Wembley Stadium has been selected to host the 2011 UEFA Champions League final. The decision was taken by the UEFA Executive Committee at its meeting in Nyon this week, and sees the highlight of European football's club calendar return to Wembley for a record sixth time, the first at the new stadium.
Wembley has undergone a massive transformation since it last hosted the European Champion Clubs' Cup final in 1992, but the new stadium has lost none of its prestige. The famous twin towers have made way for an iconic arch over the stadium, which has been totally rebuilt and is now one of the most modern and breathtaking arenas in the world. Boasting a seated capacity of 90,000, the new Wembley reopened its doors in 2007 and is once again home to the England national side, as well as host to the nation's premier domestic cup finals.
Known as the Home of Football, Wembley has long enjoyed a privileged place in the European game, hosting five European Cup finals, more than any other stadium, as well as two UEFA Cup Winners' Cup finals. AC Milan defeated SL Benfica 2-1 in Wembley's first European final in 1963 before Manchester United FC became the competition's first English winners thanks to their 4-1 extra-time triumph over the same Portuguese side in 1968. In 1971, AFC Ajax beat Panathinaikos FC 2-0 to lift the trophy for the first time, and there were also wins for Liverpool FC against Club Brugge KV (1-0) in 1978, and FC Barcelona by the same scoreline against UC Sampdoria in 1992.
The original Wembley Stadium was known as the Empire Stadium, and was built as the centrepiece of a British Empire Exhibition at the end of the First World War. Though not officially opened by King George V until 23 April 1924, the stadium hosted its first FA Cup final the previous year, when an estimated 200,000 people crammed in to watch Bolton Wanderers FC defeat West Ham United FC 2-0. That match famously became known as the 'White Horse' final, as a mounted policeman took to the pitch to keep fans at bay.
World Cup glory
The old stadium, named after the north London suburb of Wembley in which it is located, would serve as the focal point of English football from then until it was demolished in 2000 to make way for the current structure. Wembley hosted the 1948 Olympic Games and also the final of UEFA EURO '96™, but from an English perspective, unquestionably its finest hour came on 30 July 1966, when Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick to inspire England to a 4-2 win against West Germany in the final of the FIFA World Cup.
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