Strange headline for a strange situation, which was a perfect fit though for Liga 1, the championship with the biggest percentage of club owners in trouble with the law. The league where public money is used in competition with private money, but both types enter the circuit of the sport “where you cannot make a profit” with this very purpose. But that is another, longer story.
Back to the one behind the headline: on Sunday evening, Romanian multiple (running and most likley future) champions had to take drastic measures, following a lost lawsuit. The name, the biggest name in Romanian club football, the European Cup winners from 1986, Hagi’s former and beloved team, cannot be used
anymore for now without the approval of the former owner of Steaua Bucharest. The name was erased from the scoreboard of the stadium that hosted the 1-0 victory against CSMS Iasi. A square represented the current league leaders who are on another solitary run towards the title, while the name and the logo were erased from the players’ shirts, the dugout and any other visible place it stood before a Romanian court reached a shocking, but fair decision.
Gigi Becali might have took over the famous club and its huge fan pool through some dodgy maneuvers, but after more than a decade of use the Ministery of Defence finally managed to throw back a punch. It might not be a knock-out, but it surely is a knock-down. It might have angered some fans, but there’s a sense of justice behind it. Steaua’s past, glorious, but often built through unsporting measures under the communist regime, came back to haunt the club now ran from behind bars by its owner, Becali, and sporting director, Stoica, both unable to fuel the type of massive scandal that was expected by such a bold call. They and those within the club are now in an extremely delicate situation. If they’ve took this measure in Liga 1 to avoid further punishment, they are now in a race against the clock to find a solution. No later than Thursday evening, Dynamo Kyiv is coming to Bucharest in the Europa League and I’m sure they (and UEFA) would surely like to know the name of the team they’re playing against…
UPDATE: After a meeting that took place on Monday afternoon, Becali’s club has been granted the right to use the name and the logo for the last two official matches of 2014. Negotiations are expected to take place at the start of next year, with the Ministry of Defense hoping to make Gigi Becali pay an important sum to continue to use the brand.
- 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).
- 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.
With all the focus on Romania’s double against Turkey and Holland, there was little attention paid to the U19 national team that played three games in Scotland, against the home side, Switzerland and Armenia. But that’s not news, just like the information that the team just missed out on the tickets to the Elite round, which would have been the last stage before the final tournament of the European Championship.
Romania started by earning what looked like a valuable point against Switzerland, Mihai Vodut‘s goal being cancelled by Endogan Adili just before the break. The game was followed by a 0-1 defeat against Scotland, who had won 4-0 their opening game against Armenia, the only change in the starting line-up seeing Alexandru Dan take the place of Iulian Rosu in a midfield line that had a more obvious defensive approach given the profile of the three players used.
Still, the race wasn’t over, as Romania needed to win against Armenia in the final match and a Scotland success in the duel with Switzerland, who had won as well against the group’s weakest team. Unfortunately, although both conditions were met (the home side trailed twice, yet came back and pushed for a win that wasn’t even necessary at that point), Adrian Vasai’s boys won’t make the next step. Dinamo’s Darius Buia scored very late, in the 82nd minute, and Romania failed to add a second goal that would have seen it through to the Elite Round.
It’s a bitter defeat for a decent team formed mainly with players from Steaua, Dinamo and Viitorul Constanta, who would have needed some more experience in its’ ranks. A look at the Swiss starting eleven, where several starters are already used on a regular basis at club level, in the top flight, is enough to see and explain the difference. A small one, if we look at the standings, a bigger one, if we dare to look at the bigger picture.
Romania starts the campaign away in Estonia, a tricky opponent that would be followed by Andorra at home, and a six points tally is a must, before the qualifiers really get going, as Hungary, Turkey and Holland will stand in the way of a performance that’s been missing since 1998.
Victor Piturca – who always begs for a quiet atmosphere, friendly media and devoted, enthusiastic crowds – kicked it off with another debatable selection and a scandal involving FC Vaslui, a club that could & should have sent at least four players, instead of two. As much as he tries, Piturca won’t convince that Dani Coman and Lucian Sanmartean didn’t deserve to be in the team. We have three goalkeepers who are either out of form (Tatarusanu) or out of match fitness (Lobont & Pantilimon), while the argument that on the left side of midfield there’s Cristian Tanase and Sanmartean isn’t needed is a joke and puts the coach in a bad spot. Even if he was only backup, Sanmartean was a great solution on the bench or for the second match, not to mention that he would have offered Piturca the chance to even alter his tactical ideas to include two very good attacking midfielders in the same line-up…
To draw a parallel, it makes no sense calling-up both Bourceanu and Pintilii from Steaua. Bourceanu will start, so why have Pintilii as backup, especially after you’ve criticized him for playing below par since his transfer from Pandurii. But trying to find logic in Piturca’s choices is a waste of time, no wonder that’s exactly what Romania has done in recent years on the international stage.
