There are plenty of stunning stadiums within the world of football, but there is only one considered to be the home of football. A stadium near and dear to the hearts of many that Pele himself named The Cathedral of Football: Wembley.
Often referred to as the Mecca of Football by fans, its iconic twin towers at the entrance were perhaps its most recognizable feature. From the Romanesque colosseum-style colonnades and Gothic arches, to the banqueting hall’s Art Deco theme, the original stadium had an almost regal air about it.
Intended to be as much a proud monument as a functional arena, no detail was spared in all its ornamental glory. With its home in the heart of football history in London, England, the original stadium was planned for completion in time to house the British Exhibition of 1924-1925. However, the project reached its conclusion early resulting in the FA World Cup Final being held there in 1923 just four days after construction ended.
It was estimated that nearly 300,000 fans rushed to attend the unticketed 1923 FA World Cup Final between the Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United, although the stadium was only designed for a capacity of 127,000. And thus began a fever for football fans around the world for the chance to watch the beautiful game at this highly revered venue. There are several stadiums with an international aura, but only two hold the mystique of being the most recognized ever: the Maracana and Wembley.
As iconic as the sport itself, Wembley makes for one of the most amazing viewing experiences for footballing fans around the world—a very special place for the English game and the FA Cup Final in particular. Rebuilt in 2007, admittedly Wembley Stadium has a different look and feel to it these days. Some go as far to say that the soul of the pitch has been lost forever, not the least of which was the removal of the towers upon redesign. Although there may be a modicum of truth that a bit of the magic is gone, as corporate culture takes over and football becomes more of an entertainment event as opposed to pure sporting contests, the memories of and affection for Wembley Stadium will always live on.
Wembley has been the home of the F.A. Cup Final for nearly a century and in those 100 or so years, fans from all over the world have been treated to some of English football’s most spectacular encounters. Before football was filmed in colour, the game was dominated by the likes of great players such as Stanley Matthews. The 1953 Final was arguably his greatest showing, to the point where the game is now known as the “Matthews Final.” This was a performance that was the perfect example of “never say die.” With Bolton up 3-1 and cruising towards jubilation, the future Sir Stanley rolled up his sleeves and was instrumental in helping his side to an incredible comeback victory.
This is hallowed ground that has played host to some of the biggest matches in the history of football. None more so memorable than the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final with England beating West Germany by four goals to two. It was then that the Three Lions gained global supremacy for the first and only time to date.
Wembley has served as home to English football’s most memorable Finals, but also to European club football showcasing legendary players, like Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta in 2011. For many, this Catalan outfit was the greatest club team to have ever been assembled. With manager Pep Guardiola overseeing their output, they would go on to live up to their mantle by beating Manchester United in the Champions League final. Games of such stature for both club and country are fleeting glimpses into Wembley’s illustrious history.
We can vividly remember watching the F.A. Cup Final on those spring Saturday afternoons from Wembley, with a sea of football fans split down the middle by opposing team colors. This was (for those of us not from England) our introduction to English football, to the art of pace, passion for the game and strength of the players. There really is nothing quite like it.
Wembley has seen the very best in the world take to its hallowed turf. Whether you are 8 or 80 years of age, live in London, Milan, New York, Paris or Rio, if you are a fan of football you fully appreciate the importance of this great fixture in football history.
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