Hidden rugby

Yesterday lunchtime I went down to Dinamo Stadium to buy tickets for the big Dinamo-FCSB football match on Monday night. On the way I popped my head in to the Florea Dumitrache Stadium, which is tucked away at the back of the Dinamo sporting complex and the regular home ground of Dinamo’s B-team. The club’s senior men’s rugby team were halfway through hosting Timișoara Saracens, a big clash in the Superliga. I finally find the rugby at half time, just behind a synthetic football pitch where a Juventus age-group side are sealing an apparently important win against somebody or other. The score in my game is 17-13 to Timișoara, who are a richer and more powerful club, and Romania’s representatives in European competition this season. (My article on the Stade Francais fiasco this winter is here!)

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Preparing for a second half lineout

Florea Dumitrache (1948-2007) was a hugely successful striker for Dinamo in the ’60s and ’70s; one of Romania’s greats, he scored against both Czechoslovakia and Brazil at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. The “stadium” which bears his name does him little honour in its current state, however. As if to poke fun at the functioning electronic scoreboard (a novelty in lower division grounds), the entire east end behind it is a derelict, collapsing, blackened terrace. With the north side also out of use – for several years, by the look of it – that means that the crowd is restricted to the two remaining sides. To the south there is a tiny stand on each side of the entrance, each holding around fifty people today. An attempt to pass underneath results in hair full of sunflower seed shells.

The stadium was until 1989 the home ground of football team Victoria Bucharest, originally a subsidiary of the police club Dinamo – and a very successful one in the late 1980s due to “influence” over officials and opposing players. Victoria reached the UEFA Cup quarter-final in 1988-89, beating Dinamo Minsk (another police club) but losing to Dynamo Dresden (another police club). Strange days.

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Another Timisoara try has gone over

At the west end, accessed via the stand overlooking the football pitch next door, around seventy spectators sit scattered across a terraced bank of plastic seating. A large group of hungover Englishmen on tour in matching pink t-shirts are enjoying a drink while sturdy local lads in flip-flops ignore both them and the drizzle. Next to this stand is an enormous pile of sand. Just beyond the touchline on three sides is a six-foot high fence, charmingly overgrown in parts:DSCF0165

Each team has a smattering of Tongans: Dinamo’s place-kicking full-back Simote Liueli has a truly spectacular afro, while by the end of the game Saracens’ enormous outside centre Manumua Tevita is kicking conversions in spite of looking simply too large to do so. What’s more, Stefano Hunt, a one-time Australia schoolboy international and former team-mate of James O’Connor, is calling the plays at fly-half for the visitors.

Despite having a man sinbinned early on for a high and late challenge which leaves the victim on the floor for several minutes, Dinamo defend admirably for almost all of the second half, forced onto their own line for a long period towards the end. Eventually, however, the visitors’ superiority shows as they engineer three more tries and secure a bonus point victory.

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Held up over the line by Dinamo rearguard action. Overseen by security forces.

At one point, what seemed a certain try is fumbled over the line and the referee, after consulting his assistant on the touchline, signals for the TV official. I chuckle at the joke, but of course this game is indeed being broadcast live on Dolce Sport and, sure enough, the correct decision is made. Lord knows where the television referee is actually sitting, since the nearest indoor space is the football club’s changing rooms a good fifty metres away.

The rain gets heavier, the final score is 17-38, and that was certainly an interesting experience. And completely free, unlike the football tickets I’m off to collect.

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