FC Timisoara is out of the Champions League and Liga I. Gloria Bistrita follows the Viola in the third division!
31st of March was the deadline to present the needed documents to get the professional licence and the right to play in Liga I next season. Of the 18 clubs, 8 (FC Timisoara, Gloria Bistrita, Universitatea Craiova, Gaz Metan Medias, FCM Targu Mures, CFR Cluj, Victoria Branesti and Unirea Urziceni) were denied it due to a lack of evidence that they had cleared all debt, but they all launched an appeal sending more documents to a special comittee, lead by a certain Viorel Duru (duru = tough, strict in Romanian!).
Duru held today a press conference and announced that five of the eight clubs will not be granted the right to play in Liga I next season. But, if Victoria Branesti, Universitatea Craiova and Unirea Urziceni were relegated anyway, the real victims are FC Timisoara and Gloria Bistrita. Timisoara, who finished the league in 2nd place, was undefeated for two thirds of the previous season, fought for the title until the very last round and had qualified for the Champions League’s preliminary rounds will probably go down all the way to the Romanian third tier!
The reasons? If Gloria Bistrita had debt towards the state’s budget, Timisoara, besides a similar issue, also failed to pay 1.2 million Euros of the 2.3 million Euros the club had agreed to pay Benfica Lisbon for the Romanian left-back Laszlo Sepsi.
In fact, this second reason also determined UEFA to eliminate FC Timisoara from the Champions League and it is thought that this call – although UEFA has no right to intervene in the licensing process of a certain country – had determined the Romanians to stay firm on the initial decision and not grant the licence for Liga I!
What’s certain: FC Timisoara will not play in the Champions League next season, but an exception can be found next Thursday, when the Executive Comitee of the Romanian Football Federation will meet to either confirm or deny this decision, which means that only then we will now for sure if and where the two clubs will be relegated from Liga I.
If Gloria Bistrita had little to say and no real power to change things in its favor – although this was the club heavily involved in match fixing before and after 1989, playing a big part in establishing league winners, fabricating goalscorers (remember the Golden Boot scandal) and relegated teams – FC Timisoara will go down with a bang. The bosses already said that they will fight in every possible way this decision, saying among others that they had reached an agreement with Benfica over the delayed payments in Sepsi’s case, and that the current ownership will stay with the team even if relegated to the fourth tier. They will try to take action in Lausanne, but also in civil court, where they will ask to be returned Balkan Petroleum’s investment in the club, calculated at around 40 million Euros.
Do stick around, updates will follow!
- Igli Tare is expected to watch Cristian Sapunaru from the stands in the Romania-Bosnia game, with reports saying that Lazio is willing to pay up to 7 million Euros for Porto’s right back and have prepared an wage of 1 million Euros per season for the player. Sapunaru’s deal with the Dragons will expire in 2013.
- Dorinel Munteanu has qualified Otelul in the Champions League’s group stage, after winning the title, but is struggling to get the deal he wants from Marius Stan, the club’s president. Munteanu wants 300.000 Euros per season, a sum Otelul isn’t willing to pay, so the coach might be a champion out of contract, this summer.
- Second place and qualified for the preliminary stages of the Champions League, FC Timisoara finds out today UEFA’s decision. The Viola outfit might lose its licence due to some financial problems that could have been easily solved and, at the same time, not just its place in Europe, but also the one from Liga I!
- Rapid’s owner, George Copos: “Having again Razvan Lucescu (the current national team coach) on the bench is a beautiful dream”.
- Cristiano Bergodi is linked with a return to Steaua. After getting the sack for showing the guts to ask Gigi Becali to step out of the team’s dressing room, the Italian’s chances should be slim. Very slim!
- Galatasaray’s striker Bogdan Stancu will miss the vital game against Bosnia and joins Palermo’s Dorin Goian on the sidelines. Razvan Lucescu decided to call Ianis Zicu, who has finished the season as Liga I’s best goalscorer, with 18 goals, and was surprisingly left out of the squad by Lucescu Jr.
- Ioan “Giovani” Becali stated that Bogdan Stancu and Emmanuel Culio are part of Gala’s plans for the coming season, while Steaua’s former goalkeeper Robinson Zapata will be released this summer.
- Italian media speculates that Victor Becali’s trip to Rome won’t be strictly related to Stefan Radu’s new deal with Lazio, with Reja’s team interested in FC Porto’s Cristian Sapunaru.
- Former Lens coach Laszlo Boloni says that Gheorghe Hagi, who is tempted to return at Steaua, should remember how Becali humiliated him and refuse any proposal.
- Universitatea Cluj has decided to release three players: Alfonso Delgado, Danut Munteanu and Nicola Ascoli. Strange call on Delgado, considering that the Spaniard has featured in 28 matches last season, scoring 2 goals in the process.
- Recently signed by Rapid, on a free transfer, central defender Cristian Oros has been called up the national team, to cover for Goian’s absence. Oros is 26, has played for FC Brasov, where he has worked with the current national team coach. And, with Lucescu Jr. tipped to return to Rapid, once he resigns/gets the sack, it does makes some sense.
- Steaua is interested in getting the signature of Dorin Goga, a creative forward from FC Timisoara, who starts this summer the last year of his current deal with the Viola club. For the record, a few years ago, Goga was involved in the “Suitcase” scandal, being singled out as Steaua’s inside man, who spread the word that Steaua’s owner Gigi Becali has prepared 1.7 million Euros for Universitatea Cluj’s players, if they manage to stop CFR Cluj from winning the league.
- FC Sion’s George Ogararu said that he wants to end his career with Steaua. Still has two years on his deal with the Swiss club.
As you probably know by now, Otelul Galati has won the Romanian championship. What you probably don’t know is who in Unirea Urziceni’s name is Otelul Galati. Prepare for a shorter walk than the 200 kilometers the club’s president promised to go on foot, back in November 2010, when all this was just a joke, as I will present you the club every Champions League participant will want to meet in autumn, in the group stage.
In the summer of 2009, Marius Stan, Otelul’s president, was offering a two years long deal to the most capped Romanian player in the national team’s history, Dorinel Munteanu. The man who represented his country 134 times had returned home, to Cologne, angered by accusations of match-fixing launched by former employers. Trying to clear his name in court was the right thing to do, but the wisest thing was to do it on the pitch. And, two years later, “Munti” was winning, against all odds, a league that had no less than six contenders at the beginning of the season, who tried everything to stop him. They came across a stubborn, determined, workaholic team, that multiplied by 11 Munteanu’s approach to the game he never cheated as a professional, and failed.
Meet “Galati Steelers”!
You might have heard of a certain Lakshmi Mittal. Yes, the wealthy owner of QPR, who will face the likes of Roman Abramovich in the Premier League, but, at the same time, might challenge the Russian’s club in the Champions League. And that thanks to Otelul Galati, the club that dreamed to become the Eastern Europe’s Chelsea, when the city’s immense steel factory was bought by the Indian’s company, but rarely received more than survival money, in Liga I.
It was disappointing for those at the club, but not for the old fox Marius Stan, who had made an attempt to become the city’s mayor in 2007, one that might have more success if repeated after this incredible performance. Just like most of his players, the president doesn’t lack tempting offers ;-)
This is the first title in the club’s history, which starts in 1964 and records the first promotion in the top flight in 1986! Two years later, Otelul was playing in the UEFA Cup against the mighty Juventus, recording a memorable 1-0 at home, before losing 0-5 in the second leg. “La Vecchia Signora” was counting on names like Stefano Tacconi, Alessandro Altobelli or Michael Laudrup, while Otelul’s midfield was built around a certain Marius Stan. With him at the helm, the red and white club from Galati was going to win the Intertoto Cup in 2007, a feat followed by a quick exit from the UEFA Cup.
Munteanu’s work and Otelul’s honest workers
In his first days as a coach, Munteanu tried to implement a 4-2-1-3 setup that was used on a large scale in the 1.Bundesliga, a formation he kept on tweaking in the creative – finishing department, after he moved away from CFR Cluj and gained more and more experience at Steaua, FC Arges and FC Vaslui, but constantly improved the functionality of the back four, in combination with the two defensive midfielders. His tactics and the strict approach found the perfect group of players in Galati, where a bunch of youngsters raised by Otelul in the third and second tier was completed by some bargain buys from second division clubs from both Romania and nearby countries. The president’s eye for talents and ability to sign them for some tens of thousands of Euros was going to pay dividends.
