Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Archive for the ‘football’ Category

Football Fever

Posted by Andy Hockley on 22 March, 2006

Football fever is gripping the nation. This is because both Rapid (hooray) and Steaua (boo, hiss) have reached the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup. However, in a cruel twist of fate, the two have been drawn to play each other in the quarter final, meaning that rather than an exciting European away trip to Gelsenkirchen or St Petersburg or, errrm, Middlesboro, they don’t even get to leave Bucharest to play the tie. On the one hand this means that there will be at least one Romanian team in the semi final, so there is that advantage, but on the other it means that the excitement of European football is heavily diluted.

All the TV channels have been wall to wall football since even before the games last week in which Rapid (hooray) put out Hamburg, and Steaua (boo, hiss) put out Betis. Following the two wins, though and the subsequent quarter final draw, it has been never ending. I presume this will go on at least until the semi-finals, and should one of them actually make it to the final the networks will implode in an orgy of happiness and self-congratulation. It’s got to be rough if you don’t like football. Or possibly worse still if you support Dinamo. Basescu has been in on the act, showing up to watch a couple of the games in person, and then at the weekend inviting all the players to the Cotroceni Palace for a little get together.

Now, I have to say that the apparent interest and national feeling for Steaua baffles me. Even now, they are taking the lion’s share of the media coverage, and it seems from what I can gather that they are supported by most Romanians. Yet, when you look at their past (and even their present) it’s a wonder that they are not utterly despised by most of the country. To explain: Steaua were the team patronised by Ceausescu. They won most of the championships during his rule, got all the good players, and presumably got the benefit of a surprisingly large amount of refereeing decisions. (Romanians may be interested to learn that there are two things non-Romanian football fans know about Steaua – the European Cup win of 1984, and the whole Ceausescu/Securitate* connection). If I were Romanian I would hate Steaua passionately, and no amount of fawning media coverage would make me change my mind. Indeed, I do hate Steaua passionately, and I’m not even Romanian and didn’t know life under Ceausescu.

OK, you might be saying, Ceausescu’s dead, Steaua must be allowed to have a clean slate and be judged on their present day merits. Well, you might be right, but Steaua are now owned by today’s most repulsive man in Romania, Gigi Becali. He’s not Ceausescu, I’ll grant you, but given enough power I reckon he’d do a similar job. Why do I feel such disgust towards this man? Well he’s a fundamentalist bigot for a start (he once said that he had nothing against Jews as long as they converted to Christianity), and an egomaniac of the highest order (last year he commissioned a painting of the Last Supper with the Steaua team replacing the disciples and him in the Jesus spot). His money comes from dodgy dealings with the army (ie he buys stuff off them cheap, and sells stuff to them expensively – like a small scale Dick Cheney). He is on TV all the time, and for some reason then media seem to love him. He has openly expressed support for an extremist right wing Romanian organisation called Noua Dreapte, which is in favour of a return to the years between 1941 and 1944 when Romania was ruled by the fascist Antonescu* and his Iron Guard.

So, I, and any other neutral football fan from outside Romania, will obviously be supporting Rapid. They are the third club of Bucharest, and are so very definitely an underdog. They have a nice manager, Razvan Lucescu, who always comes across as an affable good bloke whenever I see him interviewed. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching them and willing them on as they have surprisingly beaten Feyenoord, Rennes, Shakhtar Donetsk, Hamburg and others. But above all, their hardcore fans are less obnoxious than Steaua’s, they are not owned by Gigi Becali, and it would make Nic and Elena turn over in their graves. Go Rapid!

PS One of the rumours surrounding the Ceausescu years is that after the 1984 European Cup final which Steaua won on penalties from Barcelona, the goalkeeper Ducadam refused to hand over the car that he won for being man of the match to Ceausescu’s son. In return for this act of defiance, the securitate broke his hands (obviously a big deal for a goalkeeper), and he never played top level football again. The official story is that he contracted some kind of blood disorder, and that is why he retired from the game. I have no idea which of these two stories is true, but the very fact that the first one exists and is believed by many will give you some idea of the way this country used to be run.

* Note that a number of factual errors have been pointed out to me in the comments below.

