World Football's 15 Most Hostile Stadiums and Venues
What comes to mind you think of the term home-field advantage? To some clubs it is just a saying and a hopeful truth, while to others it is a true existence as their stadium and their fans have a profound effect on the opposition.
To say that football is a game that brings out the full passion of its fans in an understatement in many different categories. While a stadium can be imposing for the opposition, it is the atmosphere that a club's fans provide in their cauldron of support that truly has a means of giving their beloved players a boost like no other.
In the end, it comes down to the atmosphere that is invoked when the fans are in full voice and the moment is the most intense. That is when the magic of home-field advantage is truly realized and becomes a reality.
Some venues, however, take home-field advantage to another level, as it can truly be a hostile place for the opposition to enter no matter if it is a rivalry game or not. That level of intimidation for the away team has led us to take a look at the most hostile stadiums in the world of football today.
Britannia Stadium: Stoke City
The loudest fans in all of the English Premier League and possibly all of Britain take up shop at Stoke City's Britannia Stadium. Known as City's 12th Man, the Potters faithful have turned their 27,000-plus capacity stadium into a cauldron of noise.
Their home record since coming to the Premier League has helped them guarantee their staying power in the middle of the table. With a combined record of 27 wins, 15 draws and 15 losses, their total points haul from home games has been 96. Stoke's home performances have kept the club away from relegation since winning promotion in 2008.
That kind of atmosphere at home has ensured that Stoke are becoming a mainstay in the English topflight, and the fans of the Britannia have used their massive influence to allow the Potters to defeat high profile clubs like Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal over the course of the last few seasons.
Britannia also helped fuel them to the first FA Cup Final for the Potters in their history.
The Marakana, or Red Star Stadium: Red Star Belgrade
For over 50 years, Red Star Belgrade's Stadion FK Crvena Zvezda, more commonly known as the Marakana, has been one of the most hostile environments for opposing teams to walk into.
Since since opening its doors in 1963, over 50,000 fans have poured into the stadium each week to cheer on the once-Yugoslavian and now-Serbian club.
It has witnessed 19 league championships for the club through three different national competitions, 18 national cups through three different national competitions and has seen the the Balkans' all-time greatest club all the way through to the 1990-91 European Championship.
One of the most hostile environments that an opposing team could enter will soon close its doors, as the New Red Star Stadium is currently under construction and will hold an additional 15,000 raucous Red Star Ultras.
Stadion Miejski: Wisła Kraków
Wisła Kraków will return to the UEFA Champions League this season after another fine finish in the Polish Ekstraklasa. The White Star will be accompanied by their imposing Stadion Miejski, a venue which has had a magical affect on many that have been to the stadium.
It is also linked with the reputation as being one of the most deadliest venues in the world of football today. The club's intense rivalry, dubbed the "Holy War," with fellow Krakow club Cracovia has seen one of the highest totals of football-related deaths in recent history.
That reputation has earned the entire city to be called "The City of Knives." The football fans are no joke in Poland, and thus it can be one truly hostile place to be for club and fan alike.
De Kuip: Feyenoord Rotterdam
You would think enough is said by the youngster above.
The home stadium of the Netherlands' Feyenoord Rotterdam, De Kuip is right up there with the most hostile in the world.
The loudest fans in the Dutch Eredivisie are also known for their bad side, as rival club Ajax lost the life of a fan to a mob during a rivalry match in 1997.
One of the most famous pieces of work from the official fan club was the use of fog machines during a match to provide an ominous mist throughout the pitch.
There is not an experience in the Dutch game that can rival the effect that De Kuip has on the opposition.
Toumba Stadium: PAOK FC
Super League Greece club PAOK FC's Toumba Stadium in Thesseloniki is infamous for its hostile atmosphere. The notorious Gate 4 is home to some of the club's most impassioned supporters. They have been behind their club every step of the way in the last few seasons, as they seek to topple the dominance of Greece's big three of Olympiakos, Panathinaikos and AEK Athens.
