The ‘football pitch’ is a term clearly defined in FIFA’s Laws of the Game. A rectangular playing surface made from either natural or artificial turf, with a number of boundaries clearly marked out to determine when the ball has gone out of play. At either end of the pitch sit two goals, which must be an equal distance from the centre circle.
Likewise, modern day football fans are used to seeing huge video screens, beaming floodlights and surrounding stands, with enough seats to cram in thousands of eager supporters. However, while that is certainly a near perfect picture of a 21st century football stadium, some modern day pitches opt to flaunt the rules.
Football has often been accused of dragging its heels in the past in a rapidly developing world, with its reluctance to accept new technologies causing it to lag behind other sports. However, with the implementation of goal-line technology and the use of video replays to assist referees beginning to find its way into the game, football is finally beginning to get with the times.
However, it isn’t only in the tech department where football has taken an innovative turn - plenty of clubs, companies and countries have taken an unorthodox approach to football, creating some truly unusual football pitches that go against the norm. Some good, some bad and some just plain ugly.
Eidi Stadium - Faroe Islands
A long way from the Barcelona’s 99,000-seater Nou Camp stadium, the Eidi stadium is surrounded by the Atlantic coastline and mountainous terrain, rather than towering stands.
With the Faroe Islands home to approximately just 49,000 people, it’s no wonder - market researchers YouGov revealed back in 2012 that just 44% of people have some interest in football, meaning that, if that figure holds true, there are a mere 44,560 football fans in the whole of the Faroe Islands. To put that into perspective, more people turned out to watch Newcastle United each week throughout the 2015/16 season, as they slowly but surely bowed out of the Premier League.
While it's certainly different, building a football pitch next to an ocean probably isn’t the best of ideas. Remember playing as a youngster, only for the game to come to a premature end due to the ball going over a fence or onto a roof? I’m guessing similar situations must arise for the semi-professional side that ply their trade here. And yet, despite the lack of atmosphere, loss of balls, ice cold temperatures and high winds, the area surrounding the Eidi Stadium is one of the most picturesque settings that you could imagine.
Igraliste Batarija - Croatia
While HNK Trogir, a club in the sixth tier of the Croatian football league system, don’t have much to celebrate after suffering financial difficulties back in 2009 which saw them drop down three levels, they still possess one of the coolest stadiums in world football.
Forget about the futuristic facade surrounding Bayern Munich’s €340 million Allianz Arena, or the striking Wembley Arch, which ensures that there are no support pillars within the stadium obstructing the view of the pitch. Igraliste Batarija doesn’t need to be modern to be hip, as it sits in between not one, but two protected monuments. Behind one goal sits Kamerlengo Castle, built by the Republic of Venice way back in the 15th century, and behind the other sits the Tower of St. Marco, a fortress which played a huge part in keeping Trogir under Venetian rule until the end of the 18th century. Better yet, both monuments are a stone’s throw away from the Adriatic Sea on opposite sides of the small island.
Igraliste Batarija does stick to football’s norms, with supporter seating provided along one of the touchlines. However, the best views can be found within the monuments themselves - it’s surprising that their many towers aren’t being utilised as private boxes.
Sapporo Dome - Japan
Multi-purpose stadiums are nothing new. Wembley isn’t just home to the England national team, it also hosts NFL games and a countless number of pop stars, as does Ajax’s Amsterdam Arena among many others. However, the Sapporo Dome in Toyohira-Ku, Sapporo, approaches the multi-purpose stadium in a way that nothing before it has.
The ground is home to two teams - Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo. The former is a Pacific League baseball team, while the former is professional football club in the J2 League, the second tier of Japan’s football league system. Allowing both sides to play at the stadium may seem like a difficult task, given the frequency of matches played by both. However, the Sapporo Dome has a special feature that makes converting the stadium back and forth between a baseball field and football pitch a simple process.
Rather than re-laying turf depending on the event, the Sapporo Dome takes an innovative approach to accommodating both sports teams, using a retractable field system that allows the ground’s staff to literally switch one with the other. Firstly, the current surface is retracted into storage, before seating is rotated, allowing the alternative pitch to slide into place.
Adidas Futsal Park - Japan
We’ve had a football pitch that sits as far away from modern day life as possible with the Eidi Stadium, but Adidas Futsal Park offers up the complete opposite. Situated right at the very top of the Tokyo Department Store, this awesome pitch offers breathtaking views of the futuristic Tokyo skyline.
The pitch was created ahead of the 2002 World Cup, which was hosted by Japan and South Korea. The tournament proved to be a success, boosting support for the beautiful game among within Asia, and ventures like the Adidas Futsal Park have been thriving ever since.
