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“Why is the Allianz Arena the world’s greatest football stadium?” asks the official website,  allianz-arena.com, boldly. As in Madrid or Barcelona, where the Santiago Bernabéu and the Camp Nou are two sporting temples to which pilgrims come from far and wide, in Munich there is another venue of great sporting deeds by one of the best teams on the planet, Bayern Munich. To quote the famous Uruguayan football writer, Eduardo Galeano, never mind who you support, why not be “a beggar for good football”. “I go around the world, cap in hand, and at each stadium I ask for a little good play, for the love of God. And when I see good football, I give thanks for the miracle, without caring what club or which country has offered it to me.”

And although miracles can occur at any time, on any pitch, at places like Munich’s Allianz Arena they are more common than elsewhere. Here, play becomes an art and there is history in the air. “Enjoy the atmosphere of the Allianz Arena from the viewpoint of a professional footballer by visiting the players’ areas and discover the exciting details of our unique structure,” says the website. The footballing tour of this exceptional work of architecture lasts about an hour. There are a number of options —individual or group entry, combined with the FC Bayern museum, a VIP tour— and prices vary accordingly. Once you begin, the guide takes you around the outside of the stadium and through several of the interior spaces, which may include the stands, the dressing rooms, the press section and the players’ tunnel, where stars like Ribery, Robben and Lewandowski line up to do their magic on the pitch.

How do you get to the Allianz Arena, a structure sometimes nicknamed the “rubber dinghy” or the “inflatable boat” because of its characteristic rounded silhouette? You can get to Werner-Heisenberg-Allee 25 in the north of the city by metro, car or bike. There, in the Fröttmaning district, you can see it a mile away. This stadium, whose first stone was put in place in 2002 by the legendary German footballer and current chairman of FC Bayern, Franz Beckenbauer, has been turning heads since 2005. If it looks impressive by day, by night it is truly superb, when the Arena’s envelope, with its three thousand unique rhomboidal plastic panels, lights up with brightly coloured illumination.

Surely some will remember this majestic football field, with its capacity for almost 80,000 spectators, from the World Cup in Germany, during which it was temporarily renamed —in order to avoid advertising— the FIFA World Cup Stadium Munich. Before the Allianz Arena’s completion in 2005, Bayern Munich used the city’s Olympic Stadium, but by the start of the 2005-06 season the club had moved to its new home, which it shared with the club TSV 1860 Munich until recently.   

There are many curious things to see and learn at the Allianz Arena, designed by the famous Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron. Yet, architecture aside, this is above all a site of sporting glories, as well as the occasional disappointment — this is football, after all—, and it is the shine of that glory that tourists seek here. Because when visitors come to Munich, apart from the Englischer Garten, the Marienplatz and other traditional spots in this Bavarian city, many make the trip to the Allianz Arena for the guided tour, and here they find another side to the Bavarian capital and its people, as well as one of its great passions. “I envy those who have the privilege to play in this stadium,” said Beckenbauer, as he opened it.

We could easily make a comparison with those who come to the Prado Museum in Madrid, but don’t forget the Bernabéu. Who see Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, and then visit the Camp Nou. Or who go to the Maracaná, or Wembley, La Bombonera, Wanda Metropolitano, the San Siro, Parc des Princes or Old Trafford… and so on and on. Because, as the Argentinean writer, Eduardo Sacheri, once said, “there are those who say that football bears no relation to the life of man, in its most essential things. I don’t know how much these people know about life. But I am sure about
one thing: they know nothing about football.”

Life; football. It is never too late. Travelling brings opportunities, to learn and enjoy from anything and everything. So, since Munich is waiting for us, how about discovering the enchantment of that chameleon among football grounds, the Allianz Arena? Where would you rank it among the world’s top stadiums?