Sweden's Rasunda Stadium is one of just two venues in the world - California's Rose Bowl being the other - that can boast of having hosted the final of both the FIFA World Cup ™ and the FIFA Women's World Cup.
This football-specific stadium, located in the district of Solna some six kilometres northwest of Stockholm city centre, is famed for putting spectators right on top of the action, and it still generates a fantastic atmosphere for the ever-competitive Sweden national team.
Stockholm's footballing temple provided the launchpad for the international career of one of the world's greatest footballers. At the 1958 FIFA World Cup ™, a certain Edson Arantes do Nascimento caused a sensation when the then 17-year-old Brazilian enchanted fans around the world with his magical footwork. The youngster, better known by his pseudonym Pele, would go on to be recognised as one of the game's all-time legends.
After his goal-scoring quarter-final performance against Wales, the young Pele's finest hour came on 24 June at the Rasunda. The 27,000 fans inside the stadium could scarcely believe their eyes as the 17-year-old's famous hat-trick in a 5-2 victory over France fired his team into the final.
Just five days later on 29 June 1958, the Rasunda was again the canvas for the young prodigy's artistic skills as Brazil came up against hosts Sweden in the final. Once again, the teenager upstaged everyone else on the pitch, scoring twice in another 5-2 triumph as Brazil captured the FIFA World Cup for the very first time. Despite the obvious disappointment for the hosts, the 51,800 spectators in the sold-out stadium rose to celebrate and fervently applaud the exceptional young talent.
The Rasunda next staged a global showpiece in 1995 with the second FIFA Women's World Cup. In a repeat of the men's tournament of 1958, the Stockholm venue was chosen to host the final and Norway came out on top in a rain-soaked all-European affair, defeating Germany 2-0 to lift their first trophy in the home of their Scandinavian neighbours.
The Rasunda's history dates back to 1910 when a 12,000-capacity football ground was built on the site. In 1937 a new arena rose in its place, the Rasunda stadium proper, accommodating 40,000 spectators. Its current capacity is 36,100 but more than 52,000 fans once squeezed into the ground in September 1965 for a decisive FIFA World Cup against West Germany. Unfortunately for the Swedes, their vast support was silenced as the eventual 1966 finalists won 2-1 with goals from Uwe Seeler and Werner Kramer.
The same sides met again at the Rasunda 27 years later when Sweden took on the reigning world champions in the semi-final of the 1992 UEFA European Championship. Yet again fortune favoured the visitors as Germany prevailed 3-2 to reach the final in Gothenburg.
Today the Rasunda is the home ground of Swedish top-flight club AIK Solna and also stages derby matches involving other Stockholm sides. A homely, atmospheric old ground, it will make way in 2011 for a new 50,000-capacity national stadium featuring a retractable roof.