The History of Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu: The Games, the Players, the Fans
Spain's second-largest stadium, the third-biggest in Europe and the home of Real Madrid: The Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Commissioned to be built in 1944, it was eventually completed in 1947 and originally named the Nuevo Estadio Chamartin—after the area of Spain's capital city where it was built.
The inaugural match at the stadium took place between Madrid and Portuguese side OS Beleneses on December 14 in 1947; Los Blancos won the match 3-1 with Sabino Barinaga becoming the first ever goal scorer at the ground.
Since then, history has poured from the ground which changed to its current name in 1955.
Perhaps the first major event to take place at the Bernabeu was the 1957 European Cup final when Madrid, during their run of five consecutive European successes, beat Fiorentina 2-0.
Santiago Bernabeu, 1957. pic.twitter.com/yThKZd9hdU— Football Pictures (@football_pict) April 10, 2013
One of the goal scorers on that occasion, Alfredo Di Stefano, remembers the visit of Benfica on their way that trophy, via FIFA.com:
I still remember what happened on an evening back in 1957, right after I'd scored against Benfica in a European Cup match. In the time it took to look up, the stands became awash with white, the fans were overcome with joy and thousands of white handkerchiefs were being waved in the air. What a sight!
It was also the venue for what, up until 2008, Spain fans thought may be their only international success—the 1964 European Championships final.
Spain were the host country and had managed to navigate through to the final where they found the Soviet Union, boasting the great Lev Yashin in goal, waiting for them.
In front of 100,000 fans packed inside the Bernabeu—the capacity these days is 85,454, although it's been as high as 125,000 in the past—La Roja maneuvered their way to a 2-1 win to be crowned as Europe's best.
It's not just memorable moments for Spain and Real Madrid which echo around the Bernabeu though.
AC Milan took apart the Ajax of Johan Cruyff in the 1969 European Cup final 4-1, Nottingham Forest famously beat Hamburg 1-0 there in 1980 and, as recently as 2010, Inter Milan, under Jose Mourinho, beat Bayern Munich 2-0.
And who could forget Marco Tardelli?
The Italian memorably put Italy 2-0 ahead against West Germany in the World Cup final in 1982, before wheeling away for a celebration which has gone down in football folklore—Italy eventually won 3-1.
Then comes the history produced in the European Cup, Copa del Rey and El Clasico moments.
From the dazzling Cruyff performance when Barcelona won 5-0 at the Bernabeu in the '70s and Ronaldinho's ovation from the Madrid fans more recently through to the Laudrup-inspired Madrid thumping Barca 5-0 in the mid-'90s.
European Cup semi-finals between the two Clasico participants in 1960, 2002 and 2011 have never failed to provide fireworks either.
It's not a ground which has always favoured Madrid either. They lost the Copa del Rey final—on the day of their centenary—in their home ground to Deportivo de la Coruna in 2002, while also losing the 2013 edition of the same cup to Atletico Madrid on their own patch.
The faces which fill the Bernabeu have been accustomed to great players as well as great matches down the years too.
From Alfredo Di Stefano—who scored four at the Bernabeu on his debut against Barcelona—and Ferenc Puskas right through to Emiliano Butragueno and into the Galactico era which has featured Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Iker Casillas, Raul, Luis Figo, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.
And finally there are the fans, who turn up in large numbers at the Santiago Bernabeu to welcome most new signings.
How big a signing would your club have to make to get you down to the stadium?
They're traditionally hard to please though, hungry for success, but that is hardly surprising considering all the glory and glamour they have witnessed in their famous stadium down the years.
Atmosphere is often cited as a problem, but it's a problem omnipresent at most big clubs with huge stadia—get yourself in there for an El Clasico encounter or a Champions League night, then judge the atmosphere.
Nicolas Anelka, a former Madrid player, must have played at nearly all of Europe's top stadiums, but he certainly remembers the Bernabeu above all, and that is down to the fans, via FIFA.com:
I've been fortunate enough to take the field at any number of stadiums, but the Bernabeu really takes your breath away. You can feel the history and the weight of the fans' expectations on your shoulders. When the crowd turns on you, it makes you want to get out of there as fast as you can. Those fans have seen it all and have every right to make their feelings known.
The wonderful thing is that the history doesn't end here.
Carlo Ancelotti and Real Madrid are currently seeking the fabled La Decima, while also looking to wrestle back the La Liga crown—history is being created every week at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
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