Derby della Madonnina: AC Milan vs. Inter

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Exactly a month after the AC Milan vs. Inter derby was postponed, here we were with my 3 years old son, back on our journey to Milan to kick off properly our football derbies challenge. This was going to be an amazing 36 hours round trip, full of excitement, adrenaline and challenges. But before, I take you on a damp Wednesday evening at the San Siro, let me tell you about our journey to get there.

The journey

Arriverdverci London

5.30 am – Only had couple of hours sleep that I must wake up my son to dress him up. No easy feat I can tell you. 30min later, all dressed up and with our backpacks (he insisted in taking few toys in his own backpack!), we make our way to Gatwick Airport to take the

8.55 am – on board our flight to Milan Malpenza. We know well this airport from last month and it is really easy access to Milan. My son is fluey and I check the weather forecast, which is not looking good, heavy rain with thunderstorms. I curse my bad luck. I am worried that the game gets cancelled because of the thunderstorms (it has happened to me before) and I need my son to be on top form. Wisely I had taken my secret weapon…Calpol. Our flight leaves on time and 2 hours later we land in Milan with my son having slept all way through.

Buongiorno Milan

1.30 pm – we take the Malpenza Express at the airport train station that will take us straight to Cadorna Stazione. Commute: 40 min, 13 €. We then take a taxi to the hotel, another 40min and by 2.30pm we are finally lying on our hotel bed. Time to order some room service to get some ham and cheese toast. My son is not looking great I must say, a bit lethargic. Ok time to act. A wee bit of Calpol and a power nap I hope will do the trick. While he sleeps, I am checking how long it takes to get to the San Siro, 30min Google tells me. The game is at 6.30pm and I want to be at least an hour before kick off time. Therefore, I settle on leaving at 4.30pm.

On route to the San Siro

‘Madonna’ it rains like crazy. No umbrella, no rain jackets and the little one coughing like crazy, I can picture my wife complaining about taking him to a football game in his state. Sod it, I have not come all this way to give up. Another injection of Calpol will do the trick and give him enough energy to last the game! I order a Uber from the hotel and an immaculate Mercedes e Class comes to collect us. I am loving the comfort. And boy did we need it. Traffic jam after traffic jam. Our driver re-assures me that we will be on time but I can see the clock ticking along and us not moving. I check Google map and we are still 40 min walk away from San Siro. Normally I would have got us walking, but in my son’s state no way and it is absolutely pouring outside. Now I am getting a little bit stressed. 1h30 min later I can see the San Siro, phew I can breathe but by now it is 6pm. i decide to do the last few 100 meters walking.

Soaking the atmosphere

6 pm – Well the only thing soaking here is us. Soaking wet that is. Every fans are running to the gates and as we are about to do the same, my son tells me he wants to eat. S****! By the time I get him a hot dog I will have missed the warm up. Never mind, you need to have your priorities right (up to now you may doubt my ability to do so, I don’t blame you). We got to the food stand in front of the gate and order a nice hot dog. Eat in or take away he asks me. I am thinking, do I look to be wanting to eat it outside? I rush to Gate 7 and lucky for us, the rain has calmed down and very little queue.

Entering the San Siro

6.15pm – The security guy asks to see both my tickets and IDs. ‘Come again’ is my response. I have not taken any passports, why would I. Well it turns out that you have to at the San Siro. Now I panick. 2 trips to Milan, few quids out of my pocket, a tired son, you have got to be kidding me. Lucky for me, I have my driving licence but my son…by then the queue started to get longer and the game being minutes away, few home fans put him under pressure to let us pass. I just heared ‘bambini’, which I assume was, ‘he is a small kid what damage can he do!’ He gives me a smile and says ‘next time…’. Yeah right, no time to listen I am now rushing to the stairs. Another security check. This time, no issues.

This is what it is all about

We make the long journey to the top in about 5min (10 stair cases to go up). We arrive and both look at each others and wow, the magic happens. 80,000 fans shouting and getting ready for a gladiators fight. The noise is from a different planet, with over 100 decibels. This is the equivalent of a Boeing 707 taking off. Each end suddenly explodes ten minutes before kick off into huge, perfectly choreographed displays of banners. The whole vibrant spectacle is down to the dedicated work of hundreds of members of the much-aligned ultras. I get straight onto the camera and starts recording both ‘curvas’. Curva Sur for the AC Milan kop and Curva Norte for the Inter kop. We are seating next to curva norte. AC Milan kop deployed an amazing tifo and Franco Baresi comes and lay flowers in memory of the late Ray Wilkins. Nice touch.

