10 Intimidating Stadiums (Worldwide)

"Take a walk on the wild side" sang Lou Reed, apparently about a journey around tough New York.
New York ? Tough ? Pah ! It's like a gentle Sunday morning stroll down to the newsagents in comparison with trips to our 10 intimidating stadiums from around the world...

No.1 La Bombonera Boca Juniors

If there's a more intimidating place for away fans who watch football live or opposition players to have to play it, then we've yet to come across it. Situated as it is in the colourful La Boca area of Buenos Aires, a Superclasico trip into this neighbourhood for the more upper-class followers of River Plate is precarious in itself. With Boca's army of fans in full voice it's a venue that seems, quite literally, to be rocking. The stadium's full name is actually Estadio Alberto J. Armando, but is commonly referred to as La Bombonera, meaning the Chocolate Box, a reference to its shape - one totally flat stand along one side and then 3 other sheer sides, rising up almost vertically, giving the stadium fantastic acoustics. This, combined with Boca's frenzied support, make it a venue to fear for the club's rivals and has lead to Boca's fans being nicknamed La Doce, "the 12th man".

No.2 Ali Sami Yen Stadium Galatasaray

The pure horror of the Ali Sami Yen Stadium came to the forefront of the British media in the 1990's, as Galatasaray unearthed a decent team and started to do well in Europe. Televised games from the ground left viewers stunned - pictures taken hours before the kick-off showed a stadium already packed with delirious fans, jumping up and down in unison, with friendly messages such as "Welcome to Hell". And their was no let up, the atmosphere reaching fever-pitch shortly before kick off, continuing throughout the entire game, a relentless mass of male bodies moving and chanting. And it certainly worked, with a whole host of top European teams all failing to handle the atmosphere and leaving defeated. Located in Mecidiyekoy, one of Istanbul's roughest urban areas, the Ali Sami Yen is the complete package - dodgy both inside and outside the stadium. For the opposition, there is literally nowhere to hide. There is some good news for rival fans though - despite spending money on renovating the ground in recent years, they are now contemplating a move to a state-of-the-art stadium in another area of town. Things will never be the same.

No.3 Maksimir Stadium Dinamo Zagreb / Croatia

As England found out in October 2006, the Maksimir Stadium is not a place for the faint-hearted. Be it a game involving the Croatia national team, or a home match for Dinamo Zagreb, the Maksimir can be an extremely hostile place to be. The Croatian and Zagreb fans are renowned for their noise and movement on the terraces, creating an almost mesmerising effect for opposition players and fans alike. Croatia's top derby is the clash between Dinamo and Hajduk Split, the rivalry is as bitter as anywhere else in the world, and it generates the sort of atmosphere where their rivals legs can turn to jelly. The stadium itself is a non-roofed affair, which can sometimes mean a loss of atmosphere in some grounds, but not here. 2006 saw renovation work start and this will include a retractable roof and and extra 12000 places, making it an even more unpleasant environment for opposing players.

No.4 De Kuip Feyenoord

Its actual name is the Feijenoord Stadion, buts its universally called de Kuip (meaning the Tub - a reference to its shape). And what a stadium it is - a proper football ground that, despite extensive renovation in the 90's, retains a really traditional feel to it, almost a throwback to the 60's and 70's. This is something that's not lost on the Feyenoord supporters, who genuinely love their stadium, they take a pride in it that's second to none in football. Rotterdam's a true working-class city, and they say that whilst Amsterdam is where the Dutch go to play, Rotterdam is where they go to work. This is reflected too in the football, with Feyenoord viewing Ajax, and Amsterdam in general, as a pompous, arty, arrogant bunch of canal-lovers. Feyenoord obviously like to play on this, which is probably one of the reasons why the ground is so intimidating for opposition players and fans alike. Nicknamed 'Het Legioen' ('the Legion'), they expect their players to give everything, 110% for 90 minutes, and in return they give them full vocal backing - and that's the real difference with this stadium to many others, its the whole of the stadium that backs the team, not just a popular section behind one of the goals.

No.5 Stadion Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Stadium) Red Star Belgrade

Nicknamed 'Marakana', due to its resemblance to the famous Brazilian stadium, the Serbian version had a capacity of 110,000 back in the seventies. The introduction of seats has taken the capacity down to less than half that but it remains a formidable venue, a real fortress for both Red Star and the Serbian national team. With an athletics track running around the pitch the fans are a bit further away from the players than most of the other grounds in the top ten, "thank God" think the players - big games in the 'Marakana' are harrowing enough for the opposition without the fans being right next to them. The 'Eternal Derby' between Red Star and Partizan Belgrade is an electric affair, real fire and brimstone stuff, an explosion of noise and colour, but one that has suffered of late from wide-scale hooliganism, becoming increasingly precarious for the 'normal' fan.