Posted in football | 12 Comments »

Football Fever

Posted by Andy Hockley on 22 March, 2006

Football fever is gripping the nation. This is because both Rapid (hooray) and Steaua (boo, hiss) have reached the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup. However, in a cruel twist of fate, the two have been drawn to play each other in the quarter final, meaning that rather than an exciting European away trip to Gelsenkirchen or St Petersburg or, errrm, Middlesboro, they don’t even get to leave Bucharest to play the tie. On the one hand this means that there will be at least one Romanian team in the semi final, so there is that advantage, but on the other it means that the excitement of European football is heavily diluted.

All the TV channels have been wall to wall football since even before the games last week in which Rapid (hooray) put out Hamburg, and Steaua (boo, hiss) put out Betis. Following the two wins, though and the subsequent quarter final draw, it has been never ending. I presume this will go on at least until the semi-finals, and should one of them actually make it to the final the networks will implode in an orgy of happiness and self-congratulation. It’s got to be rough if you don’t like football. Or possibly worse still if you support Dinamo. Basescu has been in on the act, showing up to watch a couple of the games in person, and then at the weekend inviting all the players to the Cotroceni Palace for a little get together.

Now, I have to say that the apparent interest and national feeling for Steaua baffles me. Even now, they are taking the lion’s share of the media coverage, and it seems from what I can gather that they are supported by most Romanians. Yet, when you look at their past (and even their present) it’s a wonder that they are not utterly despised by most of the country. To explain: Steaua were the team patronised by Ceausescu. They won most of the championships during his rule, got all the good players, and presumably got the benefit of a surprisingly large amount of refereeing decisions. (Romanians may be interested to learn that there are two things non-Romanian football fans know about Steaua – the European Cup win of 1984, and the whole Ceausescu/Securitate* connection). If I were Romanian I would hate Steaua passionately, and no amount of fawning media coverage would make me change my mind. Indeed, I do hate Steaua passionately, and I’m not even Romanian and didn’t know life under Ceausescu.

OK, you might be saying, Ceausescu’s dead, Steaua must be allowed to have a clean slate and be judged on their present day merits. Well, you might be right, but Steaua are now owned by today’s most repulsive man in Romania, Gigi Becali. He’s not Ceausescu, I’ll grant you, but given enough power I reckon he’d do a similar job. Why do I feel such disgust towards this man? Well he’s a fundamentalist bigot for a start (he once said that he had nothing against Jews as long as they converted to Christianity), and an egomaniac of the highest order (last year he commissioned a painting of the Last Supper with the Steaua team replacing the disciples and him in the Jesus spot). His money comes from dodgy dealings with the army (ie he buys stuff off them cheap, and sells stuff to them expensively – like a small scale Dick Cheney). He is on TV all the time, and for some reason then media seem to love him. He has openly expressed support for an extremist right wing Romanian organisation called Noua Dreapte, which is in favour of a return to the years between 1941 and 1944 when Romania was ruled by the fascist Antonescu* and his Iron Guard.

So, I, and any other neutral football fan from outside Romania, will obviously be supporting Rapid. They are the third club of Bucharest, and are so very definitely an underdog. They have a nice manager, Razvan Lucescu, who always comes across as an affable good bloke whenever I see him interviewed. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching them and willing them on as they have surprisingly beaten Feyenoord, Rennes, Shakhtar Donetsk, Hamburg and others. But above all, their hardcore fans are less obnoxious than Steaua’s, they are not owned by Gigi Becali, and it would make Nic and Elena turn over in their graves. Go Rapid!

PS One of the rumours surrounding the Ceausescu years is that after the 1984 European Cup final which Steaua won on penalties from Barcelona, the goalkeeper Ducadam refused to hand over the car that he won for being man of the match to Ceausescu’s son. In return for this act of defiance, the securitate broke his hands (obviously a big deal for a goalkeeper), and he never played top level football again. The official story is that he contracted some kind of blood disorder, and that is why he retired from the game. I have no idea which of these two stories is true, but the very fact that the first one exists and is believed by many will give you some idea of the way this country used to be run.

* Note that a number of factual errors have been pointed out to me in the comments below.

