of recent cup finals.
16 Donbass Arena - (FC Shakhtar Donetsk, Ukraine)
Another national stadium, the Donbass Arena is the home of the Ukrainian national football team, as well as Ukrainian side FC Shakhtar Donetsk. Ukraine played two of their three group games there in the 2012 European Championships which they co-hosted with Poland. The Ukrainian fans created a quite incredible atmosphere on each occasion, despite losing both games. Meanwhile, Shakhtar create an equally immense atmosphere for their games against bitter rivals Dynamo Kiev, although both sides joined together in protest of the recent 2014 Ukrainian revolution. Sadly, the Donbass Arena was badly damaged during a clash between Ukrainian forces and Russian separatists and Shakhtar have been forced to play their recent games in Lviv.
15 Amsterdam ArenA - (Ajax, Netherlands)
The home of AFC Ajax, the most successful team in the Netherlands, the Amsterdam Arena is a unique venue. The stadium has a capacity of 53,346 and hosts a number of the Netherlands national team matches. Opened in 1996, it has played host to number of major sporting events, including the 1998 Champions League final, the Euro 2000 semi-final and the 2013 Europa League final. Ajax have two major supporter groups, ‘F-Side’ and ‘VAK410’ and a generally fanatical support at home games. Ajax have over 7 million supporters worldwide and boast an average attendance in excess of 50,000 fans.
14 Azadi Stadium - (Esteghlal, Persepolis, Iran)
The Azadi Stadium in Iran is one of the biggest soccer stadiums in the world and although its current capacity is 95,225, it held over 128,000 spectators for Iran’s 1998 World Cup qualifier against Australia. Although Iran are not a particularly strong force on the international stage, having never gotten past the first hurdle at a World Cup, they still have an incredible support for their team. Not only do their fans turn up in tremendous numbers, they also back their team vocally and passionately. Unfortunately, as of 2015, the Iranian government restricts Iranian women from attending the stadium.
13 De Kuip - (Feyenoord)
Feyenoord fans are well-known throughout Europe as having some of the most loyal supporters in the game. Feyenoord fans are collectively known as ‘Het Legioen’ and the club symbolically never award a player the number 12 shirt but instead reserve that squad number for their fans. Unfortunately, the Feyenoord supporters have a long record of issues with hooliganism, which flared up once more this year as the team played away in Rome in the Europa League and vandalized the historic city. One cannot deny the terrific noise they generate at De Kuip though, most notably when they play Ajax in the heated rivalry which is known as ‘De Klassieker’ or ‘The Classic’ in Holland.
12 Stade Mohamed V - (Raja Casablanca, Morocco)
The Stade Mohamed V is the home of both the Morocco national team and local team Raja Casablanca. The stadium’s capacity has fluctuated greatly over the years, but currently stands at 67,000. The Raja Casablanca fans were voted as the third best Ultras in the world in 2014 and create a memorable atmosphere every time their team takes to the field. This impressive atmosphere is carried from club football into Morocco’s international fixtures, when the Stade Mohamed V is often filled to capacity.
11 Estadio Centenario - (Uruguay)
The Estadio Centenario is one of the most historic and famous stadiums in soccer history. It is listed as one of FIFA’s world classic stadiums and is the only stadium FIFA have ever declared as a historical monument. Built for the 1930 World Cup hosted by Uruguay, it is one of the most noted cases of a stadium becoming a fortress for a national team and the Uruguayans' record at the Centenario is really quite extraordinary. In a nation of less than 3.5 million people, Uruguay’s soccer pedigree is phenomenal and the reason behind it is often cited as their unparalleled passion for the game, which is certainly reflected in the stands of the Centenario. In bygone years, they could squeeze 93,000 spectators into the stadium but these days the capacity is capped at a still impressive 76,609.
10 Stadio San Paolo - (Napoli)
The atmosphere generated by Napoli fans at the Stadio San Paolo has been commented on by players, fans and pundits the world over. Yaya Toure described the stadium as having “something magical, different” and Napoli fans of having a special relationship with their club, “like the one between a mother and a son”. The atmosphere at the San Paolo is accentuated by the club's rivalries with almost half the teams in Serie A. At one time the Stadio San Paolo, formerly the home of Diego Maradona, held 109,824 spectators, but is today restricted to 60,240.
9 Celtic Park - (Celtic FC)
The quality of the SPL may have declined in recent years but the support of Celtic most certainly has not. Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta have both given high praise of the Hoops faithful. Messi once said “I’ve been fortunate to play in some great stadiums in Europe with Barcelona but none compare to Celtic.” It is certainly true that Celtic fans, particularly for European games, create a quite incredible atmosphere. The best atmosphere found at Celtic Park used to be at the Old Firm clashes with fierce rivals Rangers, but the multiple forced relegations of Rangers have been much to the detriment not just of the rivalry, but also of the league and its competitiveness.
