Ro­ma­nia’s derby which sur­vived fall of com­mu­nism

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

At 87 years old, Mircea Barbu has no qualms about brav­ing the freez­ing tem­per­a­tures for to­day’s fiery Di­namo Bucharest-Steaua Bucharest derby, a holdover from the com­mu­nist era that still stands long af­ter the fall of the Iron Cur­tain de­spite the de­cline of Ro­ma­nian foot­ball.

Like Mircea, tens of thou­sands of sup­port­ers are ex­pected at the na­tional sta­dium where Di­namo, for­merly the club of Ro­ma­nia’s se­cret po­lice, will host their eter­nal, Army-founded ri­vals. “It’s im­pos­si­ble to say how many of them I’ve seen,” smiled the vet­eran Di­namo sup­porter.

While the golden eras of the two clubs have long since been con­signed to his­tory, their ul­ti­mate rai­son d’etre-bian­nual clashes with their bit­ter foes-re­mains firmly in­tact. “The fans still say it: no mat­ter the stand­ings, what re­ally counts is beat­ing Steaua-or Di­namo-and the sea­son is saved,” Hel­muth Duck­adam, the goal­keeper who saved all four penal­ties in Steaua’s 1986 Euro­pean Cup fi­nal Barcelona, told AFP.

The ri­valry be­tween the clubs was carved into their iden­tity from their re­spec­tive births shortly in the late 1940s, with their en­coun­ters des­tined to spice up the Ro­ma­nian cham­pi­onship as one of the rare forms of en­ter­tain­ment tol­er­ated by the com­mu­nist regime.

Steaua and Di­namo be­came the em­bod­i­ment of a scarcely con­cealed power strug­gle be­tween the gov­ern­ment’s two most pow­er­ful com­po­nents, the army and the In­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­istry.

“There has al­ways been this ri­valry of pride, sus­tained and de­vel­oped as the two de­part­ments gained more and more power,” ex­plained Ovidio Ioan­i­toaia, the di­rec­tor of Gazeta Spor­turilor daily. tri­umph



The con­fronta­tion reached its cli­max dur­ing the 1980s when the el­dest son of Ro­ma­nian dic­ta­tor Ni­co­lae Ceausecu, Valentin, was ap­pointed Steaua’s gen­eral man­ager.

Across the city, Di­namo had a prom­i­nent num­ber one fan of their own in Tu­dor Postel­nicu, chief of the Securitate, the coun­try’s for­mi­da­ble state se­cu­rity agency.

“Dur­ing the 1988 Ro­ma­nian Cup fi­nal, af­ter a Steaua goal was ruled out for off­side, Valentin Ceaus­escu or­dered the team to leave the pitch,” re­called Ioan­i­toaia. A few days later, the fed­er­a­tion awarded the club the tro­phy.

The fall­out was that of last­ing re­sent­ment. When Steaua of­fered to re­turn the cup to their ri­vals af­ter the fall of the com­mu­nist dic­ta­tor­ship in 1989, Di­namo stub­bornly re­fused.

Even to­day, Di­namo’s hard­core ul­tra fans cel­e­brate May 10, 1997, the date they set alight the away stand at Steaua’s for­mer Ghencea home, com­pletely de­stroy­ing it.

Rare trans­fers be­tween the two clubs have proved hard to for­give. “Those who switch be­tween Steaua and Di­namo are per­ceived as a a traitor,” re­counted Ioan­i­toaia.

The no­tion of de­fect­ing never crossed the mind of Ion Pir­calab, a right-sided winger for Di­namo dur­ing the 1960s. “I played at least 30 der­bies against Steaua and I still have the same emo­tions, the same wor­ries and the same de­sire to win,” he con­fided.


While the 26 league tro­phies won by Steaua out­shine Di­namo’s haul of 18, the lat­ter can boast about pro­duc­ing the lead­ing scorer on 19 oc­ca­sions, five times more than their ri­vals.

But the pair share the hon­ours when it comes to scan­dals rang­ing from cor­rup­tion to match-fix­ing and tax eva­sion. The is­sues have plagued Ro­ma­nian foot­ball since the re­turn of democ­racy, with of­fi­cials from both sides serv­ing time be­hind bars.

With­out a league ti­tle since 2007, Di­namo, cur­rently sixth in the ta­ble, have fallen upon hard times fi­nan­cially in re­cent times and filed for in­sol­vency two years ago. But the sit­u­a­tion is al­most more dra­matic still at Steaua.

While top of the ta­ble, last sea­son’s run­ners-up were booted from their his­toric ground and stripped of their name af­ter los­ing a le­gal bat­tle over their trade­mark with the de­fence min­istry, hav­ing sep­a­rated from the Army in 1999.

Risky man­age­ment is not eas­ily for­given by some sup­port­ers, with many stay­ing away from games in protest.

“All my life has been built around Steaua, all that mat­tered was get­ting be­hind the team, even if it meant miss­ing ex­ams or los­ing a job,” said one dis­en­chanted fan, aged 40.

“And 90 per­cent of my pas­sion, I lived it dur­ing the matches against Di­namo, our true ri­vals.” — AFP

CHAPECO: This file photo taken on Novem­ber 24, 2016 shows Brazil’s Chapecoense play­ers pos­ing for pic­tures dur­ing their 2016 Copa Su­damer­i­cana semi­fi­nal se­cond leg foot­ball match against Ar­gentina’s San Lorenzo held at Arena Conda sta­dium, in Chapeco, Brazil. — AFP

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