Five rounds before the end of the season and during the weekend that most of Romania celebrates Easter – obviously, a sign from God for Gigi Becali – Steaua is crowned champion once again, after a very long wait, a period which exposed all the faults of Becali’s dictatorial regime. Nothing radical changed in his hands-on and loud approach, it was just one of those years when everything fell into place.
Steaua’s spine became finally strong enough. From the keeper Tatarusanu, through the complementary pair of defenders, Szukala (great in the air) – Chiriches (excellent on the ground), the warrior-captain Bourceanu and to the free scoring Rusescu, finding the ideal eleven was always easy for Laurentiu Reghecampf. Nevermind the problems at right back, the poor form of Tanase or the struggle to identify a reliable centre-forward, with Latovlevici’s energy from left back, Pintilii’s discipline in central midfield and Chipciu’s quick runs from the second line of attack, there was always too much quality for a mediocre competition like Liga 1. And for those who doubted and argued, biased or not, Steaua delivered in Europe beyond expectations.
I remember one of Reghecampf’s first games as a coach, as he came to Ploiesti with FC Snagov for a match in the 2nd division. Someone else was officially in charge of the team, but everyone knew that Steaua’s and the national team’s former right back was running things. So, at the end of the game, when he gathered around all the players on the pitch and sent them for a few laps, he was the one who had to deal with the irony of the few fans that stayed behind. “You should have made them run before the final whistle!”, they shouted, but the young coach didn’t answer then. He did it in the following years, helping Concordia Chiajna pull out a miracle and avoid relegation in the second half of the previous season, but also during his first campaign in charge of Romania’s best supported club. Because his players do run. And, if this can be assigned to his German fitness coach, nobody can deny that the team is well organized, moves the ball quickly, knows how to react when cornered and can interpret different tactics and scenarios because of him. Besides that, he won quickly the affection of fans and players and, even more important, had the needed diplomacy to deal with Becali’s changing mood and hands-on approach.
He might be hugely unpopular among the fans of every other team in the country, but a lot of them would secretly want someone like Steaua’s Mihai Stoica in their club. His return to the Bucharest club – although he once said that he’d rather live on the streets, like a bum, than work again with Gigi Becali – has ensured the following: the team and the coach had protection from the owner’s often brutal intrusions, as well as the attacks coming from the opposition and some of the journos. “Becali’s little brother” has seen the job done and his presence has surely influenced the club’s performance and results this season, for which he was ready to go all the way. At times, way beyond the boundaries of respect, fair play, common sense. Outrageous for the rival fans and neutral spectators, admirable for Steaua’s supporters, MM’s behavior spearheaded and eventually won the psychological battle that goes on during a season…
Speaking of arrogance and offensive behavior, the club was quick to announce years of domination in Romanian football, but, for the good of the game, the level of the league will somehow manage to rise again at a decent level. This season, it was all too easy, with Dinamo and Rapid tormented by changes and financial struggle, CFR Cluj focused only on Europe and mediocre in Liga 1 and Vaslui without direction and the usual ambition from their wealthy owner. Plus, there’s a huge amount of uncertainty at the moment for the new champions: Becali’s yet to decide if it’s wise to cash in on some names or really go for it in the Champions League; Reghecampf has impressed and wants to play hard ball with Becali, having offers from abroad on stand-by; a number of key players (Tatarusanu, Chiriches, Latovlevici, Bourceanu, Rusescu) are on the shortlist of better clubs for some time now; the recent appointment of Daniel Stanciu in the club has fueled the not so silent war going on when it comes to selling and buying new players.
This final point could be the cause for more harm to Steaua than any other Romanian club could produce next season, but at the same time this state of alert, the constant tension can lead to good things. Keeping in mind that everyone involved in it keeps the club’s best interest above their own. Which, to be honest, rarely happens, and not only in football…
Ioan Niculae, the wealthy owner of Astra Giurgiu, has struck again. After getting rid of Bogdan Stelea without elegance and professionalism, Niculae decided to cut the wings of someone who has been near the club for the last two decades, who had stepped in at a difficult time last year and had proved himself up for the job. Two defeats in a row this year counted more than the second place Astra still sits in, with a two points advantage over the former local rival from Ploiesti, Petrolul, and Valentin Sinescu must leave.
