Could any team have won a promotion play-off in a more dramatic fashion?
Trailing Las Palmas 1-0 in the second leg of the 2013-14 decider in the Canary Islands, Córdoba CF seemed destined to another season the Segunda when home fans took to the pitch in celebration in injury time.
The referee duly stopped the game for ten minutes, then had the two teams play out stoppage time. During the last minute, Mexican midfielder Ulises Dávila equalised for Córdoba, snatching promotion and causing even wilder scenes on and off the terraces of the Estadio Gran Canaria.
The Caliphs hadn’t been in the top flight since 1972… Sadly, their stay was short and sweet, the 2014-15 campaign resulting in only three wins all season and a 8-0 thumping at home to Barcelona.
Córdoba CF emerged from a complex local football scene in 1954. The club soon rose to the Segunda and, as champions of the southern section in 1962, La Liga itself.
It was Argentine manager Roque Olsen, a prolific goalscorer in the great Real Madrid side and later at Córdoba, who took them up – and Ignacio Eizaguirre, Spain’s goalkeeper at the 1950 World Cup, who led the Caliphs to their highest top-flight position, fifth, in 1964-65.
With Cordoba-born Miguel Reina, later to star for Barcelona, Atlético Madrid and Spain, in goal, and the talismanic Juanín up front, Córdoba matched most clubs in La Liga. In the cup, they reached the semi-finals in 1967.
With the departure of Reina and death of Ricardo Costa from a traffic accident, Córdoba slipped down the table. Relegated in 1969, the Caliphs came back up two years later – but only for one season.
Despite the presence in midfield of later Spain manager Vicente del Bosque, Córdoba were relegated in 1972.
From then until June 2014, Córdoba bobbed around the lower flights. With ex-River Plate striker Daniel Onega, the Caliphs came closest to promotion in 1975, but the following two decades were spent in the third and even fourth flights.
With the club mired in the Segunda B since 1985, in 1993 the City nevertheless went ahead with building of a new municipal stadium, the Nuevo Arcángel, close to its dilapidated predecessor.
Though unpopular with fans, the move had a mercurial effect on the team, who twice finished top of their division only to lose out in the play-offs.
Success eventually came in 1999. Promoted from the Segunda B, Córdoba remained stabile in the Segunda until most of the next 15 years.
Few, even in Cordoba itself, expected much from 2013-14. Though Córdoba had made the play-offs in 2012, mainly thanks to goals from Real Madrid loanee Borja García, a bright start in 2012-13 had petered out.
The 2013-14 campaign looked like going the same way until former Chelsea and Barcelona star Albert Ferrer took over after Christmas.
Initially sinking to 16th in the table, Córdoba picked up form to edge Huelva for a play-off place. After a 0-0 home-leg semi-final draw, Córdoba turned things around in Murcia thanks to goal from former Real Madrid defender Raúl Bravo.
For the final with Las Palmas, this pattern was repeated, Dávila’s dramatic equaliser at Las Palmas gaining the Caliphs top-flight football on away goals.
The Estadio Nuevo Arcángel was built in 1993 to replace the nearby original Arcángel that had served Córdoba CF in their previous guises since 1945.
Before then, Racing FC Córdoba had played at the Estadio de América before club president José Ramón de la Lastra y Hoces built the Estadio del Arcángel. Set in the district of the same name by a bend in the Guadalquivir south-east of town, the new stadium all but bankrupted the club, forced to move along the river to groundshare with Deportivo San Álvaro.
San Álvaro then became Córdoba CF and arranged with the Cordoba city council to buy back the Estadio del Arcángel in 1955. Improvements and expansion were made for Córdoba’s near decade-long stay in the top flight from 1962.
Much like the team, the Arcángel started to crumble in the 1980s. Despite lack of success on the football front, the city council decided to build a new, multi-sports Arcángel close by, running track and all.
Just over a decade later, with Córdoba climbing the league ladder, club and council agreed to adapt the stadium for football use, bringing pitch and stands closer to together and getting rid of the running track.
Four stands now surround the pitch for an overall capacity of just under 22,000. Fondos Sur (nearest the river) and Norte are set behind each goal, pricier Preferente seats in the sideline Este and Oeste stands. Cheaper, lower seats closer to the pitch are uncovered, descubierta.
Local bus company Aucorsa runs five match-day routes (€1.60 single), Line 3 setting off from the corner of Avenida de los Mozárabes and Avenida de Medina Azahara near the station. Line 4 passes through the city centre, past the Roman Temple.
Two regular buses also serve the stadium, the Nos.3 and 14. The No.3 (direction Fuensanta) runs from the station (stop No.442) to Periodista Eduardo Baró (17min, 9 stops) by the old stadium. From there, it’s a 5-10min walk to the Nuevo Arcángel. The No.14 stops closer but doesn’t venture into the city centre.
Tickets are sold at the stadium taquillas (9am-2pm, 5pm-8pm) the week before kick-off. Unless the opposition is Real Madrid or Barcelona, availability isn’t a problem.
For most league games, prices start at €35-40 in the fondos behind each goal (€25-28 for under 16s and over 65s), rising to €45-75 (€35-53) on the sidelines.
Standard shirts, pennants and flags are sold at the club shop at the stadium, open 9am-2pm, 5pm-8pm and match days.
Pre-match bars dot the streets around the old stadium, particularly along Calle Periodista José Luis de Córdoba. Mesón Tomás (No.2) fills with enthusiastic fans, as does the Mesón Azabache (No.10), which displays a Córdoba shirt designed by its regulars.
Near the No.3 bus stop, the Salón Arenal (Calle Periodista Eduardo Baró 8) is where Los Deluxe peña fan group meet.
Nearby, the Cervecería El Acuerdo (Calle Periodista Enrique Ortíz González 3) is a friendly spot decked out in Córdoba line-ups down the ages, including the last team to play in La Liga in the early 1970s.
Opposite the Arcángel mall built on the site of the old stadium, the Café-Bar El Arcángel (Avenida del Arcángel 15) is probably the best pre-match choice for atmosphere. Closest to the new ground, the Bar Tamicos (Avenida Compositor Rafael Castro 1) is also popular thanks to its location.
There’s nothing immediately by the stadium, only bare ground for stalls and hawkers, but CFC kiosks serve non-alcoholic beer on match days.