LNTUP

Steaua Bucharest: The East-European giant with no identity

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I want to tell you the story of a European Champions Cup winner team who have the biggest following in their country and now needs to face the future with a different club name, a different badge and no history.

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Even if it’s unbelievable, that is the situation here in Romania with Steaua Bucharest Catalin Oprisan, a romanian journalist explained the things for everybody to understand: “Steaua it was the team of the army. The name “Steaua” (The Star, in English) represented the symbol of the soldiers, the military. In 1990, the army said that they don’t have sufficient money to pay the Steaua Bucharest players. In 1999 appeared Gigi Becali who said: Ok! I have money.I’m not interested in football, but I have money. Without no lawyers, no nothing, no papers. Ok, starting from this moment, i’m Steaua Bucharest.”

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For ten years, it was ok, no problems. But when Becali went to prison, the thing changed. Catalin told that the non-privatised less-wealthy sports of Steaua saw an opportunity to make some money. They go to Becali and asked “ Mister Becali do you have any documentation? No. So if want to still use the name Steaua Bucharest, give us some money”.

So, in this very moment, we have a club with logo, history, everything, but no money. And Becali, with money, but without logo, history, old stadium. Who were catched in the middle: the fans and the players.

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Becali took the opposite view in 2011, when all the madness began. “They say I am using the symbol illegally? OK! Then why did they agree contracts with me for so long?” he asked. “Why did they accept me in their stadium? What are they doing, signing a contract with a partner that hasn’t been faithful to them? How can they explain that to me? They want me to pay rent for the training facilities? Don’t they know I invested millions in them? Why did they allow me to play at Ghencea if they knew I was using the brand on illegal terms?”.

The name ‘Steaua’ was removed from all training kits and official suits. Also, they were reduced to referring to themselves only as “the hosts” to play a Romanian league tie against CSMS Iasi. And the stadium announcer referred to the side as “the champions of Romania” all night. Indeed, Steaua’s name was scrubbed off everything in the stadium; from the scoreboard, to to the team-sheet, to the staff jackets, to the pennant handed over before kick-off.

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The highly-controversed owner of the club, can not use the name “Steaua” anymore after the Court of Appeal decision of 21 December 2016. He has only one appeal before the decision is final – High Court of Cassation and Justice. Until then, the team will have another name – “Football Club FCSB SA”, which it will be first used this weekend in the “Eternal Derby” against fierce rivals Dinamo Bucharest.

“We are even considering creating our own football club once more, it’s a real possibility if we don’t reach an agreement with the company owned by Mr Becali” someone from the army threatened last year. And it seems this will happen in the summer of 2017, when the army wants to insert the newly-created team into the Romanian fourth tier.

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This whole story perfectly summarises the state of Romanian club football these days.Half the teams in Liga 1 either have huge financial problems or leading personel in jail or under investigation. Attendances are droping, TV coverage is being monopoled, and so on. In the last few years Steaua has managed to be head and shoulders above any other domestic team because of its financial stability.

Steaua Bucharest
52.000 Steaua fans chanting and supporting their team, in 2013 when they defeated Champions League holders, Chelsea, 1-0 in Bucharest, Photo: UEFA

The images with 52.000 Steaua fans chanting and supporting their team, in 2013 when they defeated Champions League holders, Chelsea, 1-0 in Bucharest, are all history now. And they all have the same message for Becali and the army: STOP THE MADNESS!!!