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Official Review by Jason Marquitz, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Stadiums gain mystique for varying reasons. Age, size, location, and memorable moments in history all play a factor in determining the legacy of a sporting venue. Not often is a stadium recognized for being special for all of these reasons. Estadio Azteca is truly a special venue and one that you simply must visit.
This stadium can induce trepidation in visiting supporters if not visiting teams. The speed at which your jaw hits the floor upon entering this giant will instantly make these reactions understandable. No matter what criteria you use to assess the Azteca, it will always rise to the top.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There isn't much to speak of inside of the stadium. Large bags of chips and chip-like snacks are plentiful along with peanuts, popcorn, and the like. Canasta tacos, pizza, and ramen are available but not recommended.
There is no shortage of vendors on the whole, however. The majority of those are beer and soft drink sellers. Both are reasonably priced and always available, even as the end of the game is approaching. As a bonus, the large volumes of beer can make the food items more acceptable.
If you are visiting Mexico City, it's always advisable to hydrate well due to the effects of the altitude. If you are attending a match at the Azteca, it's near mandatory before going inside. Finding a vendor who has water available inside the stadium is roughly equivalent to spotting the Loch Ness Monster. It's rumored to be there, but no one can tell you exactly where.
As with most stadiums in Mexico, the best food available is directly outside the gates. The lines of taco and torta stands lining the entranceways are your best bet to meet your hunger needs. Going with the stand with the most turnover is usually good for a myriad of reasons.
The Azteca imposes its atmosphere upon the audience no matter the weight of the match taking place. From the average league game to a crucial World Cup qualifier, the strength and historical significance of the stadium is ever-present.
The size of a stadium can play an important factor in the general atmosphere of the viewing experience. Just being part of a massive crowd can instill a feeling like few others. Yet, some stadiums are just size. Sometimes, huge capacity just sends viewers further away from the action and more reliant on video screens.
Azteca possesses not only great size (capacity 105,000 ... reduced from 114,500 previously) but also the ability to give the entire audience the ability to feel completely engaged with the crowd as a whole, in unison. The stadium has three tiers that become more vertical as they get higher. The lower layers have a multitude of sections at expected raises in ticket price (depending on proximity to the center). The top tier is completely general admission, with one of the ends reserved for visiting supporters during club matches.
Ticket prices range from about 1,200 pesos to 170 pesos (apprx. $95 to $13). You can't really go wrong with any of these choices. The general admission tier at the top will give you a borderline blimp-cam perspective, but is also incredibly cheap.
The Azteca is nicknamed the Colossus on Saint Ursula for its overwhelming size and its location. The neighborhood of Santa Ursula is not known for anything other than the stadium. Located in the far southern part of sprawling Mexico City, the stadium is far removed from the highlights of the city. The surrounding areas are mostly residential and not worth exploring.
At a reasonable distance by car or train is the neighborhood of Xochimilco. The area is known for its floating gardens and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A ride on the canals in the unique and colorful boats is worth the trip if you have the time.
Whether attending to see the Mexican National Team (El Tri) or Club America play, the fan base will be one of utter commitment. Club America is arguably the most popular club team in Mexico and is proud of their wide-ranging, national support. The stadium won't fill out for every club match, but the several rivalry games will often produce great crowds.
The majority of fans for club matches are accommodating for visiting supporters. Seeing couples with differing jerseys is a common occurrence and to be expected in a capital city.
Now, when Mexico/El Tri plays, the dynamic is a little different. Fans are out to support their country and their beloved team. Visiting supporters are not given the same courtesies. If you find yourself in this situation, it's probably advisable to temper exuberance in your support of the opposition.
Estadio Azteca, while still technically in Mexico City, is far from the city center. Getting to the stadium, while not complicated, can be time consuming. Mexico City traffic is notorious for a reason. If travelling by car or taxi, allot plenty of time for traffic as crossing the majority of the city can be ugly. This is even more severe if the match is scheduled for a weeknight.
Metro travel is fairly simple and easily accessible. However, game days can make for some incredibly congested train cars. The metro line (line two) that runs the furthest south is a highly used metro line during the afternoons. To reach the stadium, you must take a light rail train at the end of line two. The light rail train requires the purchase of a separate ticket, although it carries the same price (3 pesos). This train is an absolute debacle on game days. It can't accommodate the volumes of people using the service. The ticket counter for the light rail train can resemble a mosh pit and the train is not much better. While being much more expensive, it may be a good idea to take a taxi to the stadium from the final metro stop and avoid this train; the light rail train is not for the light of heart. The train stops just outside of the stadium, but the ride will undoubtedly be unpleasant.
With the most expensive general tickets being less than 100 dollars, the bargain of this stadium experience is inherent. Witnessing El Tri play in their home stadium of Estadio Azteca is a sports experience like no other. Being able to do so at such a relatively low cost makes it even better.
The stadium offers regular tours nearly every day. They cost 80 pesos (about six dollars), and tickets can be obtained on site. This tour is well worth the time. A large gift shop for Club America gear is also on the grounds.
Estadio Azteca is the only stadium in the world that has hosted two World Cup finals. The 1970 and 1986 World Cups are two of the most memorable for some of the amazing displays and games that ensued. Three of the most renowned moments and matches in World Cup history took place in this stadium. The 1970 World Cup semifinal between Italy and West Germany is often referenced as the greatest match of all time. Italy won 4-3 after extra time. The most amazing part of this is that the regular ninety minutes ended in a 1-1 draw. The final of that World Cup didn't disappoint either. It saw Pele's Brazil take down Italy to claim the trophy in a match that was loved for the Brazilian artistry displayed.
The 1986 World Cup final also took place in the Azteca with Argentina defeating West Germany. One of the more lasting moments of that World Cup came from the quarterfinal match-up between Argentina and England. Diego Maradona's (in)famous "hand of God" goal propelled the Argentines past England and in to the semifinals. Estadio Azteca was host to this match, as well.
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