Mihai Nesu‘s everyday life is a physical struggle after the horrific accident suffered years ago, but his intelligence and passion for football are still in one place. So, it’s not pity what got him the job as a video analyst for Universitatea Cluj from the new coach in charge, George Ogararu. It’s just something you can’t find these days (actually, for decades) at his former club, Steaua Bucharest: true friendship and respect from an open-minded person in charge.
To both of them I sincerely wish the best of luck. And let’s just secretly keep our fingers crossed for Universitatea Cluj, no matter the team we support. There’s a spirit within that club strong enough not to be perverted by the promise of quick success brought to town in recent years by CFR, a spirit that sets this club apart and gestures like Ogararu’s just fit right in…
When you have two clowns in charge, Romanian football can only be a joke. Unfortunately, it’s not a good one
If you wonder how on earth Victor Piturca, a recently convincted man, can still be in charge of Romania’s national team, the answer is quite simple, friends: his boss is no stranger to bending and even breaking the rules. Mircea Sandu is, for too many years now, in charge of FRF, the Romanian Football Federation, just like Dumitru Dragomir, the chief of LPF, the Professional Football League.
These two had a difficult problem on their hands, after last season, when four teams relegated, while Universitatea Cluj and Rapid Bucharest were not granted the license to play in Liga 1 next season, due to financial problems. As the team from Cluj attacked the decision in Lausanne and won, regaining the right to stay in the top flight as the 17th club, Sandu and Dragomir realized the option to cut down the league to 16 teams has been cancelled, so they needed to find the 18th team. And quickly, because the league starts on the 20th of July. What were the options? Well, they’re quite clearly stated in FRF’s book of rules, but when your nickname is The Godfather, you don’t need to look there anymore, do you? No, you can come up with this idea: we could organize a playout between Rapid Bucharest (who still shouldn’t play in Liga 1, as they never attacked the decision) and Concordia Chiajna (who, alongside CSMS Iasi, was one of the two relegated teams with a license for next season). The reasoning? We put together a team that had won on the pitch its’ right to stay in the top flight and one that was relegated on the pitch, but “avoided relegation” from the financial point of view. Basically, we make a mess of it and allow the clubs we want to compete for the place (and millions of Euros) at stake.
To be honest, this was probably the wierdest idea, yet it passed without problems and the two clubs will face each other on Saturday, with a place in Liga 1 at stake. Allowing Rapid (who recently changed ownership) this chance means throwing in the toilet your own Licensing manual, one that has relegated important clubs in the past and will probably be used to “kill” others in the future. Also, Concordia should have been matched with either CSMS Iasi or left in the second division, as the rules say, with a club from Liga 2 allowed to occupy the empty spot on sporting reasons. But that means following the rules. Following your own rules, the ones you ask everyone to obey, so that you can break them yourself…
- 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.
Relegation isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a Romanian first division club this season. Terrible management, caused mainly by a lack of planning, unsupported ambitions and unrealistic wages, has eventually returned with what could be a deadly bite in the ass.
The first club to raise the white flag was Rapid, at the end of last year. The first effect: a massive clear-out, with basically all the important players allowed to leave on a free transfer, including the Montenegro international Vladimir Bozovic, one of the foreign players with the most appearances in Liga 1 (The all-time leader is CFR’s skipper, Ricardo Cadu – 169 games). From a title contender, Rapid, who lies now in 9th place, 8 points above relegation zone, will rather look behind than ahead, as club owner George Copos decided to put the club into administration. Copos has been saying for years that he is willing to sell the club, but in the meantime did nothing to really work on clearing or at least reducing the level of debt that scared away any possible investor.
Gloria Bistrita followed shortly, but this call was met with less sympathy in Romania. The club that raised the likes of Viorel Moldovan and Lucian Sanmartean has a rather dark history under the reign of Jean Padureanu. Nicknamed The Lord, the 76 years old president of this small club was a key figure in a very developed scheme of fixed matches that for years played the leading role in deciding who wins the title, who goes into Europe and who relegates to the second division. Obviously, Gloria had no worries of going down, being allowed to run with very low costs and also make a profit from a plan that crippled Romanian football. That’s why the club’s level of debt is now at around 3 million Euros – a rather small sum, but still one to demand such a drastic measure.