Posted in football | 12 Comments »

Football article

Posted by Andy Hockley on 5 December, 2005

Well, it’s an exciting time for me, as I’ve just had an article published in When Saturday Comes, the only good football magazine in the UK. It came out at the weekend, I’m told (my copy won’t arrive for another couple of weeks yet). I wrote about the farcical recent Romania vs Nigeria friendly international, and well, you can read it yourself as I have reproduced it in full below. On the off chance that you have a copy of the magazine and this is not exactly the same it’s because they’ve employed a sub-editor to make it readable and stuff. Anyway, enjoy.

~~~
We’ve all seen it happen. A match is organised, there is confusion among the participants as to whether it will actually take place, no-one is quite sure when it kicks off, and finally the visiting team show up late without enough players to make up a team and have to borrow a local or two to make up the numbers.

In this case though, rather than a couple of estate cars overstuffed with slightly portly and sheepish looking blokes drawing up and wondering if they could borrow a couple of players, the whole comedy of embarrassment was played out on Romanian TV, as the Romania vs. Nigeria friendly descended rapidly into utter farce.

The signs were there as much as a week in advance when the Nigerian Football Association Chairman, Ibrahim Galadina, informed the media in Nigeria that the game had been cancelled at the request of Romania. They even, it seems, managed to arrange another friendly with Oman to make up the gap. But, in fact, the match hadn’t been cancelled at all, and was still scheduled to go ahead. The NFA finally contacted its players on the Monday, 48 hours before the game, to let them know they had been selected and would they mind going to Bucharest. Realising the late notification may be a problem, they took the unusual step of inviting 40 players to the game in the hope that some of them at least would show up. In the circumstances it’s hardly surprising that most of the names in the Nigerian side chose not to.

By lunchtime on the day of the match, due to start at 5pm, precisely 3 Nigerian players had made it to Romania. Just after 2pm a plane arrived carrying a further 7 players (protesting that the match was supposed to start at 8, and saying “Let us rest. We’re dying of hunger”) and the remainder of the “delegation”, which consisted of one official from the NFA, assistant-to-the-normal-assistant-coach Daniel Amokachi, and the goalkeeping coach (the team’s manager Augustine Eguavoen had decided to go to Morocco instead to watch the second leg of the CAF Confederation Cup).

With the players at the hotel attempting to grab a hasty nap to recover from the long flight, the officials were seen in one of Bucharest’s shopping centres, getting names and numbers printed onto the shirts. By this time an eleventh player had been identified, FC National Bucharest’s Agumbiade Abiodun. Apparently he played a couple of games for the U17 Nigerian Team back when he was (presumably) under 17, but since then had not been close to the squad. Still, he was available and in the country. Interviewed on TV when they located him (by this time the “game” was big news and it seemed like the media had taken over the business of trying to make it go ahead), he was asked if he knew Amokachi. “Oh yes, I know him very well, I just don’t think he knows me.” Yet more Nigerians were located, seven in all, players for second division FC Targoviste, but they were deemed surplus to requirements – after all by now a twelfth player, Benedict Agwuegbu (a man who even had some previous caps), had arrived from Austria.

Finally, in front of a massive crowd of 300, and a Nigerian bench of one sub, but still live on TV, the match kicked off at 6.20pm. For the record, what amounted to Romania B beat Nigeria D 3-0. The real question, aside from whatever recriminations go on in Lagos, is why on earth this game was arranged in the first place. Romania don’t have another competitive match until the qualifiers for Euro 2008 begin, and having already played Cote D’Ivoire the Saturday before, they’d presumably got whatever practice they needed against West African opposition (in preparation for the remote possibility of meeting another in the group stages of WC2010?). For Nigeria, it was billed as a warm-up game for the upcoming African Nations Cup. But with none of the first choice team playing, and the coach not even showing up to watch, it’s debatable what kind of a warm-up it actually was. Still, if nothing else, at least Abiodun, Brentford’s Sam Sodje, and a whole bunch of other previously uncapped players have stories to tell their grandkids about how they ended up playing for Nigeria.

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Football article

Posted by Andy Hockley on 5 December, 2005

Well, it’s an exciting time for me, as I’ve just had an article published in When Saturday Comes, the only good football magazine in the UK. It came out at the weekend, I’m told (my copy won’t arrive for another couple of weeks yet). I wrote about the farcical recent Romania vs Nigeria friendly international, and well, you can read it yourself as I have reproduced it in full below. On the off chance that you have a copy of the magazine and this is not exactly the same it’s because they’ve employed a sub-editor to make it readable and stuff. Anyway, enjoy.

~~~
We’ve all seen it happen. A match is organised, there is confusion among the participants as to whether it will actually take place, no-one is quite sure when it kicks off, and finally the visiting team show up late without enough players to make up a team and have to borrow a local or two to make up the numbers.

