Many modern football stadiums may be mind bending accomplishments of futuristic architectural ingenuity, with retractable pitches and roofs and even the ability to be built in the shape of a massive crocodile, but they can also be soulless, clinical voids, where comfort and luxury are prioritised over atmosphere and intimidation.
So step forward Red Star Belgrade and their Rajko Mitić Stadium.
The stadium, also known as the Marakana, has been Red Star’s home since 1963 and, if the video circulating online of the tunnel which leads the players out to the pitch is anything to go by, it hasn’t seen even the slightest lick of paint during that 55 year period.
The Red-Whites’ home, which hosted the finals of the 1973 European Cup and 1976 European Championships, is reportedly due to be reconstructed in the coming years, with the club putting out a public call last month, inviting design companies to submit their interest in undertaking the project. However, until then, the tunnel that greets visiting teams is about as inviting as the one Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro navigate their way through in Sicario.
Tonight, Red Star will play host to Napoli in their opening Champions League group game and, while the Neapolitans may pride themselves on feeling at home inside a hellish, gladiatorial arena, with their San Paolo stadium boasting one of the most hostile atmospheres in Europe, Carlo Ancelotti’s will surely have seldom experienced anything like the entrance to the Marakana, before.
Napoli players will have to walk down this tunnel onto Red Star Belgrade’s ground, Rajko Mitić Stadium, tomorrow in their UCL group stage opener.
This is no joke….?? pic.twitter.com/6hDjEgCFR2
— Matthew Santangelo (@Matt_Santangelo) September 17, 2018
Just look at it. It’s like a dystopian nightmare come to life, all concrete, graffiti and nausea inducing strip lighting, crushed underneath a deafening cacophony of vitriolic chants and explosives.
The above video was filmed ahead of an ‘Eternal Derby’ between Red Star and Partizan, widely credited with being one of the most hostile, violent derbies in world football. And, while the hatred Red Star’s Delije Ultras will greet Napoli with tonight will pale in comparison to what they usually reserve for Partizan,the Partenopei will still likely yearn for the warm embrace of their own ageing, adrenaline fuelled amphitheatre when they step into the Marakana tunnel, tonight.