The name of the third first division club to enter administration is already known: Universitatea Cluj. The club’s accounts are blocked since last summer, the 1,04 million Euros from TV rights that are expected in February will go directly to the state budget and there’s no owner ready to push money, as Florian Walter has moved to Petrolul (alongside a dozen of players) and is hoping to sell Universitatea – a move that will also solve a moral issue (controlling two clubs in the same league) that doesn’t seem to bother anyone else around here.
More could/should follow. Dinamo is still affected a continuous turmoil at ownership level, and among the so called top clubs is in the worst shape, while in relegation zone CSMS Iasi and CS Severin could do the same as Gloria Bistrita and Universitatea Cluj. The club from Severin is the most optimistic of all to escape financial trouble, but with the saviors coming from Greece, maybe we should take all the enthusiastic media stories with a pinch of salt…
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…
A mad title race came to an end on Friday evening, when CFR Cluj had to replay the game versus Universitatea. With Steaua and FC Vaslui hoping to get this one wrong and leave it all for the final round, CFR felt that everything will fall apart as the home team managed to get a two goal advantage, before things turned – once again – in their favor.
Some will say it’s no coincidence that a referee’s call made it possible, with Adrian Cristea booked for a second time and sent off after a too aggressive way of protecting the ball, but let’s make it clear: in Liga I, nobody should point the finger and accuse an opponent of trying to influence the outcome of a game in their favor. They are all trying in some way and at their level of influence, pushing the referees, asking and looking for all sorts of favors, trying to get the other team’s footballers to either play with less determination or ready to die on the pitch. So, especially those from Steaua, Vaslui, Dinamo and even Rapid who are now accusing CFR of getting their dirty hands on the third title in the club’s history should keep quiet and accept they’ve lost a battle in which they used pretty much the same weapons.
I’m not saying it’s nice or good for Romanian football and I’m hoping to see the day when at least some of the guys involved in what happens behind the scenes will pay. It won’t come soon, not with Mircea Sandu running the Federation and Dumitru Dragomir pulling the strings in the so-called Professional Football League – read the article written by the excellent Jonathan Wilson for The Guardian -, but as we say over here hope dies last.
So, congrats to CFR Cluj for their win and let’s hope that everyone, and especially the new champions, will focus a lot more on football and their own teams. They looked mediocre for most of the season and massive changes need to take place if they want to compete in Europe in autumn. FC Vaslui did great, considering their transfer ban, but their stars are one year older and the added frustration could lead to the departure of some of the finest attacking players Liga I has seen at least in recent times. Steaua, Dinamo and Rapid once again pushed the self-destruction button and continue to look as expensive toys of spoiled kids, who deserve to suffer bitter defeats. They won’t learn from them, but they surely look good dejected, after making a mockery of their teams, coaches, players and fans throughout the season…
Vital game for CFR Cluj tonight, with four rounds to go in the Romanian top flight, as Universitatea, the local arch-rivals await. Fans of the Red Caps burn CFR’s flags on their way to the brand new Cluj Arena, but the goalkeeper of the home team, Mircea Bornescu, will do something worse only 30 minutes after the first whistle. Bornescu lost it and went after CFR’s captain Cadu , who converted a penalty and went behind the goal for a wild celebration. The kick started a fight that forced the ref to send off both players and stop the game for 15 minutes, but Cadu was once again attacked on his way to the dressing room and CFR’s coach Ioan Andone refused to let the players come back on the pitch, asking for the game to be stopped, as he considered the environment too dangerous…
Bornescu’s crazy act will do CFR a great favor and will add to a rivalry that didn’t need another sparkle. Not to mention the controversy added to another title that is now only three steps away from Arpad Paszkany’s club.