Sinescu, a veteran assistant coach, with an elegant, fancy speech, often too complicated for both players and even journalists, was earning around 2.000 euros per month after taking charge of the first team towards the end of October 2012 and was promised to stay at least until the end of the season “because he was loyal. He’s been with us for 20 years, didn’t ran away like others!”. The words came out of Niculae’s mouth not long ago, when Astra was reaching the 2nd spot, a record for the small club that still has a big chance of making into Europe. I, for one, doubt it will happen under the command of a mediocre Marin Barbu, the guy assigned Technical Director in December and now named in place of Sinescu, Astra’s fourth coach in the current campaign…
Romania’s national team coach and players said they want 4 points from the double against Hungary and Holland. They got just one, snatched in the overtime of a poor game in Budapest, losing 0-4 in Amsterdam a few days later, after a similar display.
Victor Piturca’s starting eleven for the second game was shocking, with lots of changes and several high risk bets, and the team had no reaction during the second heavy defeat against the Dutch during a campaign that can still have a happy end. In 3rd place, just one point behind the play-off spot, Romania plays at home against both Hungary and Turkey, will travel to Andorra and host in the last game Estonia. Nevertheless, lots of issues must be addressed in order to make it and, apart from the players’ form, the manager’s ability to identify, admit and correct his mistakes is vital for our chances to be just two games away from a place at the Brazilian World Cup. That’s why I think we’re doomed
Unfortunately for us, Piturca lives in a world of his own, refusing critics, entertaining suburban attacks and explaining us that his dictatorship will continue until 2016, when his current deal expires. A deal that stipulates as sporting goals qualifying Romania for the next final tournament of the European championship, a deal that excuses him from any mistakes during the current qualifying campaign, saying that he’s supposed to find the winning formula for the next one. Angry at the heavy, deserved criticism following recent display, Piturca organized a press conference to defend himself, but a lot of his statements can be
twisted turned against him…
- “During the winter, some bookies offered odds on my imminent sacking. It’s very difficult to achieve something under these circumstances.”
- “I don’t see the point of a question regarding my departure from the national team. You can talk about it, but I am not pressured by the results. The president of the Federation was laughing when we talked about it.“
So, the pressure gets to him, but, of course, it doesn’t get to him. The fans and the media harm the national team by talking about it / betting on it, but do not harm him, who is untouchable until 2016. And laughs about it with the guy nicknamed The Godfather.
- “Initially, I didn’t want to call Mutu, as I didn’t and still don’t think he’s physically able to play for both club and national team. I did create a special schedule for him, asking him to come earlier to the training camp. He came late and I told him he’s free to do whatever he wants, that he’s out of the team. The second day he arrived and was a mess for hours, begging to be forgiven. He wasn’t acting, he even cried.”
So, Mutu is not physically ready and he misses out on the special fitness schedule, staying “at a level not good enough for the national team”. Still, Mutu will be among the starters in the first game and will play 90 minutes against Hungary, on a heavy pitch, in Budapest.
- Steaua’s Cristian Tanase was the player with the worst physical shape, according to tests made in the national team’s training camp.
Tanase was in the starting lineup against Holland, playing for 60 minutes, ahead of team-mate Alexandru Chipciu, who had scored the late equalizer in Budapest and was looking in top shape, ahead of Alexandru Maxim, who had also played in the 2nd half of the game vs Hungary and, a few days later, would have started and scored for Stuttgart, against Borussia Dortmund.
- “In this campaign I have given up playing with three defensive midfielders, I only field two. You asked for a spectacular, offensive game, you got it. Our game has changed a bit. Against Holland, we could have defended the entire game and, with a bit of luck, get a point. But we played to win the game!”
In other words, the fans and the journalists are to blame for the defeat against Holland. Didn’t understand the “you got it!” part…
- “This is the country we are living in: we’re quick to judge people, to offer advice, but we don’t look at ourselves first.”
Well, he’s got a point. As the national team coach, I am ashamed of the way the team is playing, but I would like to remind everyone that I am under contract for the rest of my days, so back off!