The game and the fans

The first interesting fact is that the fans mix themselves, in the same way they would do in the Merseyside derby. It is all in good spirit, no fights, no intimidation. Even close to the away fans nothing gets thrown. I was surprised as it was coined as one of the most violent derbies in world football. Other interesting fact is that people smoke, and not just cigarettes. Some cultural habits cannot go away that easy. Also, if you are relatively tall like me (1.80m), your knees will be in the person in front of you. This arena was clearly made to be standing up.

The game itself is not great. Italian football has never been my cup of tea but they are easily the 5th best league in European football nation right now. We get to experience two goals but both ruled out after VAR. The noise when the goals are scored is indescribable. You get goose pumps. I know now why my cousin told me he could not hear his team mates when he played at the San Siro vs. AC Milan. I could not hear my son talk to me! The sound reverberation is phenomenal.

The first 45min flew by. At half time my son tells me he is cold. I am in trouble now. I tell him 15min more min, then 5 and then promise him some treats at the hotel. This works until the 70th minute but then we make our way out. This is the longest he has been able to stay at a game and I am pleased with what we experienced.

I bought him a friendship scarf on our way out so that we can start decorating his room…well try to before his mother notices it!

VAR

I was not planning on discussing it but then it occurred twice during the game, and as a fan I feel compelled to give my opinion on the subject.

I love the fact that we can give a fairer outcome to our game. I really do. I embrace goal line technology for example and I hate Platini’s idea of 5 referees, which is pointless. But I must agree with Pochettino. VAR kills the atmosphere and the essence of what a football game is all about. When Inter score the first goal, there were amazing celebrations at their end for few seconds and a barrage of abuse at the other end. But rapidly, the speaker and score board annouced VAR and the whole stadium quieten down. 5min later (truly 5min) he cancelled the goal, which was the right decision. At this point AC Milan fans erupted. But in between, the away fans did not know whether to celebrate and the away fans did not know whether to shout and vent their anger. We were in limbos. I agree with Pochettino that VAR is a bad idea. Unlike goal line technology, which is instant, VAR delays the output and by default kills the adrenaline of the moment. Until they can decide on the validity of a goal in a split of a second, I would rather the referee give a bad decision and be the talking point the next day but at least it would keep the emotions high within the stadium.

Our way back to the city centre

In one word, nightmare! I am looking for a taxi as it is raining a lot and get straight onto my Uber app. It tells me 5min. Fantastic. Issue, the taxi is not coming to the right location and after 15min of making me go up and down various avenues, cancel my trip. Ouch, the stadium is starting to empty itself and I make my way to the metro M5 (easiest way to San Siro and back to Milan). I can’t be bothered being jam packed so I keep asking Uber for a taxi. It is always the same one that comes back. Luckily, this time he comes to the right place. 30min later we are at the hotel, ordering room service and reflecting on what has been an extraordinary day.

Journey back home

9am – we go and get our breakfast and order a taxi to take us to the train station. We arrive at the airport just before noon and then fly back to London and arrive at home at 4pm. My son is delighted to see all is toys again and I am delighted with our trip. Before going to sleep it tells me ‘I enjoyed travelling with you dad and going to the game’. I did not need anymore to know that the next journey, will be another amazing adventure.

Costs

Flights: £150
Hotel: £100/night (for four)
Trains: £25
Taxi: £150 (for four days). To go to San Siro (£30 each way)
Food: £10/pers per meal
Match ticket: £130 viagogo

The overall experience

City accommodation: 10/10
Transport: 10/10
City history: 10/10 (a lot of history, museums)
Football atmosphere in the city: 2/10 (you don’t feel it is a derby day)
Football atmosphere in the stadium: 10/10
Insecurity: 10/10 (never felt in danger)
Quality of football: 4/10
Costs: 6/10

Overall: 7.75/10

Conclusion

The whole purpose of this challenge was to educate my son and myself on discovering a new city, new culture, new history with an amazing football experience. For a first I must say that we go both and I can’t wait for the second adventure when the new football season starts. And please, remember that you can support our challenge by giving what you can and want to our selected charity, which is Football Beyond Borders.

Ciao.

