Saturday, 13 April 2013

İnönü Stadium, Istanbul

A ten-minute walk from Taksim Square on the European side of the Bosphorus, the İnönü Stadium is home to the black and whites of Beşiktaş, Turkey's oldest football club. War-interrupted building work started in May 1939 and took eight years to complete, the pitch officially christened with a November 1947 friendly against AIK Stockholm. The only football stadium to overlook two continents, Pele once claimed it had the most beautiful view of any ground in the world. "I have never seen anything like it. The stadium was a pressure cooker and the people were possessed,”  Lisandro Lopez, Lyon's Argentinean forward, said after he played there for Porto.

Turkey's first modern stadium was extensively renovated in 2004, when the running track was removed and the capactity increased to 32,000.  Even so, with two of the İnönü's former tenants, Galatasaray and  Fenerbahçe, now attracting crowds of over fifty thousand at newly developed arenas, Beşiktaş have long been looking to  upgrade their own facilties. At the end of the current season, the club will groundshare while a 42,000 capacity stadium, modelled in part on Hamburg's Imtech Arena, is constructed on the site of the İnönü. As part of the €120 million project, the pitch will be lowered another nine metres, while the Eski Açık tribune, a protected national monument, will be covered in glass and preserved.

The ground, which was built on the stables of Dolmabahçe Palace, is easily reached on foot from Taksim or by a short uphill climb from the ferry landing and tram stop at Kabataş.  Alternatively, you can see its floodlights behind the minarets of Dolmabahçe from the deck of a tour boat:

Or the downhill, cross-continental view over the Bosphorus to Asia: