The story begins in late 1924, when the owners of two Bucharest teams, Romcomit and Triumf, merge their clubs to form a new entity. Romcomit, the team of the Romanian-Italian Bank, has only been in existence for a year but already has its own stadium on Bulevardul Elisabeta. It is announced that the new club, Juventus, will play not only in Romcomit’s stadium but also in Romcomit’s colours, red and blue, because the bank has already invested in the kits. The president will be Ettore Brunelli, the president of the bank.
In the 1925-26 season, Juventus made it through to the national final, the first team from the old kingdom to do so since unification in 1921; they had beaten teams from Craiova, Sibiu and Chisinau to get that far, but were brushed aside 3-0 as Chinezul Timisoara secured a fifth consecutive title. On the next occasion that they represented Bucharest in the finals, however, in 1929-30, Juventus went on to win the whole thing, following up an unlikely 16-0 away win over Dacia Unirea Brăila with 4-2 at home against Mihai Viteazul Chișinău in the semi. A 3-0 defeat of Gloria CFR Arad in the Romcomit stadium on 8 June 1930 brought the club’s first trophy.
The champions’ team featured three prominent members of the Romanian national side that would take part in the inaugural World Cup later in the summer.
Rudolf Wetzer, a Jew from Timisoara, was captain and player/coach of the Romanian national team in Uruguay. In all, he went on to score 13 goals in 17 international matches, while his club career took him to play in French football’s first ever professional league season in 1932-33. After World War II, Wetzer became the second coach of the brand-new club Dinamo București.
Emerich Vogl had been Romania captain since 1926, but after a poor Balkan Cup campaign in 1930 was replaced by Wetzer for the World Cup. Nevertheless Vogl would regain the armband immediately after the tournament and keep it until his last international, at the next World Cup in 1934. He played in defence behind Wetzer (and, later, Raffinsky) at the dominant Chinezul Timișoara in the mid-1920s. Vogl and Raffinsky nearly missed the trip to Uruguay altogether, as they were office workers at Astra Romana at the time and the chairman forbade them to board the boat. Fortunately the federation president intervened and the pair were allowed to travel. From 1942-49, Vogl returned to Juventus as coach.
Ladislau Raffinsky was, like Vogl, an ethnic Hungarian. He played for four different Timișoara clubs, but his first championship win was with Juventus, scoring ten goals in that 16-0 win over Brăila. In 1935 he began a five-year spell with Rapid București which yielded three Romanian Cups – he was one of the players arrested for beating Venus. Although born in Miskolc in northern Hungary, Raffinsky won twenty caps for Romania, featuring in both 1930 and 1938 World Cups.
Success was not sustained. In the first year in which the championship took the format of a league – in fact, two parallel divisions – in 1932-33, Juventus found themselves in the division below. They won promotion but could only finish mid-table for the rest of the decade, except for a third place in 1935-36. Juventus were relegated in 1939-40, by which time they were only the fifth-best team in Bucharest. In March 1934 the club had been served a notice of eviction from their eleven-year-old stadium, which was to be demolished by order of the king, to make way for a new “university city”. Juventus would lead a nomadic existence for the next decade.
Two significant figures represented the club during this period: Ilie Oană was born in the USA in 1918 but his Transylvanian-born parents moved to Sibiu when Ilie was very young. The right-winger signed for Juventus in 1937, stayed until 1951, and would return as an extremely successful coach.
The midfielder Coloman Braun-Bogdan arrived at the club aged 29, after a long period with his hometown club AMEF Arad. He was player-manager for most of his six years at Juventus, and played for Romania at the 1938 World Cup. During a spell at Racing de Calais, in France’s first professional league season, ‘Cibi’ Braun had nipped across the Channel and trained at the English coaching school in Folkestone. Somehow, in the mid-1930s he was simultaneously coaching both Juventus and Sportul Studentesc. Immediately following the Second World War, in one three-year period – this time not simultaneously – Braun took charge of Rapid, ASA (later Steaua) and Dinamo, all of the post-war Big Three of Bucharest. He is remembered as the first coach of both Steaua and Dinamo, but he also won a league title and a cup at UTA Arad in the 1950s.
Identity crisis – and more success
After the war had interrupted the league, Juventus were back in the top division upon its resumption in 1946, when they managed to finish 4th in two successive seasons. However, as with neighbours Venus, the incoming Communist authorities took against the bourgeois connotations of the club and denied it funding. The state petrol distribution company took Juventus over in 1948 and the club’s name changed annually for several years: Distribuția București, then Petrolul București, then Competrol București, then Partizanul București, then Flacăra București. Finally in 1952 the club was moved to Ploiești and became known as Flacăra Ploiești; after a cup final (lost) and relegation that season, they spent a year in the second division but bounced straight back up. A runners-up position in 1955 was followed, under the coaching of Ilie Oană, by a league title in 1957-58. The team, by now known as Petrolul Ploiești, finished level on points with both reigning champions CCA București (the future Steaua) and Știința Timișoara, but goal average dictated that Petrolul were champions. They retained their title the following season, and were a force throughout the 1960s: they won a Cup in 1963 and a further league championship in 1966.
Petrolul spent several years in Divizia B during the late ’70s and early ’80s, and then (after a cup win in 1995) again in the early 2000s. After finishing top of the second tier in 2002-03 the club was merged with Astra Ploiești, a smaller club which had risen from Divizia C to the top division in the past decade. A remarkable third place in Liga I in 2012-13, repeated in 2013-14, plus the 2013 Romanian Cup, brought the glory days back to Ploiești. However, this success can be at least partly explained by subsequent events: the owners and general director were detained in late 2014 on financial charges, and in spring 2015 the club entered insolvency. The signing of big earners like Adrian Mutu in recent years was (as so often in Romania) a symptom of unsustainable economics. Now, as the Liga I season enters its final stages, Petrolul are bottom of the table and staring into Liga II, not helped by sustaining a six-point penalty for a breach of licensing regulations.
Meanwhile, back in the capital…
in 1992 a small club called Calculatorul was renamed as Juventus Colentina București. The club has spent most of its existence since then in the third tier, with a couple of seasons in Liga II in the past decade. This Juventus (est. 1992) has no connection with the original Juventus (est. 1924), although their badge rather cheekily refers to 1924. (Petrolul officially own the historic record of the old Juventus, and their 1930 title is added to the 3 league championships and 3 cups of the Ploiești era. However, opinion is divided on whether they are the same club.) This new Juventus play in black and white (currently) at a stadium in the north-east of Bucharest. They are runaway winners of their section of Liga III: unbeaten in the league for over a year. And what does this mean? That next season the Ilie Oană Stadium in Ploiești could well await!
- Juventus achieved promotion back to Liga II on 27 May 2016, by beating Delta Dobrogea Tulcea at home in front of 2000 fans.
- Petrolul Ploiești were mathematically relegated to Liga II on 21 May 2016, with a 2-0 defeat away at Voluntari, in front of 1500 people. In July the club was dissolved. It was re-founded by supporters in Liga IV of Prahova County.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE:
You can read about Juventus’ successful bid for promotion into the heady heights of Liga 1, in 2016-17, in my match reports here and here. A lovely place to watch football. It’s fair to say that 2017-18 was much less fun for the club: due to the state of their ground they played all their home games in Ploiești (!) or Voluntari, and they only won one match in the regular season. Relegation will at least see the club returned home to Colentina for 2018-19, under their weird new name. Welcome to Liga 2, FC Geto-Dacica!