The Andes are Always Watching Over Estadio Nacional

The History of Chile’s Foremost Stadium is Marked by Extreme Highs and Lows


By Dan Stelly | Photo via Pablo Viojo


Tenants: Universidad de Chile

Location: Santiago, Chile

Capacity: 48,665

Opened: 1938

Thousands of fans will enjoy the sweeping views of the Andes Mountains when they file into Estadio Nacional for the 2015 Copa América. If mountains could talk, they’d tell of the stadium’s checkered past. High points include hosting the 1962 World Cup — in which Chile finished a best-ever third — and a long history of Santiago derbies between Universidad de Chile, Colo-Colo, and Universidad Católica.

However, the stadium may be even more famous for its use as a detention facility during Chile’s junta regime in the fall of 1973. Over 40,000 people were held at the facility during the period, and many prisoners reported instances of torture and execution. It’s a dark memory that no modern-day renovations can fully erase, although the ground is on course to receive a $35 million makeover that includes a roof and an expanded capacity. The panorama, of course, needs no upgrade.


Note: Each week, we highlight a new stadium, from Old Trafford and the Camp Nou to Rhyl FC’s 3,000-seat Belle Vue ground. If you’d like to have this feature (along with other dispatches from the soccer universe) delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our weekly bulletin.

Additional photos: Eduardo Llanquileo & Razl Marysol Machay