These players, desperate to make a name for themselves and move on, in search of better wages, added muscle and energy to an experienced back-bone formed by Sergiu Costin, Gabriel Giurgiu and Gabriel Paraschiv, who offered inspiration (you can find here Paraschiv’s incredible request to get a wage cut!) and ensured that Munteanu’s requests are fulfilled both during the very demanding training sessions and during the matches.
Rapa versus Messi, Neagu tackling Cesc, Ilie racing past Lahm?
There are no standout players in this team. Can’t find a lot of flair and the skill lost its importance with the 11 bees spending more time off than on the ball and this team could get slaughtered in the Champions League.
We thought the same in September, in November, Marius Stan was promising that he’ll walk from Galati to Slanic Moldova (that’s 200 kilometers, Forrest!), if his team wins the league, and we were sure in March that Otelul will drop from the top of the table so bad, that the team won’t even be able to secure a place in Europa League. The players were buzzing though and just managed to hang on, taking advantage of the fight between the other title contenders and some game-winning mistakes in their favor, committed by the refs. They were used to fight for survival and, this season, they did it. Just that they were defending the 1st place, not the 14th!
Who is Cornel Rapa? A 21 years old right back, who didn’t stay long in the U21, before moving into the senior national team. Ok, that’s not very hard, judging by the current level of Romania’s squad, but it’s still something that doesn’t happen too often.
Ionut Neagu has an interesting story too. He was playing for CSM Ramnicu Sarat in 2009, simply the worst team in the Romanian second division, when he was called back to Otelul during the winter break. Offered the chance to start in central midfield, he was going to lose that place only when injured or suspended.
Liviu Antal, Laurentiu Bus or Adrian Salagean are Marius Stan’s findings in the second tier, while Branko Grahovac and Milan Perendija are the winning bets placed by the same guy on the foreign market, somewhere he didn’t do very well, in the past.
All these guys, with no pedigree or experience, earning around 50.000 Euros per season – and still willing to accept wage cuts! – proved that serious, hard and professional work can pay off. Get ready to see some scared young faces on the biggest European stage in autumn, but try to accept that the Romanians who will fight for every ball and every inch, killing the show, are no longer gifted like Hagi, but determined and hard-working like Munteanu. Those ready to write them off should keep in mind though that Unirea Urziceni, who has now relegated to the second division and could even disappear as a club, collected a record tally of eight points, in a group formed by Rangers, Stuttgart and Seville…
You can find below the captain’s goodbye note, but I find very interesting some comments made by some Romanians involved in the game.
Ioan Sdrobis, one of Chivu’s first coaches: “He just proved that he’s not a man. He left the battlefield, in the middle of the war – he could have done this after the games versus Bosnia.”
Ioan Becali, Chivu’s agent: “I had no idea, but in the end we have to respect his choice. I think that his wife Adelina talked him into this.”
Gheorghe Hagi, legend: “He was an outstanding player for the national team and we have to be proud of what he did for Romania. I’ve known him as a person and as a player and I say with all my heart that he has my outmost respect.”
Not hard to tell the difference between a bitter old man, a greedy agent and someone who knows what’s it all about, right?
I have reached a difficult time of in my life, one that I’ve always thought of with fear, but cannot be delayed anymore. My playing career under Romania’s flag is over. My age, the injuries, the surgical interventions that I’ve gone through in recent years keep me from playing on several fronts. With this decision, one of the most important periods of my life comes to an end and now, when I look back, I feel pride, honor and gratitude.
I was, I still am and will always be one of Romania’s most passionate fans and it was my honor to captain this team. For 12 years I’ve been a part of this family, I had the privilege to score goals under Romania’s colors, to play football with the sound of our national anthem in my ears and to run until my energy tank dries out for the pride of my fellow Romanians. I did it with all my heart, as a sportsman and Romanian.
It is hard for me to stop this journey, but I know that I won’t cease to be a Romanian, to support all the Romanian sportsmen and footballers and to be the biggest fan of the Romanian national team. My heart beats for the country and for my family and this will never change, no matter my age or my health.
I would like to thank with all my heart to all those who’ve supported me in my international career, coaches, team-mates, members of the Federation, fans, members of my family, to my wife and our two daughters, for these 12 years that have changed my life.
Go Romania! Let’s be proud that we’re Romanians!
Signed: Cristi Chivu, Romanian and football player