Benoit Mercier

Wembley Stadium Tour

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Wow it has been ages since I last did a stadium tour with my son. 8 months to be precise. It is amazing how little time you have with your second child. Now, my wife tells me that she is inviting her NCC friends for my daughter’s first birthday. The brief was concise, find something else to do with your son whilst I have a blast with my girlfriends. I didn’t need much before planning my next trip. I asked my son if he wanted to go to Wembley and within seconds of his positive response we were on our way up the M25.

Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium is a football stadium in Wembley, London, England, which opened in 2007, on the site of the original Wembley Stadium, which was demolished from 2002–2003. The stadium hosts major football matches including home matches of the England national football team, and the FA Cup Final. The stadium is also the temporary home of Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur while White Hart Lane is being demolished and their new stadium is being constructed.

Wembley Stadium is owned by the governing body of English football, the Football Association(the FA), through its subsidiary Wembley National Stadium Ltd (WNSL). The FA headquarters are in the stadium. With 90,000 seats, it is the largest football stadium in England, the largest stadium in the UK and the second-largest stadium in Europe. Designed by Populous and Foster and Partners, it includes a partially retractable roof and the 134-metre-high (440 ft) Wembley Arch. The stadium was built by Australian firm Multiplex at a cost of £798 million (£1.09 billion today).

In addition to England home games and the FA Cup final, the stadium also hosts other major games in English football, including the season-opening FA Community Shield, the League Cup final, the FA Cup semi-finals, the Football League Trophy, the Football League play-offs, the FA Trophy, the FA Vase and the National League play-offs. A UEFA category four stadium, Wembley hosted the 2011 and 2013 UEFA Champions League Finals, and will host both the semi-finals and final of UEFA Euro 2020. The stadium hosted the Gold medal matches at the 2012 Olympic Games football tournament. The stadium also hosts rugby league’s Challenge Cup final, NFL London Games and music concerts.

I did my first stadium tour in 96 and I must say that to date it will remain one of the most magical one in my life. I remember seeing the twin towers, the wooden blue sits and its sand pits. I also remember walking onto the pitch it what was the most beautiful stadium of all. What a mess the FA have done with the new design. Look at the below with the twin towers and its unique lightening system. I blame the idiots at the FA, the stupidity of English Heritage and brent council for this monumental cock up. Do you know how the twin towers were destroyed? Fittingly by Germans like on the pitch! The Twin Towers were the last structure of Wembley to be demolished. Preliminary demolition work started in December 2002 with the concrete crowns being removed from the top of the flagpoles. The towers were demolished in 2003 by a large Liebherr 974 crawler excavator referred to as “Goliath”, made in Germany specifically for the task. The original foundations of Watkin’s Tower were rediscovered during the demolition. The top of one of the towers was moved to be installed as a memorial at St Raphael’s Estate.

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Architects

Wembley was designed by architects Foster + Partners and Populous (formally HOK Sport) and with engineers Mott Stadium Consortium, who were a collection of three structural engineering consultants in the form of Mott MacDonald, Sinclair Knight Merzand Aurecon. The design of the building services was carried out by Mott MacDonald. The construction of the stadium was managed by Australian company Multiplex and funded by Sport England, WNSL (Wembley National Stadium Limited), the Football Association, the Department for Culture Media and Sport and the London Development Agency. It is one of the most expensive stadia ever built at a cost of £798 million, and has the largest roof-covered seating capacity in the world. Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners was appointed to assist Wembley National Stadium Limited in preparing the scheme for a new stadium and to obtain planning and listed building permission for the development. 

The all-seater stadium is a bowl design with a capacity of 90,000, protected from the elements by a sliding roof that does not completely enclose it. It can also be adapted as an athletic stadium by erecting a temporary platform over the lowest tier of seating. The stadium’s signature feature is a circular section lattice arch of 7 m (23 ft) internal diameter with a 315 m (1,033 ft) span, erected some 22° off true, and rising to 133 m (436 ft). It supports all the weight of the north roof and 60% of the weight of the retractable roof on the southern side. The archway is the world’s longest unsupported roof structure.

A “platform system” has been designed to convert the stadium for athletics use, but its use would decrease the stadium’s capacity to approximately 60,000. No athletics events (track and field) have taken place at the stadium, and none are scheduled. The conversion for athletics use was a condition of part of the lottery funding the stadium received, but to convert it would take weeks of work and cost millions of pounds.

Interesting facts about Wembley

  • The stadium contains 2,618 toilets, more than any other venue in the world. The guide was proud of this fact!
  • The stadium has a circumference of 1 km (0.62 mi).
  • The bowl volume is listed at 1,139,100 m3 (1,489,900 cu yd), somewhat smaller than the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, but with a greater seating capacity.
  • At its peak, there were more than 3,500 construction workers on site.
  • 4,000 separate piles form the foundations of the new stadium, the deepest of which is 35 m (115 ft).
  • There are 56 km (35 mi) of heavy-duty power cables in the stadium.
  • 90,000 m3 (120,000 cu yd) of concrete and 23,000 tonnes (25,000 short tons) of steel were used in the construction of the new stadium.
  • The total length of the escalators is 400 metres (14 mi).
  • The arch has a cross-sectional diameter greater than that of a cross-channel Eurostar train

Stadium Tour

Make your way on the iconic Wembley Way and behind Bobby Moore’s statute, you will find the entrance to the stadium tour. Collect your pass and you wait in the cafe. In the cafe you can admire the original FA Cup, World cup Jules Rimet’s trophy. Suspended at the top is the cross bar that Geoff Hearst so famously thrashed whilst scoring a hat trick against West Germany in 1966.

The guide picks you up and shows you a replay of that famous goal. He then asks you the question whether it crossed the line and all say yes apart from two Germans that ask for goal line technology.

We then make our way into the stands to enjoy the view. The guide asks you to shout ‘goal’ and you can hear your voice going round the stadium. The corporate boxes’s windows around the stadium were built at a 5 degree angle in order for the noise to reverberate. The very enthusiast guide then explains that the pitch is 98% natural grass with 2% injected with artificial fibres to keep it immaculate. The roof is retractable in three places west, east and north to protect fans from the rain.

We then make our way to the press conference room. Very spacious but to my displeasure full of Tottenham branding material (grrr). Nothing against Spurs but when you go to see your national stadium you expect all to be about England.

Now, we make our way to the dressing rooms. 4 in total and of equal size. There isn’t a home or away dressing room like at club level. In fact there are small but luxurious. Because Wembley is used a lot for the NFL, an NFL team made up of 53 players, take two dressing rooms (offensive and defensive) and they have to take the doors down so that they can communicate.

Onto the pitch and my son is leading the line (too right future England captain) and his first word when he sees the pitch with the background noise is ‘wow’. It is all worth it.

We then take the famous steps to the Royal box where you get your picture taken with the original FA Cup (£10). As any good tour you finish next to the megastore.

A good tour with a nice guide but the Spurs branding diminishes the magic and yes I really miss the twin towers, the wooden seats and the sand. You must move on with your time many will say, I say sod it bring the magic back!

http://www.wembleystadium.com/Wembley-Tours.aspx

Cost:  £20 adult and £12 under 16. Free for under 5’s
Stadium architecture: 7/10
Stadium history: 4/10 (not the ground that would get 10 but the new wembley hasn’t see much yet)
Stadium tour: 7/10
Overall mark: 6/10

Benoit Mercier

Real Madrid Stadium Tour

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Well after a well deserved summer break, it is time to start again our journey to visiting as many football stadiums as possible. This time our journey takes us to Real Madrid, #1 football club in the world. Why Real Madrid some of you may ask. Simple, I am on a well deserved holiday in Malaga, South Spain, and agreed with my wife to do the 500km journey to Madrid to visit the famous Santiago Bernabeu. She is a Saint or can’t be bothered talking memoit of it.

Real Madrid

Founded in 1902 as Madrid Football Club, the team has traditionally worn a white home kit since inception. The word Real is Spanish for Royal and was bestowed to the club by King Alfonso XIII in 1920 together with the royal crown in the emblem. The team has played its home matches in the 85,454-capacity Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in downtown Madrid since 1947. Unlike most European sporting entities, Real Madrid’s members (socios) have owned and operated the club throughout its history.

In domestic football, the club has won a record 32 La Liga titles, 19 Copa del Rey, nine Supercopa de España, a Copa Eva Duarte, and a Copa de la Liga.[14] In international football, the club has won a record 11 European Cup/UEFA Champions League titles, a joint record three Intercontinental Cups, two UEFA Cups, three UEFA Super Cups and a FIFA Club World Cup.

Santiago Bernabeu stadium

The Santiago Bernabeu stadium is located in the district of Chamartín of Madrid. It occupies the block bounded by the Paseo de la Castellana and the streets of Concha Espina, Padre Damián, and Rafael Salgado. Nearest subway station is Santiago Bernabéu on the Line 10.

