The extremely talented people at stirivizuale.ro have produced a map of Romania’s inter-war football scene. It plots the important clubs of the time between the world wars, a period which began with a hugely expanded Romanian state (having gained territory from the dismantled Austro-Hungarian empire*), and it shows pretty clearly that Timișoara and Bucharest were where it was at.
The powerhouses of this developmental phase of Romanian football were the cities in the north and west, which had been Hungarian until 1918 and had thus benefited from the advanced state of the sport in the Empire, such as Arad, Oradea (Nagyvárad in Hungarian) and Cluj (Kolozsvár). Ploiești and Bucharest were what passed for major footballing centres in the original Romanian lands, but their level initially struggled to match that of the longer-established and more competitive Transylvanian and Banatean clubs.
Teams from the new territories competed in the national championship from the 1921-22 season onwards. In the industrial city of Timișoara (Temesvár), first Chinezul and then Ripensia had periods of dominance in the league, while Venus flew the flag for the capital – and for the whole of the ‘old kingdom’. Rapid, whose long and proud history came to a sorry end this summer, were always thwarted in the league but accumulated a handsome cabinetful of Romanian Cups.
There are fascinating trans-national stories about clubs from Cluj, Arad, Oradea and Cernăuți (now Chernivtsi, in Ukraine). I’m aiming to write about them all. One day. For now, you can read my take on CA Oradea here, and the inter-war Cernăuți football scene here.
If you’re wondering where Steaua and Dinamo, by far the most successful clubs in Romania’s history, are in all this… they are mere striplings, only founded in the aftermath of the Second World War. Ignore them and they might go away.
*The only cities on this map which were part of Romania before 1918 were Bucharest, Ploiești, Galați, Brăila, Piatra Neamț and Turnu Severin. This shows the extent to which the game in Romania was dominated by its newly-gained territories.