Estádio da Luz is one of Europe's best stadiums

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The Estádio da Luz - home of Benfica - has seen some of the greatest players in the world take to the stage for As Águias (The Eagles).

Eusébio, Rui Manuel Costa, Pablo Aimar, Javier Saviola, Ángel Di María and Nicolás Gaitán have all mastered their trade whilst playing for Benfica.

Football in Portugal is one of the country's most important pastimes so during a two day trip to Lisbon we visited the 65,000 all seater Estádio da Luz e Benfica, one of the best stadiums in Europe and the home of one of the world's most historic clubs.

The home of Benfica is more popularly known as the "Stadium of Light" (not to be confused with Sunderland AFC). The Estádio da Luz is found in the "Light area" of three Lisbon parishes - Benfica, Carnide and São Domingos de Benfica, and named after the "Our Lady of the Light" Church.

The new build is more compact than it's predecessor. It has 4 tiers and holds 65000 within it's seating capacity. This makes the Estádio da Luz is the biggest stadium in Portugal. The current stadium was knocked down and rebuilt in time to host games including the Euro 2004 final which Portugal lost to Greece.

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The new Estádio da Luz was built in place of the old Estádio da Luz. Construction works started in 2002, and Benfica played their last game at the partly demolished old stadium in March 2003. The first team to play at the new stadium on the 25 October 2003 were Uruguayan Club Nacional who lost 2-1 to the home team.

During the Euro 2004 Championships, the Estádio da Luz hosted three group matches, the quarter-final between Portugal and England (2-2), and the final between Greece and Portugal (1-0). The stadium also hosted the 2014 Champions League final.

A group of ex pupils of the Real Casa Pía de Lisboa founded the club during a meeting held in the back room of a Lisbon pharmacy on 28 February 1904. The colours chosen were to be red and white, its emblem an eagle and its motto E Pluribus Unum (Out of One, Many). In 1919 Benfica became the first club on the Iberian Peninsula to stage a floodlit match.

Bela Guttmann era

Fast forward and under the watchful eye of the legendary Hungarian Bela Guttmann, Benfica won the Portuguese title in 1960 and 1961. In 1961 Benfica picked up their first European Cup after beating Barcelona 3-2 in the final. They went onto successfully defend their crown the following season when the amazing Eusébio scored a brace as Os Encarnados (The Reds) came back twice to hammer Real Madrid 5-3.

Benfica is said to be the only club in the world whose official anthem is sung by a tenor, Luís Piçarra, and the classic musician António Vitorino de Almeida wrote a symphony to commemorate the club's first 100 years.

Stadium tour

We enjoyed meeting the beautiful eagles and our tour guides were both eloquent, informative superb. The tour was exceptional. In fact the museum tour was the best we have had the pleasure of visiting so far, and that includes Camp Nou, Bernabeu, Anfield, Old Trafford, Emirates, White Hart Lane and Ibrox.

Benfica organise guided stadium tours around Estádio da Luz that include access to the VIP areas, players tunnel, dugouts, and the away team dressing rooms. The stadium also houses the Benfica museum and there is an outstanding section dedicated to Eusébio, who is more fondly referred to as "the king."

Águia Vitória and Gloriosa (Victory and Glory) are the two eagles who live within the confines of the Estádio da Luz. Visitors can have their picture taken with the beautiful eagles. I was able to get close up to Vitória and spend a few minutes observing this magnificent creature. The two Benfica eagles are seen as living symbols of Benfica. During each day they rest on a perch behind one of the goal areas.

During a packed match day and prior to kick off Vitória flies around the Estádio da Luz several times and lands on top of Benfica's club shield, creating a real life version of the club's emblem.

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