Saturday, October 20, 2012

Enigmatic Romanians. Little was really known about them, no major news, but they were well respected. Seemingly, on old reputation alone, for they were failing to reach final stages of international tournaments steadily after their last appearance at the World Cup finals in 1970. The clubs fared no batter than the national team, normally eliminated in the early stages of the European club tournaments. Yet, Romanian teams were considered dangerous. Judging by results – kind of 'second best', difficult to beat, but beatable. The lack of ready information makes evaluation a guessing work: were they in crisis, or not? Did they adapt to the changes in football, or did they lagged behind? One thing was more or less certain: Romania was caught in the unavoidable struggle of changing generations. The generation of the late 1960s, who made the last appearance at the 1970 World Cup was retiring. There was no new great one yet, may be it was still too young to make impression. In the gap 'a between' generation carried on – second-string players, local heroes, never more than just local heroes, and the unlucky bright players, too few to really shine, doomed to be too young or too old, and therefore unlucky to participate in the better days of Romanian football. Domestic football chugged along, with its ups and downs, relatively competitive championship, but there was hardly anything great. The 1970s were the strong years of Universitatea (Craiova) and Arges (Piteisti), but there were always few strong provincial clubs in Romania, so tot speak of shift of power is ungrounded. The grands from Bucharest – Steaua and Dinamo – were perhaps not at their best, but still both maintained their positions and were capable of winning, no major slips. The rest of the league shuffled, but it was not unexpected in a relatively strong and equal league. No 'earthquakes'.

The three promotional spots were won by Olimpia Satu Mare, CS Targoviste, and Petrolul Ploeisti. Targoviste were relative newcomers; Olimpia more or less too. Not a single newcomer was expected to become suddenly a sensation.

Petrolul (Ploeisti), coming back to First Division. Coming back, but not to take the Romanian league by storm.

The newcomers were to replace the last three in the 1976-77 season, which were more interesting names: Rapid (Bucharest, 16th), Progresul (Bucharest, 17th), and FCM Galati (last 18th place). FCM Galati were obvious and hopeless outsiders, quickly returning to the Second Division. Rapid and Progresul were unlikely losers – both clubs knew success, both were in the shadow of Steaua and Dinamo, so never able to build and keep consistently strong squads, but their lowest point would have been in mid-table, not at the bottom. Unlike the pariahs, FCL Galati, these two fought and may be were a bit unlucky to end in the relegation zone, yet, there they were and Bucharest lost 2 out of 5 First league clubs. The sudden decrease may be described as a decline of Bucharest football, but I am reluctant, largely because, with the exception of Universitatea (Craiova), provincial Romania did not produce any long-lasting strong team. Bucharest was challenged, but not destroyed. There was only an ironic twist, if the names of the relegated are 'interpreted': Rapid was rapidly going down, and Progresul, roughly meaning 'progressive', were actually regressive. However, outside the misfortune of of the particular clubs, no major conclusion of the state of Romanian football could be made.