As you cross the Rio Ebro and head south along the wide avenidas towards its centre, the city of Zaragoza treats you to some magnificent sites. Its graceful fusion of Moorish, medieval and more recent styles of architecture lifts your hopes and expectations so much so, that when you see La Romareda, the city’s municipal stadium, your initial reaction is one of disappointment. It’s an “Is that all there is?” moment. Thankfully, the story of Real Zaragoza is a lot more interesting than the utilitarian and rather undistinguished stadium it plays in.
The citizens of Zaragoza and for that matter, other parts of Aragon, took their time to fully come to terms with football. Organised competitions did not truly get under way until 1915, a good decade or so later than neighbouring Catalunya. The first important team to emerge in the Aragonese capital was Iberia Sport Club, which was formed in 1916 and went on to dominate the early years of the regional championship. The only real challenge Iberia experienced came in the form of Sociedad Atletica Stadium, who was founded in 1919 and pipped Iberia to the championship in 1924 & 25. Another team founded in 1919, Zaragoza Football Club, joined forces with Sociedad Atletica Stadium in 1925 to create Club Deportiva Real Zaragoza, but Iberia continued to reign supreme and featured in the inaugural season of La Segunda in 1928-29. Iberia was undoubtedly helped by the foresight of its directors who had developed the city’s first purpose built stadium, Campo de Torrero. Opened on 7 October 1923 with a match against Osasuna, Torrera was to the south east of the city centre and had a final capacity of 20,000. Real Zaragoza played its last match at Torrero on 28 April 1957, a goalless draw with Real Sociedad in the first round of the cup. Torrero lingered on as a council owned stadium until the late 1970's, but it ran into disrepair as plots were gradually sold off for housing and all traces of the ground had disappeared by the early 1990's. The stadium stood on the Calle Lasierra Purroy and the site has now been swallowed-up by housing and a municipal library.
Work began on the new stadium in November 1956 under the guidance of architect Francisco Riestra. The project cost 21.5 million pesetas and the ground featured a large covered main stand on the west side. The cantilevered roof covered the upper of two tiers, whilst on the opposite east side stood a large two tiered terrace. The smaller end terraces were slightly curved leaving a space of around 8 metres between the touchline and the front of the terrace. The stadium had been built on open fields named La Romareda, just to the south of the city's university and around 3 kilometres west of the old Torrero ground. It opened on 8 September 1957 in front of a capacity crowd of 27,000 and once again Osasuna provided the opposition for an exciting match that saw Zaragoza win 4-3. The new stadium acted as a springboard as the club, despite a couple of close calls, did not succumb to relegation within a year. In fact during the 1960's it positively flourished. The cause was helped in no small part by Lapetra, Canario, Marcelino, Santos & Villa, a quintet of players who saw Real Zaragoza reach unprecedented heights. The club reached the final of The Copa del Rey in four successive seasons, winning two finals and also found success in the Inter Cities Fairs cup winning the trophy in 1964. League form wasn't too shabby either as Zaragoza finished in the top five places in every season from 1961 to 68.
|La Romareda - A bit bit frayed at the edges... and elsewhere|
|Campo de Torrero in 1928|
|Primed and ready for take-off. La Romareda was at the centre of the |
Real Zaragoza's most successful period. That and a pretty good team
As that great team of the sixties broke up, Zaragoza’s form suffered and the club dropped to La Segunda at the end of the 1970-71 season. Their absence from the top division was brief as promotion was won with a third place finish in 71-72. Steady progress was made over the next couple of seasons with the club achieving a best ever finish of second place in La Primera in 1974-75. During the 1976-77 season La Romareda was extended, with both end terraces gaining an upper tier and covers, which extended around from the main west stand. The new capacity stood at 50,000. Whilst the roof was going up, the club was going down to the second division again. The 1977-78 season brought the club its first league trophy, when La Segunda title was secured with a point to spare.