Back from holiday

Update on current affairs…

Liga I: after five games Dinamo, Steaua and Pandurii are setting the pace, while at the bottom Târgu Mureş and ACS Poli are still on minus points. Proper football!

Europe: Last season’s champions Astra, having been knocked out of the Champions’ League qualifiers by Copenhagen, will be out of the Europa League too unless they can beat West Ham in London this week. They have won only one in eight in all competitions since their Super Cup triumph in mid-July. Steaua, meanwhile, got past Sparta Prague but now need to overturn a 5-0 first leg deficit against Manchester City or be condemned to the Europa League.

In said Europa League, Gheorghe Hagi’s Viitorul were thumped by Gent in the first qualifying round and went out of Europe without scoring a goal; Iaşi were undone by a late goal in each leg of their second qualifying round with Hajduk Split; and Pandurii were beaten by Maccabi Tel Aviv in the third qualifying round. Concentrate on the league then, everyone.

Lower leagues: Meanwhile, in Liga 2, which is no longer separated into two divisions, the most noticeable thing after three games is that Şoimii Pâncota are bottom with no points, having scored no goals and conceded a remarkable 41. The little team from Arad county, in the far west of the country, had its local council’s financial support withdrawn over the summer; in spite of having no money and at that point no players, the club president decided the club would go ahead and take part in the second division. The new captain is 19, the oldest player is 20, and half of the line-up in last week’s 18-0 defeat to Juventus București were under 17 years old, including goalkeeper Adelin Pasca, who is just 15. Şoimii have already conceded, in three games, as many goals as they did in the whole of last season, when they achieved a creditable mid-table finish in the division. Good experience for the young players? A wise man once said you can’t win anything with kids. If Pancota had Ben Thornley* or Chris Casper* now…

Further down the pyramid – at the very foot… in fact, below the camel hustlers and down among the underground burial chambers for queens and solar boats – we might find the phoenix version of Rapid Bucharest. Liga 4 and 5, i.e. county level, haven’t kicked off yet, but that is where we shall find one or more replacements for our beloved alb-visinii.Probably. I’ll let you know, OK?

*Google ’em.

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