8 Estadio Azteca (Club America, Mexico)
The Estadio Azteca is a quite incredible stadium which is steeped in history and has been blessed with more legendary soccer moments than any other perhaps. Two World Cup finals, the Hand of God, the Goal of the Century and the Game of the Century. It is the largest soccer-specific stadium in the world, with a capacity of 105,064, although it has held around 120,000 previously. The Azteca is the home of both the Mexican National Team and Club America, the most successful team in Mexico. Club America are both the most popular and most hated team in Mexico, with a huge support which has seen them record the eighth highest club attendance in soccer history. When full, the Estadio Azteca creates a fantastic atmosphere.
7 Stadion Poljud - (Hajduk Split)
The revolutionary Stadion Poljud was one of the first major stadiums to be built with a sea-shell like roof structure, which many subsequent stadiums have adopted, but Poljud remains one of the most striking and beautiful in soccer. Down from its former capacity of 62,000 to a more modest 35,000, the quite extraordinary atmosphere at the Stadion Poljud is unwavering. ‘Torcida Split’ as they are known, are the supporters of Hajduk Split. They are one of the oldest supporter groups in the world and still the largest in Southeastern Europe. Split fans are renowned for their passion and vocal support, as well as their intense rivalries, most notably today with Dinamo Zagreb which is known as the ‘Eternal Derby’.
6 Maracanã Stadium - (Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo and Vasco da Gama, Brazil)
The Maracanã is one of the most famous stadia in the game, and for good reason too. Not only is it the historical home of the greatest soccer nation of all time, it also creates an immense atmosphere which has seen Brazil become formidable on home soil. Strangely enough, the most high-profile game Brazil ever played there, the 1950 World Cup final, was a stunning and unexpected defeat to Uruguay which sent the country into shock and the usually impressive atmosphere was incredibly subdued on that occasion. The stadium was built for that World Cup and saw attendances estimated to be well in excess of 200,000 for the tournament, although today the Maracanã is limited to hold 78,838, in rather more comfort it should be said. Major local teams Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo and Vasco da Gama have all made the stadium their home and created exceptional volume there.
5 Red Star Stadium - (Red Star Belgrade)
The Red Star Stadium, home of Serbian giants Red Star Belgrade, has one of the most impressive atmosphere’s in world soccer. Almost half of the Serbian population support Red Star, making them by far the most supported team in the country. They won the European Cup in 1991 but have failed to qualify for the group stages of the competition, now called the Champions League, ever since. The acoustics at the Red Star Stadium are outstanding and the 55,000 Delije certainly make the most of it. Renowned for their use of flags, banners, colorful displays and use of pyrotechnics, they create both a vocally and visually stunning display on a matchday.
4 Türk Telekom Arena - (Galatasaray)
The Telekom Arena became the new home of Galatasaray in 2011 and there were fears the club could lose the formidable atmosphere their former ground had become renowned for. Such fears were put to bed relatively early. The immensely impressive 52,652 stadium has brought the Turkish giants into the 21st century whilst maintaining the incredible atmosphere that the club are so well-known for. Ryan Giggs described the experience simply, stating “I’ve never experienced anything like Galatasaray.” The club hold the official record for the loudest crowd roar at a soccer stadium, set in 2011 at their new ground. Galatasaray enjoy particularly impressive atmospheres for European games and clashes with their two Istanbul rivals; Fenerbahce and Besiktas.
3 Polish Army Stadium - (Legia Warsaw)
The historic Polish Army Stadium is no longer owned by the Polish Army but rather the city of Warsaw. Home side Legia Warsaw are regarded as the best supporters in Poland and some of the most fanatical in all of the world. Occasionally tainted by outbreaks of violence, hooliganism and far-right activists, when not tarred with this disgrace, they are some of the finest fans in the world who create a simply incredible atmosphere in a relatively modest 31,103 capacity stadium. They have a historic rivalry with fellow Warsaw-based side Polonia Warsaw which is currently tied exactly with 29 wins for either side and 20 draws.
2 La Bombonera - (Boca Juniors)
One of the most iconic stadiums in the world is fittingly and unsurprisingly home to one of the greatest soccer teams in the sports history. Boca Juniors have an incredible historical pedigree, they are one of the best supported and most successful teams of all-time and have been playing at La Bombonera for the last 75 years. The stadium has a distinctive and unusual design which has not only made it instantly recognizable but also given the stadium's remarkable acoustics. Currently with a capacity of 49,000, the supporters steeply surround the stadium, making for a wall of sound almost all the way around the stadium.
1 Westfalenstadion - (Boruissa Dortmund)
The home of German giants Borussia Dortmund, the Westfalenstadion currently has the best atmosphere in world soccer. Dortmund fans are quite incredible in terms of numbers, passion and sheer volume. Helped by on-field success over the last few years, Dortmund have firmly established their reputation as one of the best supported teams in Europe. With a capacity of 80,720, Dortmund currently have an average attendance of 80,297, a remarkable 99.6% capacity average, meaning Dortmund have the highest average attendance in world soccer. Not only are the numbers superb, so too is the noise they make; with almost 25,000 standing supporters and a south terrace nicknamed the ‘Yellow Wall’.
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