Why does Wembley Stadium have an arch

The last goal in the old Wembley Stadium was scored on October 7, 2000. The shooter was Dietmar Hamann, then a midfielder of the German national soccer team. In the 14th minute of the World Cup qualifier between Germany and England, Hamann laid the ball for a free kick 30 meters in front of the goal. He took a quick measurement, then hammered the ball flat into the net.

That's it, a German as the last shooter, and that here, at the scene of the English World Cup title win, here, in the heart of 77 years of English football history, in the "Cathedral of Football", as Pele called Wembley.

Dietmar Hamann, who is currently ending his career with the English first division club Manchester City, would like to play again in a cup match in the new Wembley Stadium. But it is clear to him: "Time is running out."

He looks at his contribution to Wembley history soberly: "That was a few years ago," he says. "I get asked about it sometimes, it is within limits." Those who approach him are invariably English fans. "Of course, the English didn't like that a German scored the last goal," he says. "But we were really happy." One year after Hamann's goal, Old Wembley was demolished.

The ball, the bar, the line

The new Wembley Stadium will be officially inaugurated this Saturday with the English Cup final between Manchester United and Chelsea. Spectators flocking south on Wembley Way will see a modernist glass and concrete coliseum rise in front of them, twice the size of the old stadium and four times as high.

The wide access road has brought generations of football crazies all the happiness and misery that many believe only Wembley can bring. German fans will never be able to enter Wembley Way without thinking of the trauma of 1966, the "Wembley goal" in the World Cup final when Geoff Hurst shot under the crossbar of the German goal in the 11th minute of extra time and hit the ball . . . where jumped Behind the goal line? Thereon? Before? It will remain controversial, although televised images seem to show the ball wasn't in.

Myths, myths everywhere. Manchester United supporters who were lucky enough to get tickets for the cup final - the black market price was last at € 3,000 per ticket - commemorate the ManU team from 1968 at Wembley. They became the first English team to win the European Cup.

And no English football fan will walk past the statue of World Cup captain Bobby Moore, which towers in front of the entrance to the VIP lounge, without being moved. "Flawless footballer" is written on the pedestal. "Immortal Hero of 1966 - Pride of the Nation - Champions of Wembley - Lord of the Game". Wembley is as much a place for big words as it is for big deeds.

Last test run

Dennis, a takeaway owner from Kidderminster, is also hoping for a feat. The stocky, shaven head came to Wembley from Worcestershire on the weekend before the official opening of the grand cup final to cheer on the Kidderminster Harriers in their game against Stevenage FC in the battle for the English Amateur Cup. The "Trophy" is the last major stadium test run.

"We already won the thing once," says Dennis, who is wearing shorts and the red and white jersey of his team despite the cool weather. "We lost the last two times we were in the final. But today it works. Stevenage has a really bad goalkeeper." Then he and his friends start the old "Wember-ley" singing, which will accompany every cup final and every game of the English national team in the new stadium.

While the fans climb the wide ramps that lead to the entrances on both sides, their gaze involuntarily wanders upwards, up to a huge white steel arch. The "Arch", which spans the oval, is intended to replace the old twin towers as Wembley landmarks. If one looked over at Wembley from the hills of a park in north-west London over the past three years, one expected time and again to see that arch over the wide shell of the stadium finally fully erected.

But the titanic construct, 133 meters high, 315 meters wide and seven meters in diameter, will remain crooked. The London architects Norman Foster and HOK Sports designed the arch as an inclined tension element for the stadium roof. To some, however, the half-erected arch always seemed strangely unfinished, and so one of the most impressive architectural achievements of the Wembley planners - the arch is the largest stretched roof construction in the world - served as a symbol of the non-completion that threatened to become permanent for the new stadium . In any case, the fan cheers must help dispel many dreary memories of a Wembley building history that was characterized by delays, botch and a massive budget overdraft.

If everything had gone according to plan, the cup final would have taken place here in May 2006. But the football arena was not finished, and so the stadium operator, the English Football Association (FA), had to go to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium again.

Since the start of construction in 2002, the originally estimated construction costs of 478 million euros have risen to around 1.2 billion euros. The work often stalled for weeks due to a lack of steel components. And many commentators wistfully recalled the construction of the old Wembley Stadium, which not only stayed on budget of £ 750,000 but was completed in just 13 months.