Nearly every match is accompanied by red flares, the passing of the large PAOK Jersey dedicated to the raucous fans and more hostility than most opposition can handle. The fans let themselves be known, with the West Side Hools and the PAOK Salonica Hooligans perhaps the most famous sets of fans that reside at Gate 4.
This area of the stands is the heart of the PAOK atmosphere, and they bring the fight to any team or person that stands between them and their love of their club.
All of these elements combine to allow the attribution of the Toumba Stadium as "Black Hell."
St. James' Park: Newcastle United
The largest stadium in Northern England belongs to Newcastle United. The Toon Army provide perhaps one of the greatest home field atmospheres in the English game, as over 50,000 fans live for one thing only, United Football.
St. James' Park was a fortress for the Magpies during their run at the top, when the likes of Alan Shearer were in their prime and on their ride to greatness.
Although the club is just now attempting to rebuild their foothold on the top half of the Premier League, it is no doubt that their cathedral will be the backbone to their success. It truly is an imposing place for all that step onto the pitch.
Glasgow Rangers fan have a unique reputation for their fans' famous Blue Noise. A 2003 article by Guardian columnist Michael Walker captured the Ibrox effect like few others during a 2003-04 Champions League Group Stage match against Stuttgart with one simple quote from Henning Berg:
"I will never forget this."
Walker described it as a game where the fans literally made the stadium shake and was known all over as the camera bounced for those watching at home.
This intimidating stadium has helped Rangers to a record 54 league championships, a record not bettered by any club in the world. With that kind of fan support, it is a tough night for any visitors that make their way to the Ibrox district of Glasgow.
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium: Real Madrid
Real Madrid's cauldron is known as the Santiago Bernabeu, and it has been the home of Madrid's most storied club since 1947. In the last five years, they have only lost 11 total league games when playing in front of the 80,000-plus fans urging the Blancos on to victory.
The photo above shows where the fans broke the goal posts during a 1998 Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund, which caused the match to be delayed for a replacement to be brought in from the training ground.
Most recently, the fans provided one of their most hostile displays when arch rivals Barcelona came to town during the first leg of the Champions League Semi-Final match between the two. It was such an outstanding display of hostility that the club officials had to ask the fans to take it down a notch.
What they really were saying was, "Keep up the good work, guys. We just have to say this to keep UEFA and the pundits off our backs."
Stadio Giuseppe Meazza (San Siro): Inter and AC Milan
"The one thing that's so amazing is that for the first 15 minutes I was feeling in shock, really in shock, because the atmosphere was unbelievable.
"That, coupled with the noise when they scored, it certainly unnerved me, and it unnerved my players.
"No matter how much experience you've got, you get into that cauldron of noise, and the response it had from the Milan players, and you're in there.
"So to get through that really did take a lot of courage. Our back four had to compose themselves, that was the most important thing.
"After that they settled, got very composed and got back to their normal game, and the result was different because of that.
"The San Siro has been a bit of a hoodoo for us, but you've got to remember that AC Milan have a fantastic history.
"So it's no shame to not win there because they've always had a fantastic team, and the atmosphere there was absolutely fantastic. It was a great atmosphere."
Sir Alex is not the only one to have experienced the rocking crowds of Northern Italy, as many players have experienced having flares thrown at them from the stands.
AC Milan's fans seem to have the more hostile reputation than those of Inter Milan, but both provide a magnificent home field advantage for their club.
Westfalenstadion (Signal Iduna Park): Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund's 80,000-plus capacity Signal Iduna Park is famous for the Wall of Yellow. Its 25,000-seat south grandstand is the largest in the world. It is also known for its safe terracing approach to allow additional fans to pack into the stands.
It is considered to have one of the best atmospheres in all of European football, and the fans offer quite a boost to their boys. The current Bundesliga Champions have used their home field to full advantage as they have only lost four league fixtures in the last three seasons at home.
The Dortmund Roar is known through out the land and is most impressive when the Ruhr region club take on their most heated rival, Schalke 04. Signul Iduna Park is perhaps Germany's most impressive and hostile stadium for any opposition to enter.
