|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.
In 1978, La Romareda was confirmed as a host venue for the 1982 World Cup and underwent a 120 million peseta refit. This included adding a roof to the newly refurbished east side, adding seating to the upper tiers, and new press facilities in a two storey free standing block behind the main west stand. This was linked to the ground and Zaragoza had eyes on using it for their club offices. The municipality baulked at the idea and quickly installed their own bureaucrats after the tournament was over. La Romareda now had a capacity of 46,920 and hosted three matches during the finals featuring Yugoslavia, Honduras and Northern Ireland. They were poorly attended with the ground barely half-full for the Yugoslavia games and only 15,000 attending the Honduras-Northern Ireland fixture. The participants are commemorated with their names on individual flag poles at the main entrance to the stadium. Now established in La Primera, the eighties saw further success for Zaragoza when a third Copa del Rey was secured in 1986 with a 1-0 victory over Barcelona at the Vicente Calderon.
|"My how you've grown" The end terraces get all built up and roofed |
The nineties saw further refurbishment of La Romareda in advance of the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics. The refit saw seating added behind the south goal and a ring of booths, or Palcos added to form a band around the stadium between the first and second tiers. This reduced the capacity to 43,349, not that it was ever remotely tested during the Olympics. The six group matches and one quarter final that La Romareda hosted, attracted a pitiful aggregate of 35,500. Real Zaragoza continued to thrive in the top flight finishing third in 93-94 before securing a fourth Copa del Rey at the end of the season with a win over Celta Vigo. This saw the club enter the following seasons UEFA Cup-Winners Cup and Feyenoord and Chelsea were beaten on the way to the final. Zaragoza won their second european title in remarkable fashion thanks to Nayim's astonishing effort at the end of extra time. Arsenal fans may not want to click here. The stadium was finally converted to an all seater stadium in 1998 when the lower tiers of the north end and east terrace were seated, giving the ground a current capacity of 34,596.
|La Romareda in the 90's. In fact, given the empty seats it's probably 1992|
The start of the new melleniuim began brightly with a fourth place finish in the league and a fifth victory in the Copa del Rey, beating Celta Vigo once again, this time at La Cartuja in Sevilla. However, it was really just papering over the cracks, for at the end of the 2000-01 season, in a desperate scramble for survival, Real Zaragoza escaped relegation by a solitary point. Their 24 year-long stay in La Primera came to an end a year later however, when finishing bottom of the league in 2001-02. As before, the club immediately bounced back and finished the 2003-04 season in a creditable twelfth place. In March of 2004, Real Zaragoza reached the final of the Copa del Rey and won the trophy for a sixth time thanks to a 3-2 victory over Real Madrid. The Spanish Super Cup was won for the first time at the start of the following season and the club continued to show steady if unspectacular form in the league. Despite this promise and a not inconsiderable budget, the wheels came off during the 2007-08 season as form fell away in the final quarter and the club was relegated. Once again, the stay in La Segunda was just a season long affair, but since its return to La Primera, the club has struggled to be competitive. La Seleccion has made four visits to La Romareda, the last in 2004 when they lost 0-1 to Greece.
|All seated and from a distance, quite passable. But look closer|
As with all major leagues, the revenue from television rights plays an important factor. However the imbalance of the distribution of these funds weighs heavy on clubs such as Real Zaragoza. This puts extra emphasis on match day revenue and for all its undeniable impact over the years, La Romareda is antiquated and simply not up to providing the modern spectator with the experience they want or the revenue the club requires. From the outside, the stadium resembles something one used to see in the former Soviet block. Its construction of pillars and brick infill, mixed with open mesh fencing that displays the internal skeleton of the terraces, is at best grim. On the south west corner of the ground is the strange juxtaposition of El Cuboa, a modern mirrored cube that doubles as the tourism offices, next to the beige and ever so bland Mundial Press Centre.
|The past lives on. La Romareda in 2010. |
Inside the stadium is slightly better, although it is all a bit, well old! The lower tier is very shallow and the roof offers it no protection from the elements. The upper tier is covered, but very cramped. That's not to say that the stadium doesn't have some nice touches. The palcos, a ring of segregated booths that sit between the two tiers offer a great view and are just close enough to the rear to gain some benefit from the roof. I also like the goal nets, which have to be the deepest anywhere in world football. Over the past decade, there has been plenty of talk about rebuilding La Romareda or relocating, but with greater constraints of public money, all plans have been shelved. Which leaves Real Zaragoza stuck in La Romareda. I'm sure that as time passes and the stadium becomes more of an anachronism and a relic of a bygone era, it will create more interest, but that will be out of curiosity rather than admiration.
|"Mirror, Mirror on the wall, which is the fairest stadium of all?"|
Er... How can I put this politely without upsetting anyone?