- Gaz Metan Medias – Viitorul Constanta 4-1 (Bawab 4, 91, Llullaku 18, 31 / Chitu 39)
- CSMS Iasi – CFR Cluj 1-1 (Milea 56 / Rada 69)
- Astra Giurgiu – FC Brasov 3-0 (Budescu 20, Seto 40, Fatai 61)
- Rapid – Petrolul Ploiesti 0-0
- Otelul Galati – Pandurii Targu Jiu 1-0 (Iorga 87 pen)
- Ceahlaul – Steaua 3-4 (Gheorghiu 8, Golubovic 35 pen, Constantinescu 91 / Bourceanu 3, Rocha 10, Pintilii 12, Leandro Tatu 60)
- U Cluj – CS Severin 1-0 (Buleica 65)
- Dinamo – Concordia Chiajna 2-0 (Axente 86, Matei 94)
- FC Vaslui – Gloria Bistrita 1-1 (Sanmartean 95 pen / Bucur 2)
- Romanian media continues to speculate on a scenario that remains hard to believe, especially considering the structure of all articles, which lack statements from the main “actors”. Apparently, Mircea Lucescu is trying to convince Rinat Ahmetov to make a very small financial effort and get control over Dinamo Bucharest, a tormented club still close to Il Luce’s heart. The only credible news is that Nicolae Badea will retire from the current structure, leaving Ionut Negoita with the majority of the shares and financial problems. Oh, and that Dinamo’s players still haven’t been paid the entire salaries for November…
- Without a win in 2013, CFR Cluj faces more problems ahead of the trip to Iasi. gsp.ro counts to 12 the number of missing players for the next round, with captain Cadu and Felice Piccolo both suspended, and goalkeeper Mario Felgueiras recently injured during a training session.
- The National Arena from Bucharest, the host of the much anticipated Steaua – Chelsea duel, needed again a cash injection to solve the problems with the quality of the pitch. Some 400 square meters of grass was replaced and the costs of the operation has been covered by the Bucharest club, although the venue belongs to the municipality.
- Team of Round 21 (presented by gsp.ro and based on data collected by a specialized firm) looks like this: Grahovac (Otelul) – Rapa (Steaua), Luchin (Dinamo), Manasse (Petrolul), Latovlevici (Steaua) – Voiculet (Pandurii), Pintilii (Steaua), Hoban (Petrolul), Chipciu (Steaua) – V. Dinu (U Cluj), Matulevicius (Pandurii).
- Gloria Bistrita – Ceahlaul Piatra Neamt 0-0
- Steaua Bucharest – Gaz Metan Medias 3-0 (Nikolic 33, Pintilii 72, 88 pen)
- Viitorul Constanta – Universitatea Cluj 1-1 (Chitu 64 / V. Dinu 49 pen)
- CFR Cluj – Otelul Galati 0-1 (Paraschiv 7)
- Petrolul Ploiesti – CSMS Iasi 2-1 (Hoban 62, Grozav 80 / Patulea 54)
- Rapid – Dinamo 0-1 (Danciulescu 65)
- FC Brasov – Concordia Chiajna 3-2 (Buga 59, Oltean 63, Batin 86 / Belu 48, Popovici 90)
- Pandurii – FC Vaslui 2-1 (Matulevicius 56, 79 / Jumisse 61)
- FC Severin – Astra Giurgiu 0-0
- After a violent foul on Bulgarian full-back Milanov, CFR’s captain, Ricardo Cadu, has been suspended for 9 rounds. With his club already making an appeal to have it reduced (very likely to happen), Vaslui threatens to take the Portuguese centre-back to court. “Losing more than 4 teeth means mutilation and he can be charged for that! Our player will miss at least two months of football and we’ll ask for the player to be punished, so we can also get back the wages we’ll be offering to out player during this forced break”, said Ciprian Damian, the president of FC Vaslui.
- Dinamo’s players have finally received something from the club: another promise that they’ll be paid. One of the main shareholders, Ionut Negoita, the man who is also trying to get full control of the club, met the players and said that all the delayed payments will be solved within two weeks. “We still have to get 70% of the November salaries, plus full wages for December and January”, said veteran striker Ionel Danciulescu.
- The 17 years old Nicolae Vasile, who made his debut in Rapid’s first eleven in the first official game of the year, has been offered a pro contract. “He had nothing signed with us when playing for our youth teams, but he refused the chance to move to our rivals, Dinamo“, says now with a proud and happy face Constantin Zotta. Someone who would have probably blamed anyone else, in case Rapid would have lost the left back that stepped in place of Vladimir Bozovic, the Montenegro international who left the club after 6 seasons.
- The cash-strapped Dinamo signed another player (as usual, with two and a half months to prepare, “top” clubs make signings after the league resumed). It’s Alexandru Tudose, once a promising defender, now 25. Played 50 games for Gloria Bistrita in the past three seasons, but also has 10 appearances for arch-rivals Steaua…
- Universitatea Cluj will play the next two home games behind close doors, a punishment for the fans’ behavior during the game against Steaua, when one support entered the pitch and flares were thrown from the stands. To make up for this, the ultras have asked the club to print tickets anyway, promising to buy them even if they’ll have to watch the matches on TV.