Here goes. This is a big one. A big one for me personally. Every single time I hear the mention of Maradona, Norman Whiteside, Jose Batista, Joel Bats etc. I get inspired. The 1986 World Cup Finals in Mexico were my first major childhood memory. Northern Ireland qualified. We punched well above our weight, defying the odds by beating a Gheorghe Hagi Romania as well as a strong Finland and Turkey team, and we finished second in our group to qualify. Big Pat Jennings and Alan McDonald took my wee country of 1.6 million people to the World Cup in Mexico. Our second successive World Cup and I get goose pimples even now just thinking about it. Northern Ireland in the World’s top 24!!
Even better, in Espana 82 we almost made the semi finals, yes if Martin O’Neill’s goal had been given in the match against France, we may have gone on to win. In Mexico 86 we finished a respectable third in a group with Spain, Brazil and Algeria. Not bad at all!
Fast forward a notch then as I want to get this down on paper (or on internet) while I have the chance and the memory is fresh. I made yet another Maradona pilgrimage this week. Following my 2010 trip to La Bombonera in La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina, I decided it was time to hit one of the greatest football stadiums on the planet – Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
Why is Estadio Azteca Famous?
There are a few reasons – firstly it is one of only 2 stadiums to host the World Cup Final twice (the other is the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). Also the Brazil 1970 team won the World Cup here – including Pele. Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto. Maradona did his “Hand of God” and his “glory goal” here. Hugo Sanchez scored his goals in the 86 World Cup and also…Maradona lifted the World Cup here. The stadium is also home of Club America, the Mexican team.
Facts About the Estadio Azteca
– It hosted the 1970 World Cup Final: Italy 1-4 Brazil
– It hosted the 1986 World Cup Final: Argentina 3-2 West Germany
– It is the stadium where Maradona scored the “Hand of God” goal
– It is the largest football specific stadium in the world
– It holds 105,064 people
– Construction began in 1961 and it opened in 1966
– The stadium has held a total of 19 FIFA World Cup Finals matches, a record
– In 1999 Mexico beat Brazil 4-3 here to win the Confederations Cup
– Irish Rock Band U2 have also played here
How to get to Estadio Azteca?
Get on the metro in Mexico City and head to the southernmost station on the blue line – Tasquena. I was staying in the awesome Casa San Ildefonso so I got on at Zocalo and stayed all the way to the end. Tasquena is the final stop. Cost for a single journey is 5 Mexican Pesos (about 40 cents US).
From Tasquena, walk to the train station (it’s next to the metro station) and get the train headed for Xochimilco. Xochimilco is the final stop but you want to get off after 9 stops at Estadio Azteca station. Cost for a single journey is 3 Mexican Pesos (about 30 cents US) however you’ll need a card to buy a ticket and the card costs 8 Mexican Pesos, but can be re-used.
Board the train and get off at Estadio Azteca and turn right when you get off – over the bridge. You can’t miss the stadium in all honesty!
You can also get a bus there. Head to Plaza San Miguel and as you face to the front of the main church, the street on the right, San Geronimo Street has mini-buses which head straight to Estadio Azteca.
Arrival at Estadio Azteca
Once you arrive at Estadio Azteca head for Entrance Number 1/Puerta 1. This will have a security gate entrance and when you walk up to it just say you are here for a tour. You don’t need to book tours in advance and you should plan it by checking the times and schedules. For example on a Club America match day there will be no tours of course.
Times of the Tours of Estadio Azteca
The tours of Estadio Azteca are on everyday except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. They run from 10 am to 5pm Monday to Friday and from 10 am to 1 pm on Sundays. Match days should also be avoided.
Price of the tours of Estadio Azteca
It’s a flat rate of 70 Mexican Pesos per person. You get issued with a ticket and are given a full guided tour of the stadium. The tour will be held in Spanish and one guy can translate for you. You buy your ticket at the entrance and office.
The Start of the Tour
The tour starts in a small cafe/restaurant, the highlight here is the Maradona Hand of God bronze statue!
Plaques Outside the Stadium
We then are told the history of the stadium, which was built and opened in the 1960s. Plaques marking the stadiums’ greatest games are outside. I take the opportunity to get a photo by the Mexico 86 plaque, as Northern Ireland qualified for the World Cup that year.
Wall of Fame
The “wall of fame” shows every club and country that has played at this stadium as well as the dates. Scotland, Celtic, England and Sheffield Wednesday are among the British teams who have played here. No Northern Irish, Welsh or Iris team features on the wall and I notice a glaring error – Penarol, from Uruguay (who I used to go to watch when I studied in Montevideo) are down as Paraguayan!
Dressing Room and Tunnel
We are told no pictures in the actual dressing room and we respect this but we walk down through the tunnel on route.
Pitchside – The “Hand of God end”
This is the best bit. I stand on the pitch at the end where Maradona scored the Hand of God goal and I glance down at where I reckon the exact spot was. We are then told you’re not actually allowed on the pitch and I can understand why – it’s in pristine immaculate condition and is one of the best turfs I’ve seen, maybe the best.
Pitchside – by the half way line
We then walk round to the half way line for more photos and views.
We are in the stand now enjoying the views of the pitch. We yell and scream and you can hear the vibration and echoes all over the stadium.
After that we go back out to where the tour began and that’s it over. The whole tour must have lasted about an hour and a half.
All in all this was an incredible tour and I loved Mexico City so hopefully more posts to follow! Here are the videos I made at Estadio Azteca:
Maradona’s two gaols v. England in Mexico 86:
1986 World Cup Final – West Germany 2-3 Argentina:
1970 World Cup Final – Brazil 4-1 Italy: