“Don’t worry, I’m leaving the club in good hands.” Pascual Font de Mora responded this way to the many journalists wondering why, after decades of work at Vila-real and for Villarreal, Pascual was calling it quits. In their eyes, the eternal president was giving up, giving his treasure away, and doing so to someone who could not possibly care more about the club than his biggest fan, leader, and protector. It was May 15, 1997.
Font de Mora was that and more to Villarreal. He was born in Vila-real in April 1929. Even though many still remember him as a president or board member of the Yellow Submarine, the oldest vila-realencs will remind you that Font de Mora was, before all that, a player for the club. His father, who owned a pharmacy, would brag about his son and his future as a soccer player. As a teenager, he played for a couple of lower-league clubs, to then sign for Club Atletico Foghetecaz Villarreal shortly after it was created.
Years later, that club would change its name to Villarreal Club de Futbol. Font de Mora played for Villarreal’s eternal rival, Castellon, before coming back to the poble. There, the tall and skinny left winger stole the heart of the small local fanbase by helping with two promotions, the last one to Spain’s Third Division. He spent over ten years playing at the club. He never had the intention to leave.
It was a love story.
After twelve years playing in Vila-real and hiso official retirement, Pascual stayed at the club, helping with administrative and board-related duties, and eventually becoming the president of his beloved club. His biggest impact came here: he promoted the club again in five different occasions, the last one, a promotion to the Second Division of Spain, in the 1991/92 season. Villarreal was starting to make waves.
In 1997, and with the club changing his organization to a limited liability corporation (Sociedad Anónima Deportiva, or S.A.D.) an almost 70 year-old Font de Mora decided it was time. Time to pass the baton to a leader with more energy, with different ambitions, with the willingness to take the club to the next level.
If you walk around the La Ceramica stadium, you will find a quaint square that dwarfs in comparison to a structure with capacity for 23,000 fans: The Pascual Font de Mora Square. The plaza reminds you of the yesteryear stadiums where one could sit almost next to the manager and ask him who he was thinking about subbing in. Where mud and playing with a used ball were the norm, and where the heart and passion of players and presidents like Font de Mora moved mountains.
A Mediterraneo reporter in 2005, when Font de Mora passed at age 75, cited British poet William Wordsworth to help him make a point of who, in his eyes, Font de Mora was:
“Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind”
“El Kaiser,” as he was known, wanted a Villarreal that would “Cross borders, a team that would be known in the entire world,” as his own daughter admitted in later years.
With that in mind, Font de Mora made sure that what remained behind was a club anxious for more. All he had to do was find someone to guide it there.
Enter Fernando Roig.
Research: Villarrealnews.com, Onda Cero, Mediterraneo.