Whenever I think about the beautiful game(a.k.a. soccer) and the popularity it has in my country,one thing comes first in my mind,and that can only be the name of my favorite soccer team,Steaua Bucharest.It’s a completely understandable thought considering the fact that Steaua has the biggest number of trophies in Romanian soccer and it’s also the only team from my country which has won an European competition(The European Champions’ Cup in 1986).
It is no surprise therefore that a few of my articles about soccer has been dedicated to this outstanding club,but most of them were about its gloriouspast because its latest achievements hadn’t been impressive,with the exception of the fact that Steaua managed to qualify on 9 consecutive occasions for the group stages of European competitions,either in the Champions League or in Europa League;however,after the 2005-2006 season of the defunct UEFA Cup in which Steaua became the first Romanian team after 1989 to reach the semifinals of an European competition,success both on international and domestic level eluded them.With an eccentric and crazy owner who interfered in the work of the coaches and didn’t have enough patience with any of them Steaua was outclassed by other teams,especially CFR Cluj,in the national league and it didn’t impress in Europe either,and its perspectives were far from great.Six years without a title was too much for the fans who were extremely disappointed and,even if a trophy,the Romanian Cup,was finally won in 2012,Steaua was still a shadow of the mighty team that used to play great games against the forces of European soccer.
However,that negative trend stopped in the summer of 2012 with the appointment of a new and extremely promising coach,Laurentiu Reghecampf,at the helm of the team.It was the turning point in Steaua’s evolution because the new coach made wonders with the same players which only a few months ago appeared to be unable to play at high standards;this amazing coach created an incredible team spirit that reminded of the legendary team which stunned Europe in the 80s and the results appeared immediately:Steaua basically has no rival in the national league this season,because 12 points ahead of the second-placed team,Astra Giurgiu,at the moment of writing this column;even though some might argue that the rivals like Dinamo,Rapid,CFR Cluj or FC Vaslui were extremely weak this year,that certainly isn’t Steaua’s fault,Right now,it’s only a formality until the 24 th title is finally won after a six-year drought,n extremely long period for such a big club(think about what it would be for a club like Bayern Munich to fail to win the Bundesliga for six years),but I dare anticipate that this long period of unhappiness will
Of course,internal supremacy hasn’t got too much value unless it is doubled by remarkable European evolutions,and that’s exactly what Steaua managed to achieve in the 2012-2013 edition of the UEFA Europa League,first by winning a group ahead of solid teams like VFB Stuttgart and FC Copenhagen,and then by producing one of the big shocks of the season,the elimination of Ajax Amsterdam,a team who could hardly conceived that it would stumble upon a Romanian team on its way towards a final played on its home ground.Finally,there was also a magical night in which Steaua managed to defeated the still European champions,Chelsea London(1-0)in the first leg played at the National Stadium in Bucharest.Even if the miracle couldn’t be done in London and Chelsea managed to reverse the situation and reach the quarter finals,Steaua’s players went out of the competition with their heads up because they truly made us proud to be fans of such a wonderful team.
So what’s going to happen next?Is Steaua readyb for a few more years of great achievements not only at home,but also at an international level?I definitely so;even if Steaua has to play three preliminary rounds to reach the Champions League group stage,I don’t think they will have too many problems,and I think those who will be satisfied to see that they re in the group stage with Steaua in the summer might have a few unpleasant surprises;if Steaua made Chelsea,the European Champions,sweat and fight hard for qualification,it can do it to any other team.I think the legend call Steaua will shine brighter and brighter in the following years;the good times have only just began for Romania’s top team!