Al Janoub Stadium
The Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, a city south of Qatari capital Doha, will host matches from the group stages to the Round of 16. It can accommodate 40,000 spectators. Image Credit: Supplied

Football stadiums are like gladiator arenas. The violence and brutality may not be on the same scale, but the action is no less riveting. Here’s where heroes are minted and tales of victory and defeat scripted. Deafening roars, collective sighs, incessant chants and pin-drop silence reflect the emotions that swell in these grounds. Emotions that indicate the state of play. Emotions that lift players to peaks of excellence. Which is why a football stadium is not limited to just the action on the pitch. The stands and spectators are as integral as the players on the turf, making it a complete footballing experience.

Remember Maracana in Rio de Janiero, the stadium where Uruguay broke the hearts of Brazilians in the 1950 World Cup final. The defeat wounded the pride and psyche of Brazil so badly that the game is known as ‘the Maracanazo’ (Maracana Blow) in reference to the stadium. The stadium became part of footballing lore.

Maracana is Brazil’s lingering pain. Much like England’s everlasting joy at Wembley, when they won their only World Cup in 1966. But Wembley is more than that. It’s the home of modern football — a hallowed turf in the land of Wimbledon (tennis), Aintree (steeplechase), Silverstone (F1 racing) and British Open golf.

For a football fan, a visit to Paris is incomplete without taking in the ambience of Parc de Princes, the home of Paris St. Germain that dates back to 1897. Barcelona’s Nou Camp and Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu showcase the best of Spanish football and attracts hordes of tourists. Don’t forget the high-altitude Azteca, where 100,000 screaming fans make it a fortress for Mexico. Then there’s Allianz Arena in Germany, San Siro in Italy, and much more.

Iconic stadiums of the world

These are stadiums rich in football history. A history rife with high-octane contests that remain seared in public memory. Every time a World Cup comes around, these games and the passions are relived. The weight of history will be missed at the World Cup Qatar 2022.

That’s because Qatar is a young nation; it won independence from Britain in 1971. But the passion for football burns bright in Qatar, like in other Gulf countries. In a country with an indigenous population of less than 3 million, football games in Qatar are well attended by vocal supporters. The Fifa World Youth Championship in 1995 gave a fillip to the game in the country, with the international stadiums later becoming homes of local football clubs. And football in Qatar grew in leaps and bounds.

The fire of ambition brought the Fifa World Cup to Qatar, which will be the first Arab country to host the world’s biggest sporting spectacle. It’s also the first in the Middle East and the third country in Asia, behind South Korea and Japan.

Qatar rose to the challenge and built or renovated several stadiums with an eye on sustainability. The eight World Cup stadiums are designed to be iconic and will go down in history. They await the football gladiators.

The World Cup venues of Qatar