Over the years, however, the north-western city of Ferrol has had a lot going for it. It has a long history as a naval port and it is still home to Spain’s North Atlantic Fleet. The financial trappings associated with the military also led to the development of a renowned shipbuilding industry and it was the site of one of Europe’s biggest arsenals. It was also the birthplace of General Francisco Franco and as any right-minded megalomaniac would do, he renamed the city in his honour. From 1938 until 1982, the town’s full title was El Ferrol del Caudillo or Ferrol of the Leader. Franco’s ties with the town have led to the suspicious pointing of fingers at the one time Racing Club de Ferrol made it to the national stage, but more of that later.
Racing was formed in 1919 when the town’s first enclosed football ground, Campo de Caranza was opened and the best players from the top teams in Ferrol were chosen to play against Deportivo La Coruña. Such was the popularity of the team, that it was registered with the Spanish federation and started to compete locally in 1920. Racing soon had a ground of its own, when on 29 May 1921 they moved to a site that would be their home for the next 72 years. Initially called Campo de Inferniño, it was a basic enclosure a few hundred yards to the northeast of the centre of the town. The club first reached the second division in 1934, finishing in eighth and last place and were promptly relegated back to the Galician regional league. The Civil War put pay to any national competition until the summer of 1939, when out of the blue, Racing appeared in the final of a severely truncated version of the Copa del Generalísimo.
Racing was helped by a walk-over in the first round when an Asturias XI failed to show, then a favourable draw saw them dispose of a scratch Donostia side in the quarter-finals. Baracaldo Oriamendi was beaten 3-2 on aggregate in the semi-final, which meant that Racing had a date in the final with probably the one quality side, Sevilla. Their luck ran out in the final, however, when Sevilla handed out a 6-2 beating at Barcelona’s Estadi Montjuic. When the league resumed, Racing found themselves back in a regionalised second division and achieved their highest ever final placing of second, albeit behind perennial rivals Deportivo La Coruña. Is it too much to suggest that Racing achieved this without any intervention on high? Almost certainly not, after all, Ferrol was a Nationalist stronghold in the civil war and the town and therefore the club escaped any major damage. Add to that an influx of military personnel to potentially swell the coffers & playing staff, it is entirely possible.
The next two decades saw Racing established themselves in a regionalised second division, and although they only reached the playoffs once (a disappointing last place in the 1951-52 playoff group), the confidence within the club was such that in 1950, it embarked on a major redevelopment of Campo Inferniño. Up to that point, the enclosure had followed traditional lines of four narrow terraces close to the pitch, and a narrow covered stand on the west side. The new stadium was laid out in an oval, with a new main stand on the west side. The roof was cantilevered but straddled the half-way line for only 50 metres or so. A curved terrace ran around the northern end, whilst the southern end featured hard standing. The east side had a substantial open terrace side, whilst In the south-east corner of the ground, a tower was built. Not as big or as grandiose as the one at the Riazor, but it was a tower all the same.
In 1954, the name of the stadium was changed to Estadio Manuel Rivera, after the loyal player and club physiotherapist who had died the previous year. In the 1960s a cover was added to the east side and the roof of the main stand was extended, and now ran from penalty box to penalty box. Racing’s impressive run of 16 consecutive seasons in La Segunda came to an end with relegation at the end of the 1959-60 season. They returned to the second tier in 1966, finishing fourth in 1968-69 and only losing out on automatic promotion on the final day of the season. Racing dropped back to the Tercera in 1972 and apart from a disastrous return to La Segunda in 1978-79, where Racing finished bottom and won only 4 matches, that was it for second flight football at the Estadio Manuel Rivera.
Time was called on Estadio Manuel Rivera on 14 March 1993, when Real Avilés Industrial beat Racing 1-2. The club had to wait to use their new stadium, playing the home match vs Toledo on 4 April 1993 10 miles to the north of Ferrol, at the Campo Misael Prieto, the home of Meirás CF. Two weeks later, the club pitched up at A Malata, the new municipal stadium, a mile north-west of the town centre. Today you will find a small sports centre and a pleasant square on the sight of the old stadium. And the name of the square? Plaza del Inferniño.