Castellón de la Plana – Estadi Castalia

Football was brought to the town of Castellón de la Plana at the turn of the 20th century by local citrus traders who had watched the game in the UK. Within ten years, several clubs had sprung into life, but it was the success of SD Cervantes FC that gave rise to the current club. By 1918, Cervantes had become the city’s leading club and was a serious rival to Valencia CF & Gimnástico FC, so much so that they won the Campeonato Regional de Valencia in 1921. The desire to have a club named after and representing the city saw Cervantes effectively dissolved and Club Deportivo Castellón formed at a special meeting on 20 July 1922.

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It’s the Estadio Castalia! But more about that later

Initially, home matches were played at Campo de la Carretera de Valencia, before the club moved to their first purpose-built built enclosure in November 1923. The Campo de Sequiol was to the south of the city on the Calle de Herrero, and was opened on 3 November 1923 when Castellón played RCD Espanyol in a friendly. Sequiol had an initial capacity of 6,000, made up mostly of simple terracing, although the west side did feature a narrow propped cover and seating at the rear of the terrace. Castellón continued to make progress, although club president Mallach’s decision to ‘sale’ a match to Valencia in 1925, led to his resignation and Castellón’s decision to change from white shirts to their now familiar black & white stripes.

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I predict a riot – The Campo de Sequiol in more genteel times

The club was invited by the RFEF to compete in the inaugural Segunda B championship of 1929, finishing third and missing out on promotion to the second tier by a point. A year later and with its first Campeonato Regional de Valencia under its belt, Castellón competed in and won the re-jigged Tercera division, beating Barakaldo in the play-off final. The club debuted in La Segunda in the 1930-31 season and made a steady start with an even 18 points. Another steady season followed in 31-32, before Castellón hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons in season 32-33. Struggling at the bottom of La Segunda, Castellón entertained CF Oviedo at The Campo de Sequiol on 29 January 1933. The home crowd, unhappy with referee Julio Ostalé officiating, attacked him, causing the match to be abandoned with Oviedo two goals to the good. The RFEF suspended the use of the ground, forcing Castellón to play their remaining four home matches at Valencia’s Mestalla. Given the bad blood between the two sides, Castellón refused to honour the remaining home matches and was suspended by the federation. The club subsequently resigned from the RFEF and their followed a period of inactivity, due in part to the resignation and then the Civil War.

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New boots & panties – Reformed and ready for the top in 1941

After the war, CD Castellón was reformed by former president and now mayor of Castellón, Vicent Traver Tomás. With the RFEF now very much under the influence of General Moscardó, La Segunda was realligned along geographical lines, with representatives from Spain’s largest cities invited to partake. Castellón jumped at the opportunity and after over six years of inactivity, the club returned to the second tier on 3 December 1939, with a 1-3 win at Granollers. They finished fourth in their first season back and a year later, against all the odds, Castellón finished top of the southern section of La Segunda. Although they only finished fourth in the play-off group, Castellón were given a final chance to ascend when they faced Zaragoza at Real Madrid’s Estadio Chamartin. A 3-2 victory saw the club reach La Primera, a mere 19 months after reforming. That first season saw the club finish in a comfortable eighth place, some seven points clear of the relegation play-off places. If Castellón was ready for la Primera, the Campo de Sequiol was not. Although the club extended the capacity to 8,000, the old enclosure was on borrowed time, as the club and the city needed a new ground. The old stadium did have a memorable final couple of seasons however, with Castellón achieving its best ever top flight finish of fourth in 1942-43, following it up with fifth place a year later.

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Work in progress – Building continues on the Estadio Castalia in 1944

The city chose a site close to the Rio Seco, a kilometre or so north of the city centre. Work started in March 1943, but was hampered by the fact that so much work was required to level the site. The 25,000 capacity stadium was built in a horse-shoe configuration and featured an athletics track, and unusually, basketball and handball courts behind the goals. A single tier of terracing swept from the north to the south side of the stadium, where a cantilevered cover was erected over the stadium’s only significant bank of seats. There was a very narrow line of seats under an equally narrow propped cover on the north side, but blink and you would miss them. A smaller curved terrace stood at the east end of the ground. However, the stadium’s stand out feature was the Marathon Tower that stood over 40 metres in height at the west end of the ground. The Stadium was named the Estadio Castalia, after the mythical Greek nymph, which was rather appropriate as it was handed over to the Frente de Juventudes, or youth movement on completion. It was inaugurated on 4 November 1944 when Castellón played Atlético Madrid (Neé Aviación) under the watchful eye of General Moscardó. As tenants, Castellón chose to play on at Sequiol for a few more years, only using the new stadium when a big team came to town. The last match at the old Campo de Sequiol was on 2 November 1947, when Castellón lost 0-2 to Málaga. The club then became permanent residents of the Estadio Castalia, where they would remain for the next 40 years

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Now be honest, you can’t say you’ve seen anything like this before!

Regrettably, by the time Castalia became the club’s regular venue, it was confined to the second division. It would take another 25 years of toil to get back to the top flight, some of which time was spent in the Tercera. Finally, at the end of the 1971-72 season, Castellón and Castalia were back in La Primera, thanks to a last day win over Racing Santander. The following 72-73 season will go down in the club’s annuls as probably its greatest. Not only did they manage to finish fifth in the league, the club reached its first, and lets be frank, likely to be its only final of the cup. Guided by Real Madrid loanee Vicente Del Bosque, Castellón put up a creditable performance, losing 0-2 to Athletic Club at the Bernabéu.

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Estadio Castalia in the 1970s

With Del Bosque back at his parent club, Castellón struggled during the 1973-74 season, finishing 16th in a tight division, but was ultimately relegated back to La Segunda. There followed a period of mid-table finishes before La Segunda title was won for a second time in 1981. Once again it was a short stay and 12 months later Castellón returned to the second division. By now, the Estadio Castalia was showing its age. The municipality had taken over ownership and the once full length cover had been shorn of its wings. In dire need of a new stadium, the municipality took the decision to rebuild Castalia and looked to Barcelona and the Mini Estadi for inspiration. The old stadium was given a grand send-off when Castellón beat Recreativo Huelva 5-1 on 11 May 1986.

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