WHEN I was told I would be participating in this year’s TAW Euro Roundup, I was thrilled. As it’s my debut, I’ve been keen to to give off the appearance of knowing a bit about football and, indeed, the world. Mostly for vanity but also so people who read the piece would say things like ‘he seems like a knowledgeable egg’ — writes STU MATHER.
Imagine my disappointment when I was given Romania to write about. I mean I could have spent hours scanning Wikipedia, Ilie Dumitrescu’s autobiography and re-reading Dracula (yeah that’s right — re-reading it) but it would be inauthentic and not the kind of start I wish to make to a long, successful career in journalism.
So, for a couple of weeks I’ve been trying to conjure up exciting ways to come at the Romanians (a bit like the Ottoman Empire in the 1870’s, am I right, guys?!)
This is my list:
- Razvan Rat is the name of their current captain.
- Decent in the 90s.
- Phil Neville.
- Paul Papp being an annoyingly elusive sticker in this year’s Euro 2016 sticker book.
Let’s start with the kit. I think the reason that I’ve never been able to take them seriously as a footballing nation is that the colour scheme of their kit looks like what employees in toyshops wear. I can’t get it out of my head. I can just imagine one of their players complaining to the coach that the kits are bobbled and faded to be told that if he wants another it will come out of his wages, and that if he doesn’t go and put all those Buzz Lightyears out he’s cashing up on his own.
— maidan sport (@maidansport) June 3, 2015
It’s not a patronising assessment of the Romanian FA’s resources I’m sure they have loads of gear for their players, but if they’d just rethink the colour scheme so it looks a bit less like a deliberately unthreatening Lego-shop uniform, I’d be able to take them more seriously.
Razvan Rat is the name of Romania’s captain. Let’s take a minute to breathe in that name.
Razvan; aggressively masculine and a bit mysterious.
Rat; also aggressive but woah, really? Razvan Rat? Like Roland Rat? Like Postman Pat? That is bananas.
He sounds like a villain in a US anti-drug propaganda cartoon. I imagine the plot is something like he wants to get American kids into drugs through his waling heavy metal music but he’s thwarted by a gang of Hip Hop Labradors played by Color Me Badd.
Apparently, he made 15 appearances for West Ham in 2013/14. I have no idea how this passed me by — if I’d have known, I’d have had it on the back of my Liverpool top instead of Aly Cissokho.
Best name in football by a mile.
Decent in the 90s
I am 36 so pretty much everything was great in the 90s compared to now, but I recall Romania being ‘actually good, this stands the test of time’, like suede rather than ‘I thought they were good, now they horrify me’, like cast.
Fact is, pre-Euro 2016, where the competition has been bloated to allow Tranmere Rovers to take part, if you consistently crop up in international tournaments, you’re decent.
This is how it shook down for Romania’s ‘Golden Generation’ in the Euros. In 1992 they didn’t qualify, in ’96 they were hotly tipped but went out in the groups, losing all three games and returning home to widespread derision. Bit harsh because they scored a perfectly good goal against Bulgaria which was ruled out, despite being a yard over the line.
When Harry Redknapp was incensed by a similar incident at Old Trafford while managing Spurs in 2011, he cited seeing that goal in Euro 96 as the thing that started him thinking about goal line technology. A full 15 years after the fact. The Romanians had mostly retired since then so nice one, Harry — way to stick your head above the parapet. Harry probably also has a thing or two he’d like to say to several American generals, now that the dust has settled on the Bay of Pigs Fiasco.
Romania were better in the World Cups; in 1990 they got to the second round. Fine. In 1994 they got to the quarters with Gheorge Hagi scoring ‘that goal’ against Columbia. Hagi’s one of those timeless footballers who, pre-internet, seemed almost mythical. The idea of him having a club team seemed preposterous to me in 1994 — he existed only in Trans-World Sport highlights packages and in World Cups, leathering a ball as hard as he could, in the goal, from a million yards. He wasn’t picked for Romania, he was summoned from the oceans by a magic horn.
Anyway, in 1998, they got to the second round again, beating England in the process and also dying their hair blonde to play Tunisia because they were all great lads with free spirits.
In conclusion, despite being pretty good in the 90s, Romania’s performance at international tournaments is very patchy. They occasionally get to a second round, they’ve got to a quarter final a couple of times but they’re mostly pretty average — basically the footballing equivalent of the England football team.
Euro 2000 was memorable for a few reasons: it was the first time two nations had taken on hosting duties (Belgium and The Netherlands), it was the first time a current world champion (France) had won the tournament and it was also the first, and last, time we’d see a tournament won with with a golden goal, scored by David Trezeguet.
It was also when Phil Neville gave away a mind-bogglingly bad penno that lost England their final group game, and sent them out of the tournament. As I said, I am a grizzled 36 years old so England doing badly at international tournaments is the norm — I’m just not that arsed, but in 2000, I was fresh into uni, Reach by S Club 7 was riding high in the charts and I was really excited about England doing well in a tournament, after the disappointment of France ’98.
Firstly, our group was ridiculous: Portugal, Romania, Germany and England. Willing to bet money that Keegan said, at some point, ‘finish above Germany and we qualify”. Well it turned out Germany were shite, Portugal were brilliant (and unlucky not to win the whole thing) and Romania, in particular Viorel Moldovan, were quite adept at getting Phil Neville to, well, be Phil Neville.
In our final game, at 2-2, a point would have been enough for England to qualify for the next round where but Neville chopped down that Romanian like The Emperor’s stepmother chopped down the magic aspen trees that stood on her sons’ graves (if you’re familiar with Romanian folklore, as I am, you’ll be nodding knowingly right now). It was a very rubbish and hugely unnecessary challenge. You only have to look at the other England players’ reactions to know how they felt; they’re just resigned to it like they’d seen it happen 50 times already — probably in the warm up.
Anyway, Romania scored and went on to lose to eventual finalists Italy in the quarters, England went out, Keegan eventually resigned (waiting 4 months for Didi Hamann to score the goal that sealed the deal) and Phil Neville’s England career never really recovered. He is now perhaps best-known for being stood next to Manchester United’s Golden Generation at functions.
I do Panini stickers. At this juncture, I am 12 away from completing the Euro 2016 album. Paul Papp, Romanian centre-back, sticker no. 55, is one of the 12 that elude me. He has a fuzzy beard and kind eyes — if you see this sticker, please send it to me.
Also, no idea what he is like as a player but once I discovered that he existed, and that his captain was called Razvan Rat, something stirred in me. Technically, I work in show-business so I’ll stick to the old tradition of ending with a song. Here we go…
Razvan Rat and his centre-back Papp.