In this case though, rather than a couple of estate cars overstuffed with slightly portly and sheepish looking blokes drawing up and wondering if they could borrow a couple of players, the whole comedy of embarrassment was played out on Romanian TV, as the Romania vs. Nigeria friendly descended rapidly into utter farce.

The signs were there as much as a week in advance when the Nigerian Football Association Chairman, Ibrahim Galadina, informed the media in Nigeria that the game had been cancelled at the request of Romania. They even, it seems, managed to arrange another friendly with Oman to make up the gap. But, in fact, the match hadn’t been cancelled at all, and was still scheduled to go ahead. The NFA finally contacted its players on the Monday, 48 hours before the game, to let them know they had been selected and would they mind going to Bucharest. Realising the late notification may be a problem, they took the unusual step of inviting 40 players to the game in the hope that some of them at least would show up. In the circumstances it’s hardly surprising that most of the names in the Nigerian side chose not to.

By lunchtime on the day of the match, due to start at 5pm, precisely 3 Nigerian players had made it to Romania. Just after 2pm a plane arrived carrying a further 7 players (protesting that the match was supposed to start at 8, and saying “Let us rest. We’re dying of hunger”) and the remainder of the “delegation”, which consisted of one official from the NFA, assistant-to-the-normal-assistant-coach Daniel Amokachi, and the goalkeeping coach (the team’s manager Augustine Eguavoen had decided to go to Morocco instead to watch the second leg of the CAF Confederation Cup).

With the players at the hotel attempting to grab a hasty nap to recover from the long flight, the officials were seen in one of Bucharest’s shopping centres, getting names and numbers printed onto the shirts. By this time an eleventh player had been identified, FC National Bucharest’s Agumbiade Abiodun. Apparently he played a couple of games for the U17 Nigerian Team back when he was (presumably) under 17, but since then had not been close to the squad. Still, he was available and in the country. Interviewed on TV when they located him (by this time the “game” was big news and it seemed like the media had taken over the business of trying to make it go ahead), he was asked if he knew Amokachi. “Oh yes, I know him very well, I just don’t think he knows me.” Yet more Nigerians were located, seven in all, players for second division FC Targoviste, but they were deemed surplus to requirements – after all by now a twelfth player, Benedict Agwuegbu (a man who even had some previous caps), had arrived from Austria.

Finally, in front of a massive crowd of 300, and a Nigerian bench of one sub, but still live on TV, the match kicked off at 6.20pm. For the record, what amounted to Romania B beat Nigeria D 3-0. The real question, aside from whatever recriminations go on in Lagos, is why on earth this game was arranged in the first place. Romania don’t have another competitive match until the qualifiers for Euro 2008 begin, and having already played Cote D’Ivoire the Saturday before, they’d presumably got whatever practice they needed against West African opposition (in preparation for the remote possibility of meeting another in the group stages of WC2010?). For Nigeria, it was billed as a warm-up game for the upcoming African Nations Cup. But with none of the first choice team playing, and the coach not even showing up to watch, it’s debatable what kind of a warm-up it actually was. Still, if nothing else, at least Abiodun, Brentford’s Sam Sodje, and a whole bunch of other previously uncapped players have stories to tell their grandkids about how they ended up playing for Nigeria.

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Brainwashing

Posted by Andy Hockley on 21 November, 2005

Somehow, by force of personality perhaps, I have converted Bogi to football. I suspect this is the kind of stepfatherly bequest that she may end up needing therapy to get over. Over the last few weeks she has started finding football matches on TV and inviting me to watch them with her. Since there is practically always a football match on TV in Romania at any one time this is not hard to do. However, by helping her with her selectivity we have focussed our attention on the Spanish Primera Liga mostly, while typically avoiding the Romanian league (though we do do internationals too).

Her favourite player is Ronaldinho, so we watch every Barcelona game. He is a good player to be into, partly because he’s bloody brilliant, partly because he is easy to recognise from a distance, and partly because he sees a lot of the ball so her interest doesn’t wane. Yesterday, while we were watching Celta Vigo vs Atletico Madrid (we were both supporting Celta, though sometimes we choose opposing teams just to spice things up), she started asking whether the team would get an “eleven”. I thought she was talking about the number of players on the team, but then finally worked out (with Erika’s help) that an eleven in Hungarian is a penalty. She also started telling me the rules – at one point someone got booked and when he saw the yellow card she excitedly told me in her Hunglish: “The red card is very very rossz” (bad). I was forced to agree. A little later she even told me that “two yellow card is making red”. I have no idea where she gets it all from – school I suppose – but it’s great. Trying to explain the offside rule to a six year old though is a challenge, especially when you have to relate to each other in pidgin versions of each other’s language.

Also (and this is definitely classifiable as child abuse) she has got into helping me follow Sheffield Wednesday via the Internet, constantly checking and rechecking the scoreline on one of the websites dedicated to that purpose. The other day a couple of weeks ago, we (Wednesday) were playing Cardiff and she was insisted when she went to bed that the first thing I did in the morning would be to tell her the final score. Sadly we were hammered, so I waited until later in the day so as not to shatter her day in the way my evening had been shattered, as so many before it. Fortunately she is not quite yet so obsessive to actually remember when she wakes up that she wanted to know the score (or even to be bothered for more than 10 seconds). I’ll give her about two more months.

Posted in football | 5 Comments »

Brainwashing

Posted by Andy Hockley on 21 November, 2005

Somehow, by force of personality perhaps, I have converted Bogi to football. I suspect this is the kind of stepfatherly bequest that she may end up needing therapy to get over. Over the last few weeks she has started finding football matches on TV and inviting me to watch them with her. Since there is practically always a football match on TV in Romania at any one time this is not hard to do. However, by helping her with her selectivity we have focussed our attention on the Spanish Primera Liga mostly, while typically avoiding the Romanian league (though we do do internationals too).

Her favourite player is Ronaldinho, so we watch every Barcelona game. He is a good player to be into, partly because he’s bloody brilliant, partly because he is easy to recognise from a distance, and partly because he sees a lot of the ball so her interest doesn’t wane. Yesterday, while we were watching Celta Vigo vs Atletico Madrid (we were both supporting Celta, though sometimes we choose opposing teams just to spice things up), she started asking whether the team would get an “eleven”. I thought she was talking about the number of players on the team, but then finally worked out (with Erika’s help) that an eleven in Hungarian is a penalty. She also started telling me the rules – at one point someone got booked and when he saw the yellow card she excitedly told me in her Hunglish: “The red card is very very rossz” (bad). I was forced to agree. A little later she even told me that “two yellow card is making red”. I have no idea where she gets it all from – school I suppose – but it’s great. Trying to explain the offside rule to a six year old though is a challenge, especially when you have to relate to each other in pidgin versions of each other’s language.

Also (and this is definitely classifiable as child abuse) she has got into helping me follow Sheffield Wednesday via the Internet, constantly checking and rechecking the scoreline on one of the websites dedicated to that purpose. The other day a couple of weeks ago, we (Wednesday) were playing Cardiff and she was insisted when she went to bed that the first thing I did in the morning would be to tell her the final score. Sadly we were hammered, so I waited until later in the day so as not to shatter her day in the way my evening had been shattered, as so many before it. Fortunately she is not quite yet so obsessive to actually remember when she wakes up that she wanted to know the score (or even to be bothered for more than 10 seconds). I’ll give her about two more months.

Posted in football | 5 Comments »

Racism in Romanian football

Posted by Andy Hockley on 13 September, 2005

Romanian football has a serious problem with racism. This week UEFA punished Steaua Bucharest for racist chanting at their recent match with Shelbourne and forced them to play their next European match 250kms away from home. It’s shameful that it was left to UEFA to finally take some action and the Romanian FA (FRF) has never done anything about it.

I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been watching a game on TV and heard fans launch into a chorus of monkey chants at one of the opposition’s black players. Because there are not that many black players in Romania, it doesn’t happen at every game, but for example one of the best players at Poli Timisoara, a Senegalese bloke called Mansour, always comes in for abuse, particularly when his team are playing in Bucharest. It’s worst at Steaua, but Dinamo are bad too.

I agree entirely with Csaba Asztalos, president of the Romanian Anti Discrimination Council in this statement “The image of Romanian soccer is in deep crisis and Steaua pays now for the FRF’s lack of reaction (to racist behaviour) over the past several years,” (taken from this article). In response the FRF spokesman says “these kind of actions are not a large phenomenon (in Romania soccer). It is about isolated incidents.”. Well, if the phenomenon is not widespread it is because there aren’t many black players in Romania. Ask Mansour if he thinks it’s isolated incidents.

