Unravelling the enigma of football in the post-Soviet republics
Say what you want about Moldovan football, but one problem it definitely didn’t have was ticket touts.
(The official attendance for this Divizia Naţională match at the Stadionul Sătesc between Gagauziya and FC Tiraspol in Comrat last month was 200).
Even the country’s grudge match, Zimbru Chişinău versus Sheriff Tiraspol, failed to pique Moldovans’ interest and just 5,000 witnessed their 1-1 draw on Sunday. This was still enough for some fisticuffs between fans, mind.
But the national team is followed rather better, and tonight’s Euro 2012 qualifier against the Netherlands in Chişinău is arguably Moldova’s biggest match in years. It’s just a shame for many fans that they're going have to settle for watching it on the telly.
Bravo to the Federaţia Moldovenească de Fotbal for their decision not to limit the number of tickets a person could buy; since communism got the boot two years ago it seems some Moldovans have taken to this capitalism lark rather well, and an entrepreneurial few turned up at the Stadionul Zimbru last week to buy a significant number of tickets. Lots and lots. Several hundred at a time in some instances.
Big businesses were also allowed to reserve seats at the Stadionul Zimbru, and with a capacity of just 10,500, it’s not as if there were a load to go round in the first place.
It makes the stat that tickets sold out in five hours being trumpeted earlier this week seem slightly less impressive really, doesn’t it?
A statement has been issued asking people to arrive early, presumably because there’s going to be a mass scramble for tickets. Touts are going to have a real struggle shifting them in time for kickoff if everyone turns up just before the match is due to start.
Radu Rebeja, the vice-president of the FMF, has said they will alter how tickets are sold for future matches, but also raised the valid point that Moldova needs a national stadium.
Chişinău must be the only major former Soviet Union city without one of them massive Soviet-era bowl arenas, since the Stadionul Republican was demolished three years ago.
A little piece of history was lost with it. David Beckham made his England debut at the stadium in 1996.
A €35 million, 25,000-seater stadium was in the pipeline, but financial problems meant that was scrapped, and without state intervention it looks like it will never materialise.
And you thought Wembley had problems. This has all overshadowed what is going to be a great match for Moldova.
Under their new Romanian manager Gabi Pele Balint (yes, that is his actual name), the national team won its first game in a qualifying campaign for three years last month when they defeated Finland 2-0 in Chişinău, and interest among supporters is high.
The Dutch will win tonight, but for most Moldovans the game would have afforded them the rare opportunity to witness some world-class footballers they’ve only ever seen on television in the flesh.
It’s a pity so many will miss out.
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