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The famous Santiago Bernabéu: World Cup flashback


The famous Santiago Bernabéu: World Cup flashback

Real Madrid will host Osasuna this Sunday at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Ahead of the game, we take a look back at the famous stadium’s history.


As an American, I have been extremely fortunate to have spent the last five years of my life living in Spain, and up until very recently, in Madrid. Madrid is a huge city with a lot to offer, but you’d be missing out if you lived there and never went to a game at the Santiago Bernabéu. It’s a spectacular stadium and the atmosphere is magnetic. There is even a belief that the stadium is actually magic.

“The magic of this stadium and its supporters is clear,” said Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. “It has given us energy, and it has killed our opponents.”

The Bernabéu has been around for 75 years and even hosted a World Cup final in 1982. By that point, the stadium had already become a well-known legend. Three European Cup finals and the 1964 Euros had all been played there. It was well-prepared to host the biggest game in soccer.

The World Cup final 1982: Italy vs West Germany at the Bernabéu

In 1982, Italy and West Germany faced off in the World Cup final in Madrid, Spain. The whole country turned green, white, and red. Giancarlo Seastianelli was one of the Italian fans in attendance at the Santiago Bernabéu on July 11, 1982.

“The day of the final, I believe that in Madrid there were…I don’t know, I don’t want to exaggerate, but it was the first time I saw an Italian Madrid,” said Sebastianelli.

In the stadium, 90,000 fans eagerly awaited the arrival of the 22 players in the grand arena. Italy’s center back, Fulvio Collovati, remembers what it meant to play in the Bernabéu stadium.

“The name itself, the Bernabéu, scares you to the bone. It sounds like the Devil,” said Collovati. “So you stepped on the field and did the sign of the cross because that stadium has an impact on you. It affects not only the 22 players on the field, but the fans, the referees…it affects everyone.”

And that effect was indeed being felt in the officials’ changing room. But the referee, Arnaldo Cézar Coelho was just relieved that Spain wasn’t the team playing in that stadium.

“It gets easier when the host team is not playing in the final,” said Coelho. “You referee a game between Germany and Italy in Madrid. Spain isn’t playing, so there is no home team. There is no pressure from the home team.”

“There is the pressure from both fans, but if the referee is affected by the pressure from the fans, he shouldn’t be on that field. He has to forget about the surroundings and focus on the game.”

At 8 p.m. local time, Coelho whistled the start of the game. 24 minutes later, he made a decision that could have changed the course of the game.

“In a World Cup final, a referee’s mistake is fatal because it goes down in history,” said Coelho. “At the beginning of the first half, I gave a penalty in favor of Italy, against Germany. Luckily, and I say luckily because the referee is lucky when the plater misses a penalty and a goal is not awarded. The game could have ended 1-0 with a penalty goal, and then they would discuss the penalty for life.”

“As the ball did not go in, there is no question as to whether the referee made the right call or not.”

In the end, Antonio Cabrini’s missed penalty didn’t cost Italy. They beat Germany 3-1 with goals from Paolo Rossi, Marco Tardelli, and Alessandro Altobelli.

“The image I and lots of Italians have is Tardelli’s goal,” said Sebastianelli. “That’s fury. Because I’ve seen goals scored, but never in my life have I seen a player enjoy a goal as much as that one. If you look at the pictures, it was brutal.”

40 years later, the Bernabéu is undergoing a huge renovation to modernize it to the 21st century. The construction should be completed by the start of 2023. The stadium has already seen a lot, but it’s about to witness even more magic.