Though football is a sport which can be played anywhere, watching the beautiful game take place in a spectacular arena is a truly extraordinary sight.
Across the globe, thousands upon thousands of fans flock to all manner of different stadia on a regular basis to watch the game unfold, with each venue steeped in its own unique history. Over the years, football has offered up some truly remarkable arenas.
However, while the likes of the Maracana and the Nou Camp remain popular attractions for football lovers all over the world, some of the sport's best-loved stadia have been lost to time. From iconic English arenas to some of Europes' finest establishments, Daily Star Sport takes a closer look at some of the game's greatest ever stadiums that no longer exist.
These days, Arsenal play their home matches in the plush surroundings of the Emirates, but who can forget Highbury? Affectionately know as the "Home of Football", the North London arena was home to the Gunners from way back in 1913 up until 2006.
Over the years, Highbury's four stands witnessed some spectacular sights, not least Arsenal's remarkable 'Invincibles' season of 2003-04. The Gunners harboured hopes of expanding the stadium, however their attempts were continuously dashed by the local community, leading to an exit to the Emirates.
These days, a stunning property development sits where Highbury once stood, though much of the old structure remains in tact, including the main East Stand – now a protected building. Not only is the stadium synonymous with Arsenal, but it also hosted many international matches – for both England and in the 1948 Summer Olympics – as well as FA Cup semi-finals.
Opened in 1923, the Old Wembley is arguably one of football's greatest ever arenas. As well as being home to England's national team, finals for the FA Cup, League Cup, European Cup, European Championship and even the World Cup were all played in the shadow of the iconic twin towers – in addition to a whole host of other sporting events.
So revered was the Old Wembley that Brazilian legend Pele once branded the arena a "cathedral". The three-time World Cup winner once declared: "Wembley is the cathedral of football. It is the capital of football and it is the heart of football."
Demolished between 2002 and 2003, the stadium made way for the New Wembley, a 90,000 capacity revamp opened in 2007 which stands on the same site as its predecessor. Remarkably, the Old Wembley welcomed over 126,000 official spectators for the 1923 FA Cup final between Bolton Wonderers and West Ham, though the actual attendance is thought to have been well over double that.
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Home to Spanish side Atletico Madrid from 1966 up until 2017, the Vicente Calderon was originally known as the Estadio Manzanares before being renamed in honour of the club's long-standing president back in 1972. With a capacity of 54,907, the Vicente Calderon also staged 14 Copa del Rey finals as well as three matches at the 1982 World Cup.
One of the arena's most spectacular features was the M-30 dual carriageway, which ran from the South Node Toledo Bridge and passed below one of the main stands. Though it's now defunct, the Vicente Calderon was a thriller in its time, even playing host to a sold-out Michael Jackson concert in 1992 as part of his Dangerous World Tour.
These days, Atletico Madrid play their home games in the stunning Wanda Metropolitano. As for the Vincent Calderon? It was demolished to make way for a park. The grass isn't always greener.
White Hart Lane
Much like Wembley, White Hart Lane was another stadium demolished in order to make way for a modern replacement in the exact same location. Affectionately known as 'The Lane', the ground played host to a staggering 2,533 competitive Spurs games in its 118-year history.
The arena boasts a record attendance of just over 75,000, achieved during Tottenham's 1938 FA Cup tie with Sunderland. As seating requirements were introduced, they capacity was cut to 36,284, leading Spurs to embark on a project to construct the 62,00-seater state-of-the-art Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to match the North London club's lofty ambitions.
Spurs gave the arena a fitting send-off back in May of 2017, with a 2-1 win over Manchester United the final football match played at the Lane. During construction work on White Hart Lane's successor, Spurs temporarily played their games at another aforementioned arena: Wembley.
Otherwise known as Upton Park, the Boleyn Ground was home to West Ham from 1904 all the way up until as recently as 2016. Generations of Hammers fans enjoyed all manner of highs and lows during that 112 years before upping sticks and moving into the 60,000-seater London Stadium, formerly known as the Olympic Stadium.
By contrast, Upton Park housed just over 35,000 spectators. And the arena was packed to the rafters when West Ham gave their beloved ground a fitting send-off in May of 2016, toppling United 3-2 in euphoric scenes.
It wasn't just the Irons who spent time at the Boleyn Ground however, as London rivals Charlton were temporarily forced to occupy the arena back in the early 1990s amid financial turmoil. These days, the area is home to a housing development called Upton Gardens.
While the Starahov Stadium is technically still in existence, it is in fact listed as the world's largest defunct stadium. Opened in 1926 in the Strahov district of Prague, the arena housed an eye-popping 220,000 spectators in its pomp.
Built for synchronised gymnastics on an enormous scale, the field is three times as long and wide as a standard football pitch. When active, not only was the stadium the fourth largest sports venue in the world, but it also took the honour of being the largest stadium ever built.
The venue stopped being used for sporting events back in 2019, but still possesses ties to football. Czech outfit Sparta Prague currently use the facilities as a training centre – when it's not being used to host pop concerts, that is.
Long before Manchester City were bankrolled by Abu Dhabi billionaires and the Etihad was built, the club played their home matches at Maine Road in Moss Side. Active between the years of 1923 and 2003, the arena hosted all manner of important matches, including FA Cup semi-finals, Community Shield contests, a League Cup final and various England internationals.
Though there may well be more spectacular stadia on this list, Maine Road does in fact stake claim to the highest attendance for any English club in their usual home stadium. City's FA Cup sixth round clash with Stoke back in 1934 was played in front of an astonishing 84,569 people.
Due to various renovations over the course of its 80-year history, the stadium was of haphazard design and possessed stands of awkwardly differing heights. A lesser known fact about Maine Road is that it was also once home to City's fierce rivals United, who shared the ground with their bitter neighbours after the Second World War due to Old Trafford having sustained damaged during the Manchester Blitz.
White City Stadium
Built primarily to host the 1908 Summer Olympics, White City Stadium went on to host countless events from across the sporting spectrum. In addition to acting as the finish for the first modern marathon, the London-based stadium has also staged swimming, speedway, boxing, show jumping, athletics, stock car racing, concerts and a match at the 1966 World Cup.
With regards to its footballing ties, White City was twice occupied by Queens Park Rangers – firstly between 1931 to 1933 and latterly from 1962 to 1963 – before the Hoops settled on Loftus Road. The stadium was demolished in 1985 with White City Place now standing where the ground once was.
It isn't just the world of sport that once utilised the stadium. The speedway track surrounding the ground was used in various movies – including the iconic 'You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!' scene in The Italian Job.
Estadio das Antas
The third and longest occupied of Portuguese club FC Porto's four footballing homes, the impressive Estadio das Antas was in use from 1952 until 2004. As well as being a stadium, the establishment housed an indoor arena and three training grounds.
With Porto keen on a modern upgrade and Portugal elected to stage Euro 2004, the Estadio das Antas was subsequently demolished shortly after the millennium. It's replacement? The fearsome Estadio do Dragao.
Despite being destroyed 18 years ago, much of the site remains undeveloped. However, one solitary floodlight is still standing – perhaps acting as a beacon of hope that this once hallowed turf will one day be used again.
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