Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Meléndez is a multi-purpose sports stadium located in the northern city of Barranquilla. Built for the 1986 Colombian World Cup bid with a large 65,000 capacity, the stadium is the official home of Colombia’s national team as well as local team Club Deportivo Popular Junior F.C. S.A.
Estadio Metropolitano was originally designed and constructed for the 1986 World Cup but due to economic reasons Colombia officially resigned as hosts, and Mexico stepped in as hosts after previously hosting the tournament in 1970. With the city of Barranquilla expressing plans to rebuild the ageing Estadio Romelio Martínez since at the least the 1970s, the construction of Estadio Metropolitano was certainly not in vain.
After a construction period lasting six years the stadium’s opening ceremony was held on the 11th May 1986, with Colombia and Uruguay’s Junior Teams symbolically chosen to contest the inaugural match. Four days later a match was played against Diego Maradona’s Argentina in preparation for the World Cup which attracted a sell-out crowd of 65,000.
In 1991 the stadium’s name was changed to Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Meléndez to honour the iconic Colombian Footballer who rose to prominence playing as a striker during the amateur era of football. A decade later the stadium would finally get to fulfil its purpose, hosting matches of its first major tournament, the 2001 Copa America including the opening ceremony.
With the precedent finally set, Estadio Roberto Meléndez later hosted matches of the Under-20s World Cup in 2011, with the stadium undergoing modest renovations in order to satisfy FIFA’s updated stadium safety legislation. The Capacity was reduced to a more comfortable 46,788, although it is still the largest in Columbia, and it continues to host the majority of the country’s qualification matches.