La Bombonera: Boca Juniors
The design of Argentine club Boca Junior's La Bombonera stadium attributes excellent accoustics. It is no wonder that the fans of the club have been called, "La Doce," the 12th man.
Its unusual fourth stand, which is nearly vertical, again adds to the effect of the hostile atmosphere of the stadium, as it will sway when the fans begin to jump in unison.
The rousing support of the fans is never at its height more than when Boca Juniors face their arch-rivals River Plate in the Superclásico.
Regardless of the match, it is almost always a packed house, as the Los Xeneizes are backed by their working-class fans to the death, and they always make it a difficult night for the opposition.
The Nou Camp: FC Barcelona
Barcelona's Nou Camp is the largest stadium in all of Europe, with just under 100,000 in total capacity. The stadium has been in the midst of remodeling since 2009, and will soon hold 104,000. The addition of a roof is sure to make the noise all the more deafening when the Catalan fans are in full voice.
You have to go back eight seasons before you can tally over ten losses at home in front of the Nou Camp faithful. The fans are known as one of the loudest crowds when their team is playing well. However, the great support can turn on the club and descend to a mere whistle when they are not on top of their game.
Still, it is hard to imagine a more hostile crowd than when Real Madrid come to town. The last run of Classico matches during the end of the 2011-12 season saw the two face each other in a flurry of games, and caused quite an uproar for fans at both venues.
With all that, the Nou Camp is no friend to any foe of Barcelona and most teams walk into the Nou Camp expecting a rousing crowd to pump up the volume and the atmosphere for the Blaugrana.
The Bhoys from Botany Bay deliver another of the most hostile atmospheres in the world of football. The Scottish club's version of "You'll Never Walk Alone" rivals that of Liverpool, as both clubs share an affinity to the Rogers and Hammerstein classic.
As one of the most historic clubs in Great Britain, Celtic Park sits in possibly the worst part of Glasgow, which intimidates rival fans from the start. There is no atmosphere like it in all of Scotland or in most of Europe.
Champions League ties bring out the most intense levels of fanaticism for outsiders, but there is no more hostile of a time than the Old Firm Derby when Rangers come cross town.
Anfield Road: Liverpool
Although it does not pack the punch it did in the 1980's and 1990's, Liverpool FC's Anfield Road is still one of the most hostile away environments that a team from the English League or Europe could face. The Red version of You'll Never Walk Alone greets the opposition just before kick off, as the fans' intensity reaches fever pitch just before the first moment of action.
Last season saw a revival of the Anfield fans, when a former legend and Kop icon Kenny Dalglish took over the club for the second time. The 1994 replacement of the Kop's standing room with seats took the level of intensity down a notch, but there is still no other Kop like Anfield's.
There is no more imposing stand in English football than the Anfield Kop and the Reds traditionally attack that end during the second half. Chants ring out in full voice for the players that are gods in the eyes of the mere mortal fans.
With an unflinching voice and will to win, the Anfield crowd at its best is known for producing some of the best and most intimidating nights in all of European football's history.
Ali Sami Yen Stadium: Galatasaray
It may have only held just under 26,000 fans, but Turkish club Galatasaray had the most hostile stadium in Europe until March of this year, when the old ground closed. English media brought this once little-known collection of euphoric fans to the world in the 1990's, as the Turkish club started to build a reputation in Europe.
Hours before kickofff, fans were already pouring into the stands screaming, yelling and jumping in unison to chants and signs of "Welcome to Hell." As televised games stunned audiences across Europe, the Ali Sami Yen Stadium became known as the one place you did not want to visit as an opposing club or fan.
Its location in Istanbul's roughest and toughest urban area, known as the Mecidiyekov, gave the club and its ground the complete and total intimidation package from one point to the next. Fans witnessed the club defeat Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona and AC Milan thanks to their fanatical fan base.
As the need for revenue increased with the clubs stature it was only a matter of time before the famous fans moved to a new home. That happened on in 2011 as the opened the new 50,000 plus capacity Turk Telekom Arena.
The new ground, however, is on its way back to building that famous atmosphere of intimidation. The crowd came it at a decibel level of 131.76, making them officially the loudest fans in the world.