I’ll end with the classical wish for luck. We’re definitely going to need a lot, if we’re to stand a chance in this campaign…
Here’s the complete squad for the double versus Estonia and Andorra:
Goalkeepers: Bogdan Lobont (AS Roma), Ciprian Tatarusanu (Steaua), Costel Pantilimon (Manchester City)
Defenders: Alexandru Matel (Astra), Valerica Gaman (Astra), Srdjan Luchin (Dinamo), Dragos Grigore (Dinamo), Dorin Goian (Spezia), Vlad Chiriches (Steaua), Razvan Rat (Shakhtar Donetsk), Adrian Salageanu (FC Vaslui)
Midfielders: Gabriel Torje (Granada), Adrian Popa (Steaua), Alexandru Bourceanu (Steaua), Costin Lazar (PAOK), Mihai Pintilii (Steaua), Claudiu Voiculet (Pandurii), Alexandru Maxim (Pandurii), Cristian Tanase (Steaua)
Forwards: Raul Rusescu (Steaua), Marius Niculae (FC Vaslui), Ciprian Marica (Schalke), Gheorghe Grozav (Petrolul)
Once the Champions League draw ends, three European clubs and the huge number of football they can surely put together will try to find out more about Cluj, the city of Romanian champions, CFR. Well, if foreigners have every right to think of this club whenever they hear the city’s name – given the recent success and European exposure –, Romanians know that, first of all, this is the home of Universitatea. A club with an impressive history that managed to keep a strong bond with the majority of local fans, in spite of mediocre performances in recent years – something that couldn’t even come close to what CFR achieved in the past decade.
Well, the patience and fidelity of the fans will be tested once again, as a period of torment started with the departure of club owner and major investor Florian Walter to Petrolul Ploiesti (alongside a dozen of the team’s best players from last season) will now reach its climax. The club’s new president, Ana Maria Prodan, who is none other than the wife of Steaua’s coach, Laurentiu Reghecampf – Romanian football, always surprising! -, made her move, after several threats of taking Universitatea away from its fans, unless financial support will come from the local authorities.
An official statement says that until the end of the current season, U will play its home games in Buzau, some 400 km away from Cluj. The team will abandon not only its home town, but also a brand new stadium, the impressive Cluj Arena (Elite category, 30.335 seats, re-built in 2011 and branded for Universitatea – this is the reason why CFR recently declined the chance to play there Champions League matches!), to move to a venue that offered shelter to other clubs in dark periods of their history: Steaua Bucuresti, Petrolul Ploiesti and Otelul Galati.
A terrible decision that will surely generate an answer from the club’s passionate fans. And I’m afraid it’s not going to be a nice one, as they’ve often produced when supporting the Red Caps…
“Earthquake with world-class match fixers! A nightmare expects FC Vaslui when they’ll play Fenerbahce” – This is the title that created a huge scandal in Turkey, after the article written by Gazeta Sporturilor was presented by the Istanbul media outlets. I cannot know what the Turkish press wrote, but I can guess that they’ve speculated a title that is bombastic as usual and, again as usual, has little to do with the article itself.
I’ll go through the piece, with an accurate translation / presentation of each phrase:
“Rocked by a match fixing scandal in the previous season and with one title won in the last five seasons, Vaslui’s opponent compensates with the fantastic atmosphere on Sukru Sarioglu and the stars Kuyt, Topal and Alex.
Fener was excluded last season from the Champions League by UEFA, but now enters the competition as runners-up in the Turkish league. The coach Aykut Kocaman rotated the team’s stars this summer: the loans of Ziegler and Yobo ended, Emre went to Atletico Madrid and Dia plays now in Qatar, but in Istanbul arrived the likes of Mehmet Topal, Dirk Kuyt and Kaldirim.
The top veterans create a tsunami at home
The team’s spine is formed by players that are already established: the keeper Demirel, 55 caps for Turkey, the Brazilian captain Alex, the Senegalese Sow, brought from Lille for 8,8 mil. Euros, plus other three players with around 100 games for Fener each: Senturk, Topuz and Selcuk. Not to mention the Slovakian talent Stoch, who comes from Chelsea.
At home, Fener is like an unleashed beast, with just one defeat in the last 32 official games and can impose a terrible pace to the game: under Kocaman, there’s an average of 2,1 goals scored per match.
Statements from Marius Sumudica and Adrian Porumboiu follow, both praising Fenerbahce’s strength and support.
Below, a presentation of what follows if Vaslui manages to go through or if the Romanian side will be eliminated.
The article ends with some info on Fenerbahce, as follows: Kocaman is in charge since 2010, while Vaslui changed 3 coaches since then; the Kadikoy area from Istanbul has 700.000 people, 10 times more than the entire city of Vaslui; “The yellow and black hell” has been built in 1908 and improved in 1999; Fener won 18 titles, while Vaslui has spent only 7 years in the Romanian first division”.
As you can see, apart from the title – which might not even belong to the author – and an objective, based on facts, mention about the match fixing scandal, the article praises Fener’s strength and shows the big gap between the two teams that will meet in the Champions League’s preliminary rounds… Still, that title was enough for the Turkish media to blow everything out of proportion and if my Twitter feed has been “on fire” on this topic, you can imagine what happens on Turkish forums…
The Fenerbahce fans are very angry about this and, as usual, several scenarios have appeared. It goes from “it’s an article paid by Galatasaray’s board” to “I’ve heard that the editor of that website is the nephew of Gica Popescu, who played for Galatasaray”. Popescu, who is only in his early 40’s…
So this is what a stupid, bombastic title in Romania – who, by the way, has had for years a league where match fixing has been quite a common practice! – speculated by the Turkish media can do to Fener’s fans, who are talking about the un-finished trial, the effect on the stock exchange, the reactions of their rival fans and, of course, “a real crime”, without realizing that they are tricked – once again – by the press, who remains desperate to make everything it takes to gather more clicks and to sell more papers…