Romanians Long for a Return to Their ‘Golden Era’ of Football

Viorel Moldovan. Photo: Lukáš Vráblik Lenin of the Rovers

Miodrag Belodedici was one of the finest footballers of his generation in Europe during the 1980s and 1990s. He was the first player to win the European Cup (today's Champions League) with two different teams, both of which hailed from the former Eastern Bloc - with Steaua Bucharest in 1986, and with Red Star Belgrade five years later.

On a sunny day in mid-November, we meet in front of the Romanian Football Federation building next to Arena Nationala, the 53,000-seater stadium in Bucharest where several matches for the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship were played. Belodedici now works for the Federation, helping it mainly with junior national team selection.

Although he hated Communism, Belodedici admits it had its good points, one of those being its support for sport. "After the fall of Communism, we got rid of the Communists who took care of sports. Romania was privatised and democratised, and the private sector was created. Since then, everything has gone downhill in sport," he sighs.

Belodedici blames some of that on a change in mentality after the end of Communism. For example, football is no longer the only entertainment for Romanians. But he also believes the mentality of the players themselves has changed. In the past, they tried to go abroad to earn a decent income. In addition, coaches under Communism were stricter and players had to spend long periods of time in camps before matches, concentrating only on football.

Viorel Moldovan hated those training camps. Eight years younger than Belodedici, which is why he wasn't part of the starting line-up when Romania was cheering on Hagi and Belodedici at the 1994 World Cup, Moldovan began his football career...

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