Here is a good article about anti-Gypsy racism at Steaua and Dinamo , and in particular how it is not merely a fan-based thing. Gigi Becali (the repugnant owner of Steaua who I have dissed on this blog frequently) is one of the worst offenders. Of course this is not to say that all Steaua fans are racist, nor that racism isn’t a major issue in football elsewhere.

I can only hope that the latest UEFA action will begin a period of self-analysis by the Romanian media so that the FRF finally start to take action.

Posted in football, xenophobia | Leave a Comment »

Racism in Romanian football

Posted by Andy Hockley on 13 September, 2005

Romanian football has a serious problem with racism. This week UEFA punished Steaua Bucharest for racist chanting at their recent match with Shelbourne and forced them to play their next European match 250kms away from home. It’s shameful that it was left to UEFA to finally take some action and the Romanian FA (FRF) has never done anything about it.

I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been watching a game on TV and heard fans launch into a chorus of monkey chants at one of the opposition’s black players. Because there are not that many black players in Romania, it doesn’t happen at every game, but for example one of the best players at Poli Timisoara, a Senegalese bloke called Mansour, always comes in for abuse, particularly when his team are playing in Bucharest. It’s worst at Steaua, but Dinamo are bad too.

I agree entirely with Csaba Asztalos, president of the Romanian Anti Discrimination Council in this statement “The image of Romanian soccer is in deep crisis and Steaua pays now for the FRF’s lack of reaction (to racist behaviour) over the past several years,” (taken from this article). In response the FRF spokesman says “these kind of actions are not a large phenomenon (in Romania soccer). It is about isolated incidents.”. Well, if the phenomenon is not widespread it is because there aren’t many black players in Romania. Ask Mansour if he thinks it’s isolated incidents.

Here is a good article about anti-Gypsy racism at Steaua and Dinamo , and in particular how it is not merely a fan-based thing. Gigi Becali (the repugnant owner of Steaua who I have dissed on this blog frequently) is one of the worst offenders. Of course this is not to say that all Steaua fans are racist, nor that racism isn’t a major issue in football elsewhere.

I can only hope that the latest UEFA action will begin a period of self-analysis by the Romanian media so that the FRF finally start to take action.

Posted in football, xenophobia | Leave a Comment »

Out

Posted by Andy Hockley on 6 June, 2005

Romania’s defeat on Saturday in Rotterdam to the Dutch means that their elimination from the World Cup is virtually assured. It’s a shame, though to be frank, they never deserved to qualify as they only have one decent player (Cristian Chivu) and a bunch of journeymen. However, with a better draw they could have done better. England’s group for example has no good teams in it and the fact that the lead is being contested by two immeasurably mediocre sides -England and Poland- is indicative of this. In that group Romania would have stood a chance, but being drawn against The Czech Republic* and The Netherlands* was always going to kill them off. I’ll just have to dig out a video of the great team they brought to the 94 WC Final and remember them that way.

*Quick English Lesson. Q: In which cases do we (in English) append a “The” on the name of a country?
A: When the name of the country either incorporates a description of the political system (The Czech Republic, The United Kingdom, The People’s Republic of China, etc) or when it is a plural (The Netherlands, The Phillipines, etc). I have absolutely no idea why we sometimes say The Ukraine or The Lebanon.

Posted in football, language | 3 Comments »

Out

Posted by Andy Hockley on 6 June, 2005

Romania’s defeat on Saturday in Rotterdam to the Dutch means that their elimination from the World Cup is virtually assured. It’s a shame, though to be frank, they never deserved to qualify as they only have one decent player (Cristian Chivu) and a bunch of journeymen. However, with a better draw they could have done better. England’s group for example has no good teams in it and the fact that the lead is being contested by two immeasurably mediocre sides -England and Poland- is indicative of this. In that group Romania would have stood a chance, but being drawn against The Czech Republic* and The Netherlands* was always going to kill them off. I’ll just have to dig out a video of the great team they brought to the 94 WC Final and remember them that way.

*Quick English Lesson. Q: In which cases do we (in English) append a “The” on the name of a country?
A: When the name of the country either incorporates a description of the political system (The Czech Republic, The United Kingdom, The People’s Republic of China, etc) or when it is a plural (The Netherlands, The Phillipines, etc). I have absolutely no idea why we sometimes say The Ukraine or The Lebanon.

Posted in football, language | 3 Comments »