On 22 June 1944, the Banco Mercantil e Industrial bank granted a credit to Santiago Bernabéu and Rafael Salgado for the purchase of the land adjacent to the old Ramin Amin. On 5 September 1944, architects Manuel Muñoz Monasterio and Luis Alemany Soler were hired and the structure on the site began to give way to the new stadium. On 27 October 1944, construction work on the stadium began.

The Nuevo Estadio Chamartín (English: New Chamartín Stadium) was inaugurated on 14 December 1947 with a match between Real Madrid and the Portuguese side Os Belenenses, which resulted in a 3–1 victory for Los Blancos.[3] The stadium had an initial capacity of 75,145 spectators, 27,645 of which had seats (7,125 covered) and 47,500 for standing fans. Sabino Barinaga was the first player to score in the new stadium.

The first major renovation occurred in 1955. On 19 June of that year, the stadium expanded to accommodate 125,000 spectators. Thus, the Madrid coliseum became the biggest stadium of all the participants of the newly established European Cup.

On 4 January 1955, after the General Assembly of Members Compromisaros, it was decided that the stadium adopt its present name in honour of club President Santiago Bernabéu.

In May 1957, Real Madrid used electric stadium lighting in a game against Sport Recife of Brazil.

Following a series of spectator fatalities in the 1980’s (most notably the Heysel Stadium in Belgium and the Hillsborough Stadium in England), English authorities released the Taylor Report on how to improve football spectator safety in English venues. UEFA followed suit across Europe. The stadium was forced to create separate shortcuts to different stadium sections and seats for all spectators. In the 1990s, the Santiago Bernabéu went through a large expansion and remodeling. The board of Ramón Mendoza awarded the project to Gines Navarro Construcciones, S.A.

As a club representing the rich and the powerful of Spain, Real Madrid has a very demanding clientele.[4] When Florentino Pérez became the president of the club, he launched a “master plan” with one goal: to improve the comfort of the Santiago Bernabéu and the quality of its facilities, and maximise revenue for the stadium.

Pérez invested €127 million in five years (2001–2006) by adding an expansion to the east side of the stadium, as well adding a new façade on Father Damien street, new costumes, new boxes and VIP areas, a new stage in honour of the east side, a new press area (also located on the east side), a new audio system, new bars, integration of heating in the stands, panoramic lifts, new restaurants, escalators in the tower access, and implementation of the multipurpose building in Father Damien street.

The stadium Tour

Well on a sunny Tuesday morning off we went and got the metro, line 10, that took us directly to Santiago Bernabeu. I must say that I was unsure how my son would behave as he is in the middle of his terrible twos. As you arrive in front of the Bernabeu, you must make your way towards gate 7, tower B, which is on the left handside when facing the stadium. There you can buy your tickets. You should know that the basic stadium tour is self guided. In this respect, it is very much the same concept than Arsenal. However, you can get a guide, but it will cost you an extortionate 170 € to do so.

Once this is done you go to tower C and go through two checks of airport style security. This time I did not take the pram but you can do so. However, if there are some lifts, it is not completely pram friendly so be prepared to do some lifting.

We got to the top of the stadium and there we had an amazing view. If from the outside it looks old and kind of ugly (looks like a block of concrete), inside it is an ansolute gem. Quite similar to Old Trafford. Unlike many European stadiums, you are quite close to the pitch and you have a good view right at the top. Time to take few pictures and we make our way towards the museum. You have some amazing pieces of history and shed lots of videos on huge screens (10m long!), I want the same at home :). You get to see all 10 Champions League trophies. Wait a minute have they not won there 11th “La Undecima” this year against local rivals Athletico Madrid? Of course but they keep it for the end where you get to take a picture with it for 11 € small format or double for big format. I must say that it is a must to have your pocture taken with the “Big Ears” cup for any football fan. I can now say that I got to touch the original Champions League Cup (also great money maker).

You then get to mid tier level and it is the first time you can access the stands. At that point the sun is shinning nicely and you can enjoy a panoramic view (see picture at the top). You also can eat a bite and drink in the concourse, which is always handy to keep a 2 years old happy. The pitch is immacualte and younhave those UV lights on where there is no sun. Unfortunately, no guide to tell me how much it cost but can only be in the range of £1m to £5m.

