Benfica’s magnificent Stadium of Light is a modern version of the one built in the early 1950s, which began life as a large open bowl before floodlights were added four years later.
Known officially as Sport Lisboa e Benfica, the club has played at seven different stadiums since its foundation in 1908 under the motto ‘E Pluribus Unum’ (All For One) and with the emblem of an eagle.
The first ‘stadium’ at Campo da Feiteira was little more than a pitch in the shadow of the parish church. Benfica in those days was a small village separated from the rest of Lisbon by farmland.
The club changed address three times between 1913 and 1925, first to nearby Sete Rios in 1913 and then back to Benfica in 1917. When they unveiled the Estádio das Amoreiras in central Lisbon on the 13th of December 1925, the inaugural match versus Casa Pia (another Lisbon club) attracted a full house of 15,000 spectators.
Benfica started its long tradition of winning top honours at Amoreiras; first the Portuguese Cup in 1930 and 1931 and then a hat-trick of League championships between 1936-8.
Then another new stadium was born (ground number five) at Campo Grande in October 1941, their largest yet.
As the club’s success and popularity grew, demand for tickets began to outweigh supply and Benfica were forced to play many of their games at the Estádio Nacional in Caxias, west of Lisbon, including the fateful match against Torino in May 1949, the day before the Italians were tragically killed in an air crash.
Inaugurated in 1954, the original Stadium of Light (Estádio da Luz) began as a large open bowl adjacent to the club’s current location. The extension of its capacity to 75,000 six years later coincided with the timely arrival of Eusébio, whose fifteen-year reign produced 317 goals in 301 Benfica appearances. The Eagles had finally landed.
With Eusébio’s help, Benfica enjoyed the most successful period of its existence, winning the European Cup twice (along with three additional appearances) and fourteen League titles in eighteen seasons.
As the size of the club’s international reputation grew, so did the ground and by 1985 capacity at the Stadium of Light had risen to 120,000 seats.
The stadium was demolished in 2003 to make way for its current 65,647-seat reincarnation built virtually on the same site, which opened a few months before the Euro 2004 football tournament.