In football, there are often stadiums that are as famous as football clubs themselves. Some of the most famous in this regard are Old Trafford, Santiago Bernabeu, Camp Nou, among others. However, there is only one such iconic stadium that houses two European giants. The San Siro in Italy, home to both AC Milan and Inter.
😍 Stadio San Siro in Milan…
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) October 1, 2019
The longtime rivals have been sharing San Siro since 1947. Though there has been some infighting between the two sets of fans over a name change in the 1980s, San Siro remains the iconic brand.
As the news of San Siro’s demolition comes in, we take a look at the iconic venue, how it got its name, and why it remains a pillar of modern football.
Birth of San Siro
A new stadium was the vision realized of former AC Milan president Piero Pirelli. The Rossoneri were playing in the Viale Lombardia before this. In 1925, the heir to the Pirelli brand gave the green light for the construction of a stadium dedicated only to football. Pirelli was a big fan of English football himself so the new stadium was slated to have no athletics track around the pitch.
#OnThisDay in 1926 🔴🏟️⚫
San Siro was inaugurated. Our home now for almost 100 years 🤩
— AC Milan (@acmilan) September 19, 2021
This was the first instance of a stadium constructed from public funds that did not have a track. Pirelli funded the project himself which took 13 months to be completed, a record. The stadium was called San Siro due to the district of Milan being the same name.
However, its original name was Nuovo Stadio Calcistico San Siro meaning San Siro New Football Stadium. The first match at the new stadium was between AC Milan and Inter, with the latter running out 6-3 winners in front of 35,000 fans.
The San Siro stadium in Milan 1920 pic.twitter.com/iUi0LVEHN0
— VintageFooty (@VintageFooty) December 6, 2015
The ownership of the ground was handed over to the city council by Milan in 1935. Inter became tenants in 1947, moving from their old Arena Civica stadium. Since then, it has been shared by the two Milanese clubs. However, there has been some tension between the two sets of fans over a name change.
The San Siro-Giuseppe Meazza conundrum
In 1980, the San Siro was renamed Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, one year on from the former player’s death. Meazza is a legendary Italian footballer, having represented both Milanese clubs and winning two FIFA World Cups.
This still stands as the current official name of the stadium though not everyone is happy. That is because Meazza had much stronger bonds and recognition with the Nerazzurri than AC Milan.
In the late 1980s the stadium Giuseppe #Meazza (this is the official name of #SanSiro) was enlarged with an amazing work of engineering in order to be ready for the #worldCup #Italia90 #FIFAeWorldCup #Maradona #CopaMundial #continue 5) pic.twitter.com/YWUF6wxBRD
— milanoArte.net (@milanoarte) July 10, 2019
He made more than 400 appearances, winning three Serie A titles and one Coppa Italia. Moreover, Meazza also served as manager of Inter after retiring. All of this is in sharp contrast with just a two-year spell for AC Milan. Therefore, supporters of Inter have taken to the name like a duck to water.
However, the name San Siro has still stuck due to its worldwide fame, a sense of heritage and iconic teams that are a part of it.
The rich history of San Siro
San Siro has witnessed some of the biggest football tournaments. Three matches each of the 1934 World Cup and UEFA Euro of 1980 took place here. The stadium got its most sustained period of fame during the 1990 World Cup. San Siro served as the home stadium of West Germany, who defeated the Netherlands in the round-of-16.
— Lothar Matthäus (@LMatthaeus10) June 15, 2020
However, it has also served as the stadium where Italy’s most recent shame took place. The Azzurri played out a goalless draw against Sweden in the second leg of the 2018 World Cup playoffs.
That result, combined with a 1-0 defeat in Sweden in the first leg, meant Italy did not make the showpiece event in Russia. San Siro has also served as the site for one semi-final and the final of the 2021 UEFA Nations League, which France won.
This is how San Siro was on Nov 13th 2017, the day of Italy-Sweden 0-0. I was there. A magnificent stadium, full of passion, but a national team that left a country without the World Cup 2018. Today, we'll play to go to #Qatar2022. @Azzurri, FORZA 🇮🇹 #irlandadelnorditalia #Italia pic.twitter.com/PgYqYBGOW3
— Alex Milone (@AlexMilone) November 15, 2021
Moreover, the ground has also hosted four finals of the UEFA Champions League, including the 1965 edition which Inter won. However, a curtain is soon to set on the glory of San Siro.
San Siro stadium demolition
San Siro demolition is set to take place after the 2026 Winter Olympics. In its place, a new £1bn stadium, called “The Cathedral” will be built.
Construction of this new 60,000-seater stadium will begin in 2024 with a view to having it available for use at the start of the 2027-28 season.
AC Milan chief executive Ivan Gazidis said earlier that the decision to completely demolish San Siro was a difficult one. However, it was one they needed to take to maximise revenues.
Despite the capacity of “The Cathedral” being 20,000 less than San Siro’s 80,000, both Inter and AC Milan forecast an estimated 120m (£105m) in increased revenues from the stadium.
“I understand the doubts, because San Siro is a special place, but it’s necessary to have courage,” Gazidis told the club’s website.
“Feelings exist and cannot be questioned. The memories of San Siro will be there forever, no one will be able to erase them, it’s impossible.”
Italian football fans will hope that as the plans for the new stadium take shape, San Siro bears witness to a few more glory days in its twilight years.