You then make your way to pitch level. I must say that it is impressive. You feel really close to the pitch. I can imagine how much pressure the players are under when the crowd is turning on them. Having played at Old Trafford, I should add Santiago Bernabeu to my bucket list. We make our way to the bench. Well you call it bench, I call it 5 stars luxury seats. The issue of having a self guided tour is that there is no regulation of the flow of people and therefore you have a real bottle neck in key areas, such as pitch side. However, I managed to get my son squeezed in one of the seats and take a picture. I told him not to get too comfy as his place should be on the pitch.

We did not stay too long there for obvious reasons and made our way down the small tunnel that the players take (10 steps down from the pitch). Same principle than Anfield for those who have been there. We make our way up to the home dressing room (alongside the metal fence that seperates the home and visitors players in the tunnel that again you can see on tv). Shame there is no guide as I would have loved to know why they decided to put such a fence (what event caused that to happen – a feisty el clasico?).

The home dressing room is of average size. Now some of you will be highly interestednin knowing where the best player on the planet seats. Here you go:

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Each locker is personalised. It is quite a confined area with two indoor bicycles, showers, pool, and 1 toilet (can’t be having more than one player with a stomach bug, unless you do like Robbie Savage and use the ref’s one).

The final part of the tour is the press room. Way bigger than Villa but much smaller than Man City. There you can take your picture and the desks are basic wooden tables (they did retain a bit of the working class football essence!).

As any good stadium tour you finish it in the megastore and of course you buy your champions league picture (how can you not!)

This concluded an excellent day out and one I would strongly recommend to do.

Official information regarding the stadium tour:

http://www.realmadrid.com/en/tickets/bernabeu-tour

Cost: 20 € adult
Stadium architecture: 10/10
Stadium history: 10/10
Stadium Tour: 6/10 (at least with Arsenal you had headphones explaining some history)
Overall mark: 9/10

Benoit Mercier

World of football gone mad

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I have read this morning that United was ready to pay £125m to secure Pogba’s services for the next 5 years, of which 20% will go directly in the player’s pocket. Have they gone mad? I love football but these sums are disrespectful to the fans. The average fan earns about £20k to £25k. Pays £40 on average for a ticket, which makes a working class sport more expensive than attending a play at the theatre. These huge sums of cash that the Clubs have, could easily cut the ticket prices to £5. The economics makes sense but one day I hope those at the top of the hierarchy, they will wake up and impose a transfer cap as well as basic salary cap, which would also help on the competitiveness of the league, stop buying foreign players and promote home nurtured players. People fell back in love with football last year when Leicester won it. Why? Not just because of their football but because they did so on the cheap (more realistic amount in my eyes anyway). Ranieri said few days ago that the big Clubs would kill them! Well force is to admit that he is right. And what an example does it set to these young lads. Drop out of school and play footie you could earn millions rather than study hard to secure a decent job that will never pay that much. These football players don’t deserve it but nor can they be hold accountable. If I was in Pogba’s shoes I would do the same. We always come back to the same point, people at the top need to regulate the sport and market. Utopia, this is where I wake up and look at the sums involved and all the corruption involved (disgusted just thinking about it). As a United fan I should rejoyce at the fact that a world class player is about to join us but the reality is, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The cynics would say that I would have to stop paying my Skysports and BT sports subscriptions and stop paying to go to the grounds. But why should I, when all I want to do is watch a good game of football. Instead I will go and play with my son in my local park at least it will feel like a real world to me.

Benoit Mercier

Visiting all 2015/16 Premier League clubs

I promised myself that if I had a son, I would go and visit every single stadium in England with him. At just under two, it is time for him to start getting the football fever. I also must admit that I love visiting stadia and understanding the history behind each Club.

Exactly 153 years ago, 12 representatives from a handful of amateur football clubs in and around London met in the Freemasons Arms pub in Covent Garden and decided to thrash out the first ever comprehensive set of rules for their fledgling game. After fierce and presumably alcohol-filled debate and a slew of heretical proposals such as players not being allowed to run with the ball and hacking of shins being actively discouraged, the modern game of football was born. The 12 went on to form the Football Association, the world’s oldest football governing body. But in the centuries that followed, western culture concentrated instead on the allegedly more enlightened architectural pursuits associated with building palaces and cathedrals. It was only after that fateful quorum in Covent Garden 150 years ago that the football stadium as we recognise it, was essentially born and exported, along with the “beautiful game” itself, from England to virtually every corner of the globe.

Therefore, you will find every so often on this blog a review on each Premier League club stadium tour.

Benoit Mercier