British journalist Ryan Herman still remembers the first football stadium he visited as a child in 1978 – the sights, sounds and, yes, the score.
Liverpool beat West Ham 2-0 that day at their home ground, Upton Park, but for Hermann, the experience was much more than a team victory. The stadium in east London has been demolished, but Hermann, standing on the terrace behind the goal, still gets a sense of wonder whenever he gets the chance to visit the new ground.
Considering the first game and many others, Hermann’s statement at the beginning of his new book, Remarkable Football Stadium, may surprise many fans currently watching the 2022 FIFA World Cup: Not in itself the funniest part of the story.
“It’s everything that’s going on around it,” Herman told CNN.
Aerial view of Monaco Stadium at sunrise from Monaco’s landmarks La Turbie, Monte Carlo, Cap Dail Port, Fontvieille Port, Ville de Monaco credit: stock photos
As he puts it in the book’s preface, “A race trip, going to a part of the world you’ve never been before (and probably never going to again), learning about its history, tasting the local beer . . . …and a post-match argument over a suspected offside” can be as captivating as any on-field highlight.
For many, this is known as “ground hopping” – traveling to football stadiums around the world to not only watch the game, but the location where it is played. It’s a subculture, Herman says, that “a small group of determined people” subscribe to, and in a sense he’s bringing it to the wider public through his book.
Herman doesn’t consider himself a groundhog, but his early career spanning multiple football teams took him to many fields. He stopped keeping score a long time ago, but it is estimated that he has been to more than 100 venues.
“I love the fact that football can be used as a way to go places that no one else goes,” says Herman. “Soccer Remarkable” takes readers to some of the most exciting places in the world to play the game. Amazing places, accompanied by vivid photos and details of each location that even the most devoted fans may not have heard of.
The boys watch the mountain village girls’ friendly match between FC Gspon and FC Saas in Göspen in the Swiss Alps. At about 2000 metres, the course can only be reached by a cable car carrying up to 10 people or a 45-minute walk. credit: stock photos
Herman hasn’t had the chance to visit all the sites mentioned in his book, but says researching it has been a fascinating journey in itself. With tales of eccentric club owners, political strife and surprising historical detail, he explores the high-tech architecture of modern stadiums and highlights the ways in which the stunningly beautiful – and sometimes unexpected – The hidden story behind the pitch found in the location.
Trogir, a historic city in Croatia credit: stock photos
Qatar vehemently denies the allegations, saying “the health, safety and dignity of all workers employed on our projects remain stable”. Officials also denied reports that workers who died during construction of the stadium – as many as 6,500 – according to a Guardian investigation – far exceeded the government tally of three work-related deaths.
Herman said it was important to include Qatar’s stadiums, given the importance of the event. But as well as discussing some of their architectural innovations — such as the exterior of the 974 Stadium, made of shipping containers, and the cooling system inside Al Janoub Stadium — his book touches on controversies over the treatment of workers and a skeptical view of the organizers ‘ Environmental Sustainability Claims.
In various places, Hermann refers to certain stages as temples or cathedrals. It’s an apt comparison, he said, given the loyalty many fans have to their teams, the wider sport and the venue where they play. Regular attendance at selected teams, as well as opportunities for players to be passionate, can be a form of worship, he said.
Aerial view of Eioi village with snow covered mountains, football field and dramatic sky at sunset (Faroe Islands, Denmark, Europe) credit: stock photos
He added: “It’s an outpouring of dedication and emotion that people show on the football pitch.”
In some cases, such as the Pancho Arena in Felcsút, Hungary, the comparison is more direct. The stadium’s architecture features dramatic arches and a coffered roof that required 1,000 tons of timber to build. “The interior is so special,” Hermann writes in the book, “that you are more likely to feel that you are walking through a cathedral or a monastery than a football field.”
All of the soccer fields mentioned in the book, big or small, are a “spectacular feast,” says Herman. He points out that some of the most visually impressive venues, and the most incredible stories behind them, have humbler origins. The important thing is to win. It’s about the fact that these clubs exist, they are the cornerstone of the community,” Hermann said.
A football fan and someone who loves to tell interesting stories, Herman said he hopes to capture the spirit of the game in everything from small community efforts to multimillion-dollar megastructures.
“Football is not just about the World Cup. Football brings people together … Many people are divided now for different reasons,” he said, “but they are united by football.”
Extraordinary football stadium designed by Ryan Herman credit: HarperCollins