• James Gamlin - Escapismo

The Story of CD Cala D'Or

From coming so close to promotions to going out of existence completely, we look at the mixed fortunes of CD Cala D’Or over time.

This feature was taken from our sold out second issue, and we’ll be sharing more features from it online soon.

On the eastern coast of Mallorca, a small but lively village welcomes thousands of visiting tourists every year. Cala d'Or is one of the island's many picturesque resorts, where the shutters of its traditional white houses open to reveal views of a stunning marina and many hidden beaches, tucked away in coves where golden sand is met by the crystal clear water of the Mediterranean Sea.

On the edge of it’s bustling heart, where an abundance of shops, restaurants and bars are filled by visitors from across Europe and beyond throughout the day and into the night, lies an empty stadium. Sitting on the main road leading into the village, the majority of holiday makers who stay in Cala d'Or will pass it upon arriving and departing, and the way its floodlights soar above the surrounding trees make it instantly recognisable as the home of a football team.

The chance to see a match played at the Estadio Municipal is unfortunately not one that visitors to the town or its locals will possibly ever have again however. Club Deportivo Cala d'Or were founded in 1982 and competed in Mallorca's regional amateur leagues before winning promotion to the Tercera División, the fourth level of Spain's football pyramid, in 1988. As this level is divided into 18 regional groups, Cala d'Or competed against other sides from the Balearic Islands, and two impressive campaigns in 1989‑90 and 1990‑91 almost saw them promoted to Segunda División B, where they would have competed against the reserve and B teams of many of the country's largest sides.

In the 1990‑91 season, the side in yellow and blue fell short at playoff stage of the division, which had been newly introduced that season. The format involved competing in a mini‑league of four teams from the other regional areas of the division, and in Cala d'Or's case this meant representing their home region Balaeres against teams who had also qualified from Región de Murcia, Comunidad Valenciana and Cataluña.

Their first trip of the playoffs would be to the gothic Catalan town of Balaguer, where they got off to the perfect start with a 1‑0 victory over CF Balaguer. The town is also the home of Roberto Martinez, and he spent part of his youth and senior career at the club before moving to England to play for Wigan, whilst his father also managed Balaguer in the eighties. This ideal away result would turn out to be the only victory that Cala d'Or would achieve in the whole of the playoff stage however.

For the following game they travelled to the Estadio El Madrigal in a small town located in the province of Catellón in the East of Spain. Little would the visiting players have known at the time that the stadium they were playing in would host a Champions League semi final just 15 years later and that the team they were facing would become a household name across Europe. The men from Mallorca were humbled 8‑1 by their opponents that day, Villarreal. Fans and former players of Cala d'Or must wonder from time to time whether the rise of Villarreal, to become an established La Liga side that has challenged at the top end of the table and competed admirably in Europe, could well have been their side.

It was a truly unbelievable rise in such a short space of time for Villarreal, and seeing them compete in semi finals of the UEFA Cup, Champions League and Copa Del Rey, whilst also finishing as runners up in La Liga, has been inspirational. The way they have climbed the divisions demonstrates to all of the smaller, provincial semi‑professional teams across the planet that the dream of rising up to become a respected and well‑known club can become a reality. For all of the amazing stories of clubs such as Villarreal however, there are just as many of sides fading away.

As one team in yellow and blue achieved their second promotion in as many years to climb to Spain's second tier, another from Mallorca was relegated. Cala d'Or then floated between the lower tiers of the Spanish pyramid in the following years, briefly returning to the Tercera División for two years between 2007 and 2009, with a 2‑1 away win at local rivals Samtanyí arguably the highlight of this period. Achieving a 15th place finish marked a stable 2008‑09 season, although it would turn out to be their final campaign professionally, as due to serious financial difficulties, the club was unable to register a side for 2009‑10. A 4‑1 away defeat away to Alcúdia marked their final game in the fourth tier, although their final home game ended in a 1‑0 win over Andratx.

The few in attendance at the modest 2,000 capacity Estadio Municipal probably didn't realise that they were at the final professional match to be played at the stadium, but we can collectively be thankful that they were able to witness their side mark this occasion with a win. It's always a shame when a club ceases to exist, and it really does leave a hole in the lives of its supporters. The decline and rather sudden disappearance of Bury from the English Football League in 2019 had a huge impact on its fanbase, together with fans of other teams across the world. Without their local side to cheer on each week, it is as if a part of fans' identities are taken from them when their beloved club vanishes.

It's frightening to see how rapidly the situation can deteriorate at a club, and perhaps the most alarming thing about it is that when hearing the news that a club is in a state of demise, we know that this could well have been our own. The thought of our local side being no more seems inconceivable for most of us, but sadly for some fans, this is a reality. No matter how small or large a club may be, as football fans we can all relate to how important a side is to its fanbase.

It's difficult to consider what we would do without having our clubs to cheer on. Nothing can really replicate or replace the feelings of joy and pride, as well as the sense of belonging and togetherness that supporting a football team provides. The weekends would feel empty without the buzz of the match day or the excitement of checking the score and hearing the full time result. This really shows just how important clubs are to their towns and cities, and if they sadly become something of the past, they leave a hole that can never be filled.

Out on a morning run during a short break in Cala d'Or, I retraced the steps that football fans from the town and visitors from all over the Spanish Peninsula would have taken over the years along the main road that leads out to the stadium. The excitement of the floodlights coming into view and then walking up the steps of the bank to see the pitch made me wonder of some of the great moments, matches and goals that this ground would have been host to in the years gone by. There are a number of youth teams who still play here, and we can hope that one day they will be able to propel the club back into the league system. It's great to know that CD Cala d'Or still exists in some form, especially when considering how popular football seems to be in the town. The game is shown constantly on screens in the many bars and restaurants, whilst local children compete in matches against each other on the pitches dotted across the neighbourhoods. On the beautiful beaches you can see families practicing kick ups in the sunshine, and as with any popular holiday destination, a huge variety of different football shirts can be seen on the tourists walking around, as they show off the colours of their favourite team with pride. We can only wonder how the fortunes of Cala d'Or may have differed if promotion at the turn of the nineties could have been achieved; perhaps this would have even helped them to have progressed further up into the second tier and maybe even beyond. By coincidence, the day after I visited the Estadio Municipal, one of the Island's largest sides, Atletico Baleares, were crowned champions of their regional group of the Segunda División B with a 2‑1 home victory over Lleida.

This took them into a playoff group for promotion to the Segunda División, and although they rather unfortunately lost out on aggregate to Racing Santander at the semi final stage, this represents a huge stride for a side that has enjoyed a similar history to Cala d'Or. Having spent the majority of their time in the Tercera División, Baleares represent a side that has experienced the true highs and lows of football, and are now looking to progress and reach the second tier.

Just a couple of weeks later, Real Mallorca achieved promotion back to La Liga, after an amazing comeback to overturn a 2‑0 first leg defeat in the first leg of the Segunda División playoff final against Deportivo La Coruña. Their success has brought the island back into the footballing spotlight, and they have since beaten Real Madrid in their first season back in the top flight. With stunning results such as this one, together with the rise of their rivals Atletico Baleares, it is certainly a promising time for football in Mallorca.

In different circumstances perhaps Cala d'Or may have also been looking to reach their level and compete against Spain's finest clubs. Let's hope that one day we this could be a reality and the beautiful town will be complemented by equally beautiful football at their home ground and across the country once again.

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