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Official Review by Jason Marquitz, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Stadiums that get up in there in years often get by with their mystique and charm. They may not have the finest amenities or have the most comfortable of seating, but the feeling the history inspires goes a long way. Opening in 1954, Estadio Nemesio Diez, home to Deportivo Toluca FC, certainly qualifies as a historic locale with plenty of charm, but it hardly rests on those laurels. With seating for 27,000 spectators, the stadium isn’t the largest in Mexico nor the most renowned, but it’s hard to beat the viewing experience. It carries the nickname, La Bombanera, much like the famous stadium of Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires. While not carrying the same kind of luster as its Argentine cousin, the Mexican La Bombanera is simply a great place to watch a soccer match.
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This stadium's food options are pretty similar to most stadiums in the top division in Mexico. The average fare of chips, peanuts, the traditional pepitorias (crunchy wafers), and Pizza Hut personal pizzas are easily accessible from the passing vendors. There are also a scarce number of vendors who have a few specialty items like small plates of enchiladas, but by the looks of these items they are probably best to be avoided. The ideal place for food would be the line of food stands immediately outside and surrounding the stadium. Large groups of spectators will be gathered at these stands before and after the match. Various types of tacos, assorted grilled items, and regional specialties could be found in this area. It's a true meritocracy out there, so find the stands that are doing good business.
It may be a smart thing to hydrate before entering the stadium. While beer and soft drink vendors are plentiful, water is scarce. The good news is that all items inside and outside the stadium are very reasonable priced. Most food items are in the two dollar range (25 pesos) while massive cups of beer are about four dollars (50 pesos).
Nemesio Diez gives off a lot of the feel of the traditional English football grounds. It is small, compact, and the general shape and structure seem right out of Burnley or Leicester rather than anywhere in Mexico.
The greatest attribute this stadium possesses is the proximity of the playing surface to the seating. The stands start about six feet from the touch lines and about fifteen feet from the end lines. With the seats starting so near to the field, no matter where you are sitting you feel incredibly close to the action.
The two sides of the field offer nearly identical views, but the difference in their names Shadow and Shadow Preferred indicate the slight differences. On the Preferred side of the field, the seats are designated on the ticket and the seats have backs. On the other side, there are two support beams that could create some obstructed views. The seats are bleacher style without backs and general admission, so it pays to get there a little early. There is a small section at midfield on the Shadow side that has seatbacks and requires specific tickets.
The west end of the stadium is known as the General Sun area. Its name correctly implies what you will be enjoying (exposed to) during the match. As most home matches in Toluca begin at noon on Sundays, there will be plenty of it to experience. This is the only seating in the stadium that is not covered. Most of this section is reserved for supporters groups and the tickets are hard to come by. The east end of the stadium is covered and offers a cheaper seat than those along the sidelines.
With the early afternoon setting for the majority of the matches, the crowd outside the stadium is fairly subdued. The temporary food stalls encircling the stadiums are clearly the thing to be doing pre- and post-game.
The stadium is located near the historic center of Toluca. Within walking distance are several interesting architectural landmarks that comprise the city center.
The Toluca crowd is definitely one of true supporters. They come out in numbers no matter the quality of their opponent or Toluca's place in the standings. I've seen this crowd when they are getting manhandled by their opponent and when they are routing their competition. They are a committed group of fans that always show up (not necessarily on time... but still).
Many fans truly embrace the team moniker, Los Diablos Rojos (The Red Devils). There are no shortage of devil costumes and accessories among the crowd. One man I witnessed on several occasions works as a pseudo- bandleader and cheerleader sporting a three foot tall plaster devil mask. It's an impressive feat of determination.
Nemesio Diez is located directly in downtown Toluca. It is exceptionally easy to get to from outside of the city as it's located along a major route through the city center. It is about an hour drive from Mexico City to the stadium. With its location there aren't expansive parking lots surrounding the stadium. However, it is not difficult to find small parking lots within a two or three block radius. These are inexpensive (around $1/hour) and reasonably secure. A large portion of the attendees of the match travel by foot or bus, therefore there are no major traffic issues around the stadium.
For the excellent viewing experience of watching a match in this environment, a trip to the Nemesio Diez is definitely worthwhile. Ticket prices vary based on the competition, but are generally pretty reasonable. The best value is the general admission seats on the sideline. They offer roughly the same viewing experience as the designated seats on the opposite side of the field at about half the price. If you are attending a match that features one of the Mexico City teams you will likely pay a bit more for your ticket, but the added atmosphere that comes with a large influx of visiting fans may just make it worth the extra pesos.
The team hall of fame is located on the premises and is open for visitors around normal match times. Toluca has ten league championships which ties them for second in Mexican soccer with Club America (Chivas of Guadalajara have eleven). Hence, their hall of fame has an impressive display of hardware to go along with the normal assortment of memorabilia.
Another thing that separates this stadium from the average is its history in international soccer. Twice, Nemesio Diez was host to World Cups. Mexico hosted the World Cup in 1970 and 1986. While not a great memory for Mexicans, the stadium hosted the quarterfinal between Italy and the home country in 1970 that saw Mexico out of the tournament.
The free program or match guide handed out just after entering the stadium is one of the more impressive I've seen. It's visually attractive and doubles as a team poster, but it is also full of team and league statistics that are thorough and interesting.
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