In our series about the iconic stadiums of the CONMEBOL Sudamericana, we are now covering the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti. Just like its long name, it has got a long tradition of celebrating the football in its hometown, Buenos Aires.
The stadium and its history
As the third-largest stadium in the CONMEBOL Sudamericana and the only one from Argentina in the top-ten when it comes to number of seats (65,500, a third of them covered), the Estadio River Plate counts as one of the older stadiums in the football-verse since its construction was finished back in 1938. Building the El Monumental, the initial name of the stadium, took two years. The property area was reclaimed from marshy coastal grounds of Río de la Plata and the cornerstone was laid on the avenues Figueroa Alcorta and Udaonde on May 25, 1935.
The architects have been José Aslan and Héctor Ezcurra, two famous Argentinian architects renowned for their modern design approach. As for the stadium, they planned a four-sided venue with double-decker stands, but due to higher than anticipated construction costs of 4.5 m USD, the bank loan didn’t suffice to fully execute on this plan. The available funds of 3 m USD in the end caused the stadium to end up with a U-shape so that it was left without the northern stands.
For the Panamerican Games 1951, an additional athletics ground has been erected. In 1958, finally the northern stands were added and that was the time when the number of seats surpassed 100,000. This number has been reduced to cater for better security in the following decades. In 1978, the second renovation was done to be able to host the 1978 World Cup. And in 1986, the stadium got its current name, eight years after Antonio Vespucio Liberti died. He was a former chairman of Club Atlético River Plate and presided the club four times, with an overall impressive 20 non-consecutive years in office. Liberti made strong efforts to let River Plate thrive as a club, and he was the person in charge of building the El Monumental.
In the following years until today, several additional sports grounds have been opened, like Basketball and Tennis courts. On the property there are apartments for young football players and a theater. During its history, the stadium acted as a concert venue with a remarkable capacity of 100,000 music fans. Among others, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, the Ramones, U2, Metallica, Oasis, Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, Madonna, Michael Jackson, KISS, AC/DC, Rod Stewart or the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed there.
The first match was River Plate against Atlético Peñarol with a result of 3–1, much to the pleasure of the local fans. The biggest success was that in the World Cup of 1978 nine matches took place in the stadium – the opening match of Germany against Poland, and the Final match of Argentina against the Netherlands. In more recent times, it hosted four finals of the Copa América, the latest being held in 2011.