Since its formation in 1919, Club Polideportivo Cacereño has played in four stadiums, but none have been as extraordinary as the Estadio Principe Felipe. To be honest, it is only the main stand that warrants a mention, but this truly unique structure simply takes one’s breath away. Good things come to those who wait, so more on their current stadium later. In the meantime, let’s have a potted history of the club’s first 60 years or so.
On 16 January 1918, Señores Alcoraz, Cuesta & Boaciña founded Club Deportivo Cacereño, a general sports club for the city of Cáceres. Just over a year later, the footballing section of the club was formed and matches were played at the Campo del Rodeo in the La Charca area of the city. Back then, games were fairly sporadic as the region of Extremadura did not have a formal football federation. On 8 April 1923, the club inaugurated the new Campo de Cabezarrubia, but interest in the club waned and other clubs from Cáceres grew in strength whilst Cacereño became more and more marginalised.
Ironically, it was the disruption brought about by the Civil War that proved to be the saving of Cacereño, as many of the better-established teams from the city did not re-emerge after the conflict. With its own ground, Cacereño attracted many of the city’s top players, took on new colours of green and black and the ultimately the mantle of the region’s top club. Organised football followed and Cacereño joined the southern federation of clubs and won its first Tercera title in 1943-44. Results continued to be promising and as interest grew, the Campo de Cabezarrubia became obsolete. So in 1949, the club moved to the new Municipal Ciudad Deportiva.
As is often the case, the new stadium bought an improvement on the pitch with consecutive Tercera titles won in 1950-51 & 51-52, the latter earning promotion to La Segunda. During the summer, improvements were made to the Ciudad Deportiva raising the capacity to 10,000 and a grass pitch was laid. In truth, it was a step too far as Cacereño struggled from day one, losing 0-3 in Las Palmas. There were some impressive results, notably a 2-1 victory at home over eventual champions Real Jaen, but results on the road were poor and included a club record defeat of 1-9 at Plus Ultra, Real Madrid’s reserve side. Relegation back to the Tercera was inevitable, but the club did better in the Copa Federación Española, the secondary knock-out competition, eventually losing to 0-1 Real Valladolid in the final at the Estadio Metropolitan, Madrid.
Over the next 15 seasons, Cacereño won two further Tercera titles and qualified for the end of season playoffs on six occasions. Alas, knock-out football was not the clubs forte and promotion remained elusive. The early 1970s saw a decline in fortunes and the club was relegated to the Regional Preferente on three separate occasions. In 1976, the municipality decided to reconfigure the Ciudad Deportiva and also build a football stadium to the north-west of the city on the Carretera de Salamanca. Opened on 26 March 1977, the Estadio Principe Felipe ushered in a new dawn for the club.
The magic of a new stadium worked once again for Cacereño as the won the Tercera in 1977-78 and entered Segunda B for the first time. Regrettably, like their previous promotion, the stay lasted the one season, with the club finishing eighteenth, one point from safety. Cacereño returned to Segunda B in 87-88 but were again relegated after one season. The 1990s saw a run of seven seasons in Segunda B including in 1997-98, the league title. The post-season form returned to haunt the club when it finished bottom of a relatively easy group, featuring Mallorca B, Athletic Club B and Granada CF.
Two seasons later and Cacereño was back in the Tercera, but what followed was a record-breaking season. The 2001-02 season saw the club break all sorts of records, winning 33 of its 38 matches, scoring 131 goals and amassing 101 points. The playoffs were successfully navigated and hopes were high that the club would finally establish itself in Segunda B and beyond. The club became a limited company in January 2003, but an economic downtown resulted in the sale of players and by September 2004, the club had dropped back into the Tercera. Promotion back to Segunda B was won in June 2009 at the expense of Yeclano Deportivo, Club Haro Deportivo and SD Tenisca.
Oval in shape, but with fans only accommodated on either side, the Estadio Principe Felipe has a smaller standard capacity than the Ciudad Deportiva, at 7,000. The bland open terrace holds 4,000, but it is the main stand that draws the eye. Seating 3,000 on a single tier, the structure resembles a modernist cathedral in more ways than one. For starters, from the back of the stand, one observes twelve spires, each with its own stained glass window. These spires are the vaults of the cantilevered roof, which hangs deep over the seated area, folded like the bellows of a concertina. Bands of green and white seats surround a central directors box, which almost altar-like is slightly raised, over which hangs the club crest. The mundane returns with vast open arcs of land behind each goal, but this does allow for temporary stands to be erected when called for.
Such an occasion was on 14 April 1991 when the Spanish national team played a friendly against Romania. A capacity crowd of 15,000 watched La Seleccion fall to a 0-2 defeat. Smaller temporary stands were erected on 19 January 1992, when the stadium witnessed its only top-flight match. With their own stadium closed following to crowd trouble, Atletico Madrid chose the Estadio Principe Felipe to host its “home” fixture with Deportiva La Coruna. You can watch Depo’s 1-2 victory here. With the gap between big and small clubs ever increasing, this is almost certainly the first and last La Primera match at the stadium.
In the summer of 2013, Cacereño failed to reach an agreement with the local municipality over the rent for Estadio Príncipe Felipe. Citing financial difficulties, the club left its home of 36 years and set up a base for the 2013-14 season at El Cuartillo. This is not the first time the club has played at this athletics/rugby arena to the north of the city, as they decamped here for 3 months in 1991 whilst the Estadio Principe Felipe was readied for its one and only international. The only spectator accommodation is an open bank of terracing on the west side, with space enough for 500 spectators. Cacereño played Algeciras at El Cuartillo on 25 August, but within a couple of months, an agreement was reached with the Municipality and Cacereño returned to the Príncipe Felipe. As with many municipal sports facilities, funds have been hard to come by, and in recent seasons the Príncipe Felipe has started to look tired and more than a little frayed around the edges. And whilst it’s namesake has gone on to greater things, you can’t help but think that this particular Prince has a pauper’s future.