Tucked away to the west of the Region of Castile-León, close to the border with Portugal, Zamora is a fantastic city if you are on the look out for Romanesque architecture, but less so if you are looking for a successful football club. The current senior team, Zamora Club de Fútbol is the second club from the city to establish itself in the national leagues after the original trailblazers, Club Atlético de Zamora.
Formed in 1943, Atlético was created from an amalgam of the best players from junior teams in the city, after the Spanish Federation extended an invite to provincial towns to compete in the newly formed Tercera. Unfortunately, there was a delay in registering the new club and as a result, Atlético sat out the 1943-44 season. However, on 29 September 1944, Atlético hosted its first ever league match against UD Salamanca at the Campo de Pantoja, losing by 2-5. The Campo de Pantoja was built in 1934 and was originally the home of Club Deportivo Zamora and was situated to the north of the old town on the Avenida Tres Cruces. In their final season at the Campo de Pantoja, Atlético won their one and only Tercera title, before losing out to Deportivo Caudal & Alavés in the playoffs. On 12 September 1951, the club inaugurated the Campo de Fútbol Ramiro Ledesma with a match against Celta Vigo. The stadium, which was named after a local right-wing politician and essayist who died in prison at the outbreak of the civil war, was situated on the south-east outskirts of the city, close to the north bank of the Duero. It was an improvement on the Campo de Pantoja, holding 5,000 fans and featuring a short cantilevered cover over the main tribuna on the northern side.
Unfortunately, Atlético could not repeat the form of the early fifties and was relegated from the Tercera in 1962. It was eventually wound-up in June 1964. It took a further four years to form the current club. Zamora CF joined the Regional Primera in 1969 and used the Campo de Ramiro Ledesma. The early 1970s saw the club struggle to establish itself in the Tercera, but in 1977-78, it won Group IV of the Tercera and promotion to Segunda B. There followed four seasons of inconsistent form, culminating in a third-place finish at the end of the 1982-83 season. Unfortunately, the club had failed to pay its players and with the debt outstanding at the season’s end, Zamora CF was demoted to the Tercera. The club bounced straight back, but three years later, it was back in the Tercera following the restructuring of Segunda B. They left the Campo Ramiro Ledesma in 1987, hopping across to the western edge of town to the Campo La Vaguada. Fans of Zamora CF have fond memories of La Vaguada, but this is more to do with the club’s renaissance at the turn of the century, rather than the facilities. When translated, La Vaguada means the trough, and to start with, it was a bit of a pit. Originally the stadium featured a 65 metre covered Tribuna on the west side and an open terrace on the east. The Tribuna was extended in 1997 and a 50-metre cover was added to the east terrace.
Over the next ten seasons, Zamora CF recorded a series of top ten finishes in the Tercera, qualifying for the playoffs on five occasions, but failing to progress on each occasion. Then in 1996-97, a comparatively lowly fourth place finish saw them grouped with Lalin, Santa Ana & Club Siero in the playoffs. A near-perfect performance saw the club top the group and return to Segunda B after an eleven season absence. Zamora CF suffered the first-season hiccup when they lost a relegation play-off to CD Mensajero, but the club’s third Tercera title and another playoff victory saw a return to Segunda B for the 1999-00 season. On 12 May 2002, Zamora CF played its last game at La Vaguada, losing 2-3 to SD Compostela. The club moved to a new municipal stadium south of the Rio Duero and apartment blocks were built where La Vaguada stood. The move heralded a period of relative success for the club, with qualification to the playoffs in four of the succeeding seven seasons, however, promotion to La Segunda was to prove elusive. The last few seasons have seen Zamora CF drop back into the pack and then drop into the Tercera in 2015.
The Estadio Ruta de la Plata opened on 1 September 2002 with a 1-1 draw in a league match against CD Ourense. It takes its name from the ancient trade & pilgrim route that passed through Zamora and bears a striking resemblance to another that opened in the east of the region a few years earlier, namely Numancia’s Nuevo Pajaritos in Soria. Although slightly smaller than its counterpart in Soria, the Estadio Ruta de la Plata uses the same materials that prove so effective when faced with the temperature extremes found in this region of Spain. The exposed oak roof beams expand during the summer heat and contract in the bitterly cold winters. They also provide a great contrast to the bands of red, white and green seats below. This seating deck is slightly raised on all four sides of the stadium and provides excellent views from all of its 8,000 seats. Outside the stadium, the design is slightly spoilt by ugly access ramps to the raised entrances at the rear of each stand. Surrounding the stadium are a number of full-size pitches and futsal courts, along with a new amphitheatre for open-air concerts.
The Estadio Ruta de la Plata may not be original in design, but it is perfectly suited for a club of Zamora’s size. However, despite a name that suggests their ambitions should be focused on a place in Spain’s silver category of football, their current financial position may very well see the club follow its predecessor to a paupers grave.