NEWS TICKER: there was a big football match the other night at the National Stadium. Much more on that match from your correspondent here…
The upshot of Dinamo‘s win over FCSB in the derby is that FC Viitorul, representing both the good and bad future of Romanian football – great academy bringing lots of young players through; no fans – will take the league title if they win both their remaining fixtures. This is an exciting prospect for many observers and will hopefully not end with Gheorghe Hagi, the founder, owner and first-team coach, leaving abruptly to take over as Galatasaray manager any time soon.
The two remaining rounds of the play-off (top half of Liga 1) are as follows.
Viitorul and FCSB are level on points, with Dinamo two points behind. These three are tussling for the league title and the second Champions’ League qualifier place. As I understand it, CFR Cluj and Astra Giurgiu will not be allowed to participate in European competition next season, for financial reasons, so Craiova plus the third placed team will go into the Europa League. Which means that there is not a lot to play for beyond those top three clubs. Which in turn might cause some strange results in these final matches.
It’s still very tight at the bottom, too, where there are still six rounds to go. Chiajna have improved their abysmal form somewhat, by securing four draws last month, but they now haven’t won in ten and the drop looms large. It looks like Targu Mures are doomed, but Pandurii and ACS Poli Timisoara will duke it out with Chiajna to avoid the remaining relegation places. Voluntari have a 1-0 lead from the first leg of their Romanian Cup semi-final against Craiova: the seven-year-old club from suburban Bucharest is aiming for its first ever final. In the other semi-final first leg Astra beat ACS Poli 4-1 so, unless they do a PSG, they will be in with a good chance of winning their second Romanian Cup.
On the subject of Astra, last week the rumour mill ground large amounts of news flour from the small grain of Marius Șumudică’s possible move to take over as FCSB coach in the summer. Șumudică was Coach of the Year for 2016, after leading Astra to their first ever league championship less than a year ago, in his first year in charge. Astra’s owner intends to slash the wage budget by almost half for next season; fourteen players are already leaving at the start of the summer, and the potential for further success looks minimal. FCSB’s incumbent coach, Laurentiu Reghecampf, does not appear inclined to sign a new contract; last week his wife, an agent, football administrator, TV presenter and model, suggested that “Șumi” would be the best alternative for the club. The club’s flamboyant owner, Gigi Becali, was reported as offering him €30,000 per month – twice what Reghecampf earns – and said he wouldn’t even pay Mourinho that much.
However, there is one large stumbling block which renders the deal impossible to credit. Șumudică used to be a striker for Steaua’s cross-town rivals Rapid, hitting 17 goals in their title-winning season in 1998-99 and winning two Romanian Cups to boot; he later also coached them. He is a diehard rapidist and anti-stelist. FCSB fans started to plan an anti-Șumudică display for their next match, because the feeling is mutual and they were far from delighted at Becali’s supposed plan. After a few days, however, at the press conference after Astra’s defeat to Viitorul, Șumi shut down the rumours, saying that while he was flattered that the only owner in the country who was investing serious money in a club was interested in hiring him, his past as a Rapid fan, player and coach meant the move could never happen. “I was born a rapidist and I will die a rapidist“, he explained, going on to describe colourfully how in his youth, even though he barely had enough money for two slices of luncheon meat and a bread roll, he would follow Rapid wherever they played. In a reference to Dinamo fans’ impressive hijacking of Steaua’s home match against Manchester City earlier this season, he expressed a polite wish that the FCSB fans should take extra care that their display would not read “Only Rapid Bucharest”.
In Liga 2, Juventus have secured promotion. This is how they celebrated. (Thanks to Emanuel Rosu for that link.) In spite of a stutter which involved losing twice in succession last month, they should still wrap up the second division title. Behind them the contest for the second automatic promotion spot has clarified a bit: Brasov and Mioveni have slipped up,making it likely that UTA, the old lady, and Sepsi, the baker’s boys, will fight over second place, with the loser condemned to facing the third most rubbish Liga 1 side over two legs. Sepsi deserve their own post, so I’ll get onto that before too long.
Till next time…