Our series about the CONMEBOL Sudamericana™ stadiums continues with the Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez Prádanos which is home to Chile. It’s located in Santiago de Chile, the capital, with the highest number of official seats of all stadiums in this country – 48,665. The stadium plot features not only the stadium in itself but a whole sporting complex with tennis courts, an aquatics center, a gym, a velodrome, a BMX circuit and an athletics track. No surprise that the quarter it’s located in is called “Villa Olímpica” (olympic village).
Construction started in February 1937 on former farmland that has been donated by a farmer back in the year 1918 and was finished in December 1938. It didn’t even take two full years to complete. The architectural model was the Olympiastadion in Berlin that has been erected just a year earlier for the Summer Olympics of 1936.
In 2003, the stadium was crowned a Historic Monument by the National Monument Council, and in 2008, the Estadio Nacional de Chile was officially renamed Estadio Nacional de Chile Julio Martínez Prádanos in honor of sports journalist Julio Martínez Prádanos, who died in January of that year.
The first-ever match played was on December 3rd of 1938 when the Chilean club Colo-Colo faced the Brazilian club São Cristóvão. 1948 is an important year as the stadium hosted the matches of the South American Championship of Champions. This led to the creation of the UEFA Champions League and the Copa Libertadores that are still loved today by the football fans.
1962 the FIFA World Cup took place at this venue. Brazil won their 2nd title as world champions. Notably, in the match for 3rd place, Chile defeated Yugoslavia 1–0 which to date is the team’s greatest success in international football. Another historic event took place during this World Cup – the so-called “Battle of Santiago”. Italy played against Chile and soon after the match started, violence took over. Two players needed to be sent off, punches were thrown and police needed to intervene four times. No wonder that Ken Aston, the referee of this match, afterwards invented the yellow and red card system.
The highest match attendance at Estadio Nacional to date is 85,268. However, this was some time ago, as it happened for a Primera Division match played on December 29, 1962, between Universidad de Chile and Universidad Catolica.
In 1973, Salvador Allende was ousted as president, with the junta regime taking over. The stadium soon would be used as a detention facility. Over 40,000 people have been imprisoned over time, with 7,000 concurrently and approx. 300 foreigners – just within two months of this practice, from September until December of that year. The stadium’s speaker system would be used by Pinochet to swear at the detainees.
Luckily, these times are over, and the venue may be used as a vibrant location for performing many types of sports events for the love of sports, and mainly football.