Emergency update!

Here is RomaniaBalls’ emergency ordinance, being pushed through at an unreasonable hour of Super Saturday morning. Gigi is the main story – as so often…

Yesterday FCSB owner Gigi Becali announced that he has combed the League’s full regulations for the competition, with a lawyer, and found that if his team and Viitorul finish level on points, then FCSB will in fact be champions! This claim runs counter to what the League have published on their own website, which states that if Viitorul win tonight they win the title no matter what. Who is right?

Becali’s claim is based on a lack of clarity in the rules about which matches are taken into account when totting up the head-to-head results between teams equal on points: is it just from the play-off phase (in which Viitorul beat FCSB for the first time ever), or from the season as a whole (in which FCSB have the advantage)? Along with every sports journalist in the country, I’ve had a look at the rules – testing my ability to cope with Romanian officialese and its periphrastic circumlocutions – and it seems that Becali may have an argument. It is only the second season in which the play-off/play-out system has operated, so the finer points have as yet no precedent. This one could run and run, beyond the end of the season at 10pm this evening…

Perhaps in the hope that such calculations may not be necessary, another thing Becali did yesterday was to sign a defender from CFR Cluj, who face Viitorul in today’s fixture and thus play their part in the destiny of the championship. However, Ionut Larie did spend several seasons at Viitorul before moving to Cluj, so his loyalties will surely be divided at worst. Not that I would cast aspersions on anyone’s professionalism, of course. Becali has repeatedly said in public this week that if CFR play as they usually do, they ought not to lose at Viitorul. Highly sophisticated mind games or what? He is still smarting from CSU Craiova’s decisions: firstly to play the kids against Viitorul last week, ostensibly because of an upcoming cup tie, and secondly to bring back the first choice line-up for today’s game against FCSB. An underhand tactic, you may be right in thinking. However, it has sensibly been pointed out that, even with an 18-year-old goalkeeper and a 19-year-old striker making their debuts, Craiova’s average age was, at 24 years, 10 months, still a year older than that of Viitorul’s first team…!

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The Liga 1 trophy. [Source: gsp.ro]
Becali’s strained relationships with prominent figures at the three clubs who form the decisive supporting cast – Craiova’s owner; Astra’s rapidist coach and some of their players; pretty much everybody connected with the “Hungarian mafia” club CFR Cluj – have lent a fraught feeling to the league’s denouement. No-one can ever be quite sure that money will not have changed hands in order to secure a favourable outcome. And when this man is portraying himself as standing up for the integrity of the competition, we should be worried. You don’t have to spend much time googling to find his outrageous statements. Here Reuters report him offering lots of money to other clubs’ players for beating Steaua’s title rivals (who happened to be CFR Cluj) in 2008. Corruption is rife in football here, and we can never know about the vast majority of deals done. But even when there is no foul play, something can usually be sniffed out by the cynical supporter, hack or chairman; suspicion is always in the air. As the veteran writer Radu Cosașu says, speaking as a Romanian football fan, “nobody possesses our olfactory vigour”.

But by playing all the matches at the same time this evening, the many and various opportunities for naughtiness are at least reduced slightly. The fact that there are three possible champions has complicated arrangements for the awarding of the trophy. If Dinamo win it, club legend and current general manager Adrian Mutu will present the trophy. If FCSB win it, club legend, penalty-saving Hero of Seville ’86 and current club president Helmuth Duckadam will do the honours. If Viitorul, whose owner and coach is the greatest of them all, secure the title at their 4,500-capacity ground ten kilometres outside Constanța, will have to make do with the mayor of Constanța. But the King will, of course, be there…

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The King himself. [Source: gsp.ro]
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