No.6 Estadio Centenario Penarol

Home ground of the legendary Penarol, the Estadio Centenario is also home to bitter rivals Nacional for their big games, including the Montevideo derby. Sited in the city's Parque Batlle area, the stadium has a great history - built to celebrate both 100 years of Uruguay's independence and also the first World Cup finals, it has been the scene of many great games. A fortress for the national team, the beautiful game of its more celebrated rivals, Argentina and Brazil, has often come unstuck when faced with the Cetenario's cauldron of noise. Similarly, when Australia played a World Cup play-off there in 2002 they were unprepared for the atmosphere. Shocked by the level of hostility and abuse, the Socceroos couldn't handle it and it cost them the game. Back on the domestic front, its the Penarol-Nacional derby that the stadium almost lives for. In this country, nearly everyone is either Penarol or Nacional from the cradle to the grave, and the derby game is proof that the rivalry is amongst the most intense in club football.

No.7 Stadio San Paolo Napoli

The 3rd biggest ground in Italy is probably its most intimidating. The Neapolitans are a passionate people and this transmits to its football team as well. During the glory days of Maradona and Careca the San Paulo became a true stronghold - a wall of noise, blue flares, banners and fans draping over the enormous upper tier curves. A real theatre of adrenaline. If ever there was a fitting home for Maradona to ply his trade then it was here. The team may no longer be in Serie A following years of financial debacles but the fans are still turning out in force. Get them back in Serie A, or hand them a plum Coppa Italia tie and the Stadio San Paulo, like the nearby Mount Vesuvius, will be like a Volcano waiting to erupt.

No.8 Inonu Stadium Besiktas Turkey

Another entry for a team from Istanbul in Turkey, this time the Black Eagles of Besiktas. Followers of the club claim that the Inonu Stadium is the loudest ground in Europe, something Ben Foster wasn't disputing following Man Utd's game there in September 2009 - the young goalie claimed it was a "frightening and disorientating experience", adding that after a while he'd told his defenders to stop shouting instructions to him as "there was no point because I couldn't hear a thing!". As well as being one of football's most intimidating grounds, it can also lay claim to have one of the best settings (the best according to Pele) in football, perched alongside the banks of the Bosphorus and the Dolmabahce Palace. But enough of it's historic setting - how loud are these fans ? Well, the record for the loudest ever recorded football crowd was made here in 2007 in a game against Liverpool. Ironically, Anfield held the record before this game, but as a banner in the Besiktas stands claimed, "the Kop is History", and so it was as the decibel level reaching an eardrum shattering 132 dB. Which is louder than thunder, or an aircraft, but not as loud as a rocket taking off. Which gives something for the Black Eagles to aim for when they next play British opposition.

No.9 Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium Olympiacos

Whilst rivals Panathinaikos and AEK may play at the much larger Olympic Stadium, the atmosphere at the smaller Karaiskakis is still second to none. The Greek fans, like their Turkish counterparts, can be a rabid bunch, and the Olympiacos supporters are no exception. Smoke, torches, fires, flares, drums, and basically anything else they can get their hands on that makes a visual or audible impact, is used to whip the stadium up into a complete frenzy. With plenty of big matches in the Greek league and regular European football, the partisan Olympiacos fans get plenty of chance to scare the bejeezus out of opposing players, but are at their most ferocious during the 'Eternal' derby with Panathinaikos. UEFA finally had enough when a match with Shakhtar Donetsk ended with more items on the pitch than in the stands, forcing them to play 4 games behind closed doors. The stadium was the scene of a tragedy in 1981 when 21 supporters died as Olympiacos fans rushed out of the ground celebrating a victory over AEK.

No.10 Stade Geoffroy-Guichard Saint Etienne

Think French football and you don't normally think of intimidating fans or stadiums, but Les Verts Stade Geoffroy-Guichard is an exception. Along with Marseille's Stade Velodrome and Lens' Stade Felix Bollaert, it's one of the few French grounds where the supporters really get behind their team. As with Lens, Saint Etienne is a grim, industrial, working-class city, and their football club is what they're most proud of. The stadium has earned a number of nicknames since the glory days of the 60's and 70's, and they give a taste of what opposition players can expect - "le Chaudron" literally means "the Cauldron" and "L'Enfer Vert" translates as "the Green Hell". Big domestic matches and European games can be real powder-keg affairs, and the Rhone-Alpes Derby between St Etienne and Lyon is France's only genuine English-style derby match.

Note: this list does not include any British grounds as we are going to do a separate top 10 list for those.