I visited Tallinn after a mini tour of Sweden and Helsinki in 2003, where I’d seen five games, but couldn’t see a game here. On arrival at the ground, about a km south of the city centre, I was surprised anyone had seen games here, as it blatantly wasn’t finished. Games were being played here, but outside was still a building site. Work was still going on to finish the outside, but that was nothing to the surprise inside the ground.
I liked the light and airy design, and was pleased they’d used clear roof panels to let the light in. Then I looked again and realised the roof panels weren’t so much clear as non-existent. The roof structure was all there, but it was just a bare skeleton of framework, holding up nothing.
Holding just 10000, the A. Le Coq Arena must be one of the smallest double-decker stadiums going, although it’s much the better for it. It could no doubt have been made more cheaply with one tier – they might even have been able to finish it – but it wouldn’t be as interesting. Compact and Bijou, in estate agent speak, no doubt, where the lack of roof would also be a feature, it’s definitely a small is beautiful kind of ground. It’s just a shame that 10,000 is still far too big for Estonian club football, being three times the size of the highest crowd in the last decade.
Small is beautiful would also be a good way to describe the city itself. The centre is still almost entirely ringed by the historic city wall and gates. Within the centre is all cobbled streets and atmospheric alleyways, with all modern development kept firmly outside. Growing up in a town where any building that predates The Beatles is regarded as historic, I’m always bowled over by this sort of place – and that’s why by far the bulk of the pictures are of the city, not the stadium. There was another stadium I could have trekked to, but it was just a very basic shallow bowl, and the city itself was much more picturesque.