Wednesday, August 19, 2015

At the end of the 1970s and the beginning of new decade, Romania had peculiar position: it was respected, but not really known. Romanian football slipped out of mind largely because the country failed to reach international finals since 1970. It was not that much of a decline of Romanian football, yet, there was a bit of that – generation changed with the inevitable uncertain performance for awhile. The 1970s generation was perhaps relatively weaker compared to other countries. Now it was getting older and the next crop was not ready yet to take dominant position. Romanian football did not declined, but rather failed to improve. Apart from the prolific goal-scorer Dudu Georgescu no other Romania became internationally famous during the 70s. And it was a provincial decade – the big clubs from the capital Steaua and Dynamo lost their dominance. They were not getting weaker – they became equal to strong provincial teams. The general result was that Romanian football became enigmatic and unknown – a strange situation for a country having massive championship: 18-team top league, 54 teams played in the second division, and 192 teams played in the 12 groups of Third Division. 
 Naturally, Third Division was entirely unknown. 12 groups of 16 teams each, the lowest 4 relegated, and the champions promoted to second level. Small, unimportant clubs, but few of them played top league football in the 21st century. Clubs like Recolta (Stoicanesti):
Standing from left: Andrei, Cârstea, Florescu, Ciobanu, Răduţ
Crouching : Rotaru, Cioabă, Mihalache,  Zăvelcă.
Recolta finished was 9th in Seria VI. Some did much better, of course:
Minerul (Lupeni), for example. They won Seria VII and were promoted to Second Division. Along with the other winners: Ceahlăul (Piatra-Neamţ)- Seria I, CSM (Borzeşti) – Seria II, CSU (Galaţi) – Seria III, IMUM (Medgidia) – Seria IV, Sirena (Bucharest) – Seria V, ROVA (Roşiori-de-Vede) – Seria VI, CFR (Timişoara) – Seria VIII, Rapid (Arad) – Seria IX, CIL (Sighetu-Marmaţiei) – Seria X, Metalul (Aiud) – Seria XI, and Oltul (Sfântu-Gheorghe) – Seria XII. Metalul (Aiud) was the most dominant winner, finishing 10 points ahead of the closest pursuer – if that really meant anything. Perhaps the only interesting thing about the Third Division championship this season was the penalties given to clubs caught in fixing results: in the last round few strange results occurred - Gloria Strehaia – CSM Turnu-Severin 18-2 (Seria VII), Bihoreana Marghita – Armătura Zalău 1-10 (Seria IX), and Dacia Unirea Brăila – Amonil Slobozia 10-1 (Seria IV). The reasons were painfully familiar... Armatura tried to get promotion, the other two suspect winners – to avoid relegation. At the end, the fixed matches were voided and all participants awarded with 0 points and 0-3 loss. Corruption was possibly wide spread, but in the football world the usual measure is to punish the weakest... penalties in Third Division show 'principle fight against corruption', without even scratching the surface of the problem: compared to Third Division, the higher levels were 'clean'. Were they? One can dig results of fixtures, particularly near the end of a season – or jump to the end of the 1980s, when the 'Golden Shoe' award was discontinued after the Romanians produced a number of clearly fake top-scorers.