Romanian football, beset by
eccentric club presidents, crowd violence and financial
difficulties, will enjoy a brief respite from its unhappy
routine when it stages the Europa League final on Wednesday.
Bucharest's National Stadium, impressively rebuilt with
facilities which put it on par with Europe's top stadiums, will
host Spanish rivals Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid as they
battle to win Europe's secondary club competition.
It will be welcome spotlight for Romanian football which has
otherwise endured a miserable season with the national team
failing to qualify for Euro 2012 and Otelul Galati out of their
depth in the Champions League as they lost all six group games.
The country may not have a team at all in the Champions
League group stage next season, having lost its right to an
automatic place due to previous poor performances.
Romania's hopes that one of their clubs would reach the
Europa League final also ended early with Steaua Bucharest,
their last remaining representatives, losing to Twente Enschede
in the round of 32.
The problems were even worse domestically.
Across the country, grounds are outdated, crowds sparse and
the world players' union FIFPro says most clubs struggle to pay
Problems started before the season when FC Timisoara and
Gloria Bistrita were both kicked out of the first division, Liga
1, when they were refused licenses due to overdue debts.
That also cost Timisoara, last season's runners-up, a place
in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, where they
were replaced by Vaslui.
It was even worse for Unirea Urizceni, who won the
championship as recently as 2009, but who were not playing at
all this season.
They were relegated last season, then barred from all
competitions after failing to apply for a license.
Violence also reared its ugly head when a Petrolul Ploiesti
fan invaded the pitch during a league game against Steaua
Bucharest and punched a player to spark a mass brawl.
Dragos Enache was ordered to pay compensation of 50,000
Romanian lei ($15,155) to former Steaua defender George Galamaz
who fractured his cheekbone in the incident which eventually
caused the game to be called off after a half hour delay.
Petrolul were also ordered to play six home games behind
Former European champions Steaua, currently fourth in the
league, made more headlines thanks to the antics of flamboyant
owner Gigi Becali, already on to his third coach of the season,
than their form on the pitch.
Becali at one point announced plans to field a Romanian-only
team next season.
"There were only Romanians in the team in 1986 and they won
the European Cup, so why we should pay high salaries to foreign
players and not win anything?" said Becali, a member of the
The state-of-the-art national stadium is a far cry from most
grounds in the country and earlier this year, the Romanian
Football Federation (FRF) said it would impose tougher sanctions
on clubs whose stadiums were in a poor condition.
"The future does not look very good. Some clubs are
insolvent and probably it'll be difficult for them to continue,"
warned the FRF's licensing director Viorel Duru.
Even the National Stadium has not been without problems.
The planned inaugural match between Romania and Argentina at
the start of the season was cancelled after the South Americans
fired coach Sergio Batista.
When it did open with a Euro 2012 qualifier against France,
the pitch cut up badly within the first few minutes, leaving
huge divots in the field.
It has since been relaid.
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