While a rooftop might seem like an unusual place for a football pitch, the location was chosen due to the lack of free space in the area of Shibuya, Tokyo. Yet, it is this odd quirk that makes it stand out from the crowd. Thankfully there is protective netting in place to keep balls (and players) inside the arena.
AP Thailand’s ‘Unusual Football Fields’ - Thailand
This one goes against every law in FIFA’s rule book. However, it has also done a whole lot of good for the community in Khlong Toei, Bangkok. Better yet, plenty more irregular football pitches are planned for construction in other parts of the city.
Bangkok holds a total of 22.2% of Thailand’s entire population with more than 14 million people living within the city, meaning that much of the space outside of the inner district is largely taken up by residential housing. Looking to provide young people in the area with spaces to play in, despite the limited amount of space available, property development company AP Thailand and digital agency CJ Worx put their heads together and came up with this bizarre, yet problem-solving idea.
Until recently this quirky football pitch was used as a makeshift rubbish dump, filled with dangerous waste and sewage. However, it now serves as a place for youngsters to gather, play and bond together.
Each pitch has been designed to ensure that neither side has an unfair advantage, with parts of the pitch greyed out to ensure that each half is exactly the same size, meaning that although the shape of the pitch may be different, no other area of the game is impacted.
The Float at Marina Bay - Singapore
This football field-sized steel platform is particularly eye-catching due to the fact that it sits in the Marina Reservoir. Technically it is the world’s largest floating stage, rather than a football pitch, but it does just about enough to qualify. Capable of supporting up to 1,070 tonnes, the Float at Marina Bay is not only visually mesmerising, but a brilliant piece of craftsmanship, too.
The float was initially constructed back in 2006 as a temporary replacement venue for the country’s annual National Day Parade, due to the fact that the National Stadium was being redeveloped into the Singapore Sports Hub, an equally impressive sporting venue. Since its grand opening at the 2007 National Day Parade, the Marina Bay float has hosted a number of events, from military graduation parades to music concerts. Likewise, it has also hosted its fair share of sporting contests, from Triathlon events to Formula One racing.
While it isn’t its primary use, the Float at Marina Bay has hosted football matches in the past. It was initially supposed to host its first game back in 2008, with Warriors FC and Woodlands Wellington FC meeting to decide the winner of the Singapore Cup. However, it was deemed that the metal beams cast big shadows onto the playing surface which would have distracted the players. Instead, Sunday League sides Tuan Gemuk Athletic and VNNTU FC got to christen the field, playing out the first ever floating football match.
Ottmar Hitzfeld Stadium - Switzerland
FC Gspon are far from one of Europe’s heavyweights, but the club have made history through other means by building the highest football stadium in Europe, sitting at an incredible 2,000 feet above sea level.
The small village of Gspon is located within the Alps mountain range, meaning that flat patches of land are hard to come by. Using one of the only plots available, the Ottmar Hitzfeld stadium was carved into the side of the mountain, adjacent to a deadly drop.
Unsurprisingly, the awkward location doesn’t come without issues - according to one of the club’s players, approximately 10 balls are lost to the cliff face during each match, while players, coaches and fans alike must travel by cable car to reach the remote village. Likewise, due to the altitude the air is thin, which can be difficult for unadjusted opponents and makes maintaining a natural grass field an impossible task. However, it isn’t all bad - the mountain view is unlike anything that any other club can offer.
Estadio Janguito Malucelli - Brazil
The home of J. Malucelli Futebol, a lower league Brazilian football club, the Estadio Janguito Malucelli is football’s first ever eco-stadium. The project was designed to produce a fully functioning football arena without causing any environmental impact on the surrounding area.
The towering concrete structures of AC and Inter Milan’s San Siro and Barcelona’s Nou Camp are viewed as some of the best stadiums in the world, but the aptly named Eco-Stadium attempts to achieve a similar feat without the use of any concrete within the venue. Plastic seating has been placed into specially dug holes across the sloped banks at the side of the playing field and all the extra necessities, such as changing rooms and substitute benches, have been crafted using wood taken only from sustainably managed forests.
The atmosphere is surely a world away from many of its its concrete counterparts, and its simplistic design hardly catches the eye, but J. Malucelli Futebol certainly have one of the most unique homes in football.
TJ Tatran Cierny Balog Stadium - Slovakia
We’ve certainly saved the best to last with Slovakian side TJ Tatran Cierny Balog. What could possibly be more bizarre inside a football ground than a steam engine hurtling along the touchline, with steam blowing and horns tooting.
The amateur club’s otherwise uninteresting ground comes with the odd addition of a live railway line running between the pitch and the stand, and while you would think that games would be scheduled with train times in mind, they aren’t. Players are forced to contend with the deafening noise as play goes on - perhaps a welcomed distraction for the home side, who know what to expect, but not quite so welcomed by those playing away.