November 16, 2003, is a unique date for the world of football. Leo Messi made his debut for Barcelona's first team at brand new Estádio do Dragão which is celebrating its 18th anniversary today.
The Godfather of Messi’s career?!
If the stadium could be a Godfather of any football player, we have here a perfect example of such a relationship. When exactly 18 years ago the young Argentinean entered the field in Porto, no one knew yet that the future king of football had just made his debut in the first team of FC Barcelona. An amazing history of the current PSG’s star began at the new Estádio do Dragão, inaugurated then too.
© Валерий Дед (cc: by)
The venue has a seating capacity of 50,033, while the mentioned friendly game witnessed a record attendance of 52,004. The current amount of seats makes “Dragao” the third-largest football stadium in Portugal. Only Estádio da Luz and Estádio Jose Alvalade can host bigger crowds.
Considerations on naming
Prior to the stadium’s inauguration, its name was debated internally between representatives of Porto's administration. The successor of the famous Das Antas didn't carry the same name, though it was among the options discussed. Other possibilities included naming it after some of the club's biggest historical figures like former player Artur de Sousa Pinga, manager José Maria Pedroto or president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa.
After a deliberation period, the name Estádio do Dragão was revealed to the public. "The Dragon is in our symbol and the coat of arms of the city, there was no better way to symbolize the strength and vitality of FC Porto, nor the certainty of our future. There is no name that mythologically or ideologically conveys the will of new conquests like that of the Dragon" - Pinto da Costa declared in May 2003.
Important EURO 2004 host, special for sponsors
Designed by Portuguese architect Manuel Salgado, it cost €125 million To secure the investment funds, each stand carries one or two sponsor names, currently: Super Bock (south), and Coca-Cola (north stand).
The stadium was constructed to become one of the venues of the UEFA Euro 2004 tournament. It staged the opening game, opposing Portugal and Greece, as well as three group fixtures and one semifinal. During the competition organized in Portugal, the venue was attended by 45,085 spectators on average.
The arena has held several international clubs and national team competition matches, including the very first edition of UEFA’s Nations League Final in 2019 and the Champions League Final two years later.
It has also served as the stage for concerts like The Rolling Stones, Coldplay, Muse, One Direction and for events like Race of Champions, when the pitch was converted into a racing track for the ROC South Europe Regional Final.
Author: Karol Tatar