“If we’d scored, perhaps the game would have been different.” Continue reading
Last Sunday saw the second leg of the baraj, the play-off to determine whether current Liga I side FC Voluntari, or the Liga II play-off winners UTA Bătrâna Doamnă, would take part in next season’s Romanian top flight. With Voluntari 3-0 up from the first leg, there seemed little chance that the phoenix club from the far west of the country could come back and win the tie. Continue reading
The place was hotter and noisier than one of those circles of Hell Dante was so interested in, and also yellower. On the big screen women dressed as lips and an accordion the size of a Renault 5 paraded around the pitch , while in the real world everybloodybody was blowing whistles, honking plastic horns, yelling for more beer, and sweating.
This was downstairs at Beraria H, the biggest beerhall in
Bucharest Romania Eastern Europe, pulsating with anticipation of the opening match of Euro 2016. The last time the whole continent’s eyes were focused so intently on Romanian footballers – if you don’t count Adrian Mutu‘s cocaine-related sacking from Chelsea in 2004 – was probably Euro 2000, when Phil Neville mistimed that tackle in the 89th minute.*
Friday night saw the Romanian national team’s last warm-up match before they kick off the European Championships against France this coming Friday. The prospect of watching a team which finished their qualifying campaign behind Northern Ireland – and which beat the Faroe Islands 1-0 and needed an injury-time equaliser to draw at home with Finland – had never before filled me with much excitement, but, well, it was a Friday night, and the Arena Națională was the only one of the big Bucharest stadiums I hadn’t been to.