Through the ages, the city of Córdoba has had its fair share of ups and downs. Roman and Islamic occupation saw the city’s stature grow, so much so that by 1000AD it was the largest city in the world with a population of 500,000. The decline and fall were rapid however and by the mid-sixteenth century, Córdoba was a backwater with little over 20,000 inhabitants. It’s back on its feet now and is a confident modern city with a fantastic old heart. The football clubs that have represented the city can never claim to have been the biggest in the world, nor do they score highly on heritage, but they certainly have had their share of highs and lows. So let’s go back to the 1920s and the merger of the city’s top two sides, Real Sporting Fútbol Club de Córdoba and Sociedad Deportiva Electromecánicas, to form Racing Fútbol Club de Córdoba.
Racing reached the Tercera in 1931, by which time they were playing their matches at the Estadio de America, a decent sized stadium on the site of the city’s former military barracks. The club dropped back into the regional leagues before the start of the Civil War. Then in 1939, like many other clubs from large cities, but without pedigree, Racing was invited to take part in the reformed second division. A fourth-place finish in its first season saw Racing safely secure another year in the second tier, but as the leagues were restructured for the 40-41 season, the club was found wanting. An eleventh place finish saw Racing enter a single match playoff and this was lost 1-2 to Elche CF. In 1944, president and royalist José Ramón de la Lastra y Hoces successfully lobbied for the restoration of the club’s royal pre-fix (albeit granted to the former Real Sporting). A year later, the club upped sticks and moved to a new stadium, built by and rented from the club president. The Estadio del Arcángel was built close to the north bank of the Rio Guadalquivir and was opened on 8 September 1945 with a match against Sevilla. Racing had won promotion back to La Segunda the previous season and went on to spend seven of the next eight season in the second flight. Problems were brewing behind the scenes, however.
With the passing of José Ramón de la Lastra y Hoces, the club debt grew to 1.5 million pesetas and unable to pay the rent to the family, the club moved out of the Estadio del Arcángel in 1953. They chose to share with a small club called Deportivo San Álvaro at the Estadio de San Eulogio, a municipal stadium on the south bank of the Rio Guadalquivir, about a kilometre south west of El Arcángel. The end was near for Racing, however, as the 1953-54 season saw the club fail to break out of the Tercera. On 31 July 1954, a special meeting was convened and the club was wound-up. Deportivo San Álvaro, who had been formed in 1951, had reached the Tercera in 1953-54 and played against Racing in their final season. They took on the mantle of the City’s senior team, changing their name to Córdoba Club de Fútbol on 6 August 1954. Under new club president Antonio Cruz Conde, moves were made with the municipality to purchase the Estadio del Arcángel from the Lastra y Hoces family and on 4 February 1955, the ground was reopened with a friendly against Real Madrid. A year later, Córdoba won the Tercera title and promotion to La Segunda, just three seasons after Racing’s last appearance at that level.
Córdoba, in its new guise, was now better suited to La Segunda, finishing second in 1959-60. They met Real Sociedad for a place in La Primera and could not be separated over the two-legged tie. The third match in Madrid finished 1-0 in favour of the Basques. Two years later, Córdoba won La Segunda title and with it a place in the top division for the first time. El Arcángel underwent extensive refurbishment during the summer of 1962 in preparation for its debut in La Primera. The north and east terraces were extended and a new terrace was added to the southern end of the ground, along with changing facilities in the south-east corner. Either side of the south terrace stood towers, which may have been part of a grander plan, but frankly always looked unfinished. The original floodlights that had been installed in 1958 were upgraded and the new look arena had a capacity of 20,000.
After a shaky start, Córdoba found its feet and finished as high as fifth in the 1964-65 season. It was still essentially a low-budget provincial club and after seven consecutive seasons in the top tier, Córdoba finished bottom of the league with just five wins. By the time the club made its final appearance in La Primera, the west side of El Arcángel had gained a roof, but the 1971-72 was another struggle and Córdoba finished 17th and was relegated.
It was the start of a slow decline. Six seasons in La Segunda petered out with relegation to Segunda B in 1978. There was a brief recovery with promotion back to the second tier in 1981, but the club hit rock bottom with two successive relegations and ended up in the Tercera for the 1984-85 season. The stay in the fourth level lasted just the one season and Córdoba saw out the rest of the eighties in Segunda B. By now, El Arcángel was coming towards the end of itself useful life. It had always been susceptible to flooding and the municipality decided in 1991 to build a new multi-sports stadium around 500 metres to the south of the old stadium. El Arcángel hosted its final fixture on 6 January 1993. there was to be no happy ending at the old home, as Córdoba succumbed 0-2 to CP Cacereño. The club decamped to the south of the river to the old Estadio de San Eulogio for the remainder of the 92-93 season. Córdoba’s final match at San Eulogio saw a 3-1 victory over Xerez Club Deportivo on 24 October 1993. The Estadio Nuevo Arcángel opened on 7 November 1993.