In Romanian football the ‘old guard’ are having to fight off the ‘new breed’ as, gradually, a league dominated by two clubs is starting to see title challenges from other contenders. Liga 1, the Romanian first division, is currently held by Unirea Urziceni. The year before that the division was won by CFR Cluj. You then have to go back almost two decades to find a winner that is from outside the nation’s capital, Bucharest.
Bucharest is a madhouse of a city, corruption in football is so common that it is no longer known as a ‘scandal’, controversy is a regular occurrence and if you delve deeper into Romanian football’s past a dark story lies. This description of Romanian football can also be used to describe Bucharest where dark deeds are to be expected in a poverty stricken country in which ‘anything goes’ to a certain extent. Football is a passion in the city with the Capital having, arguably, the three most notable and reputed Romanian clubs with Dinamo, Steaua and Rapid Bucharest all being based in the city.
The main derby across Bucharest, and Romania for that matter, is generally thought to be Dinamo ‘v’ Steaua. The rivalry steams from when Romania was a communist country. Steaua represented the ministry of the interior, or as they are more commonly known the Secret Police, with Dinamo representing the Romanian army, the Romanian Ministry of Defence. With their communist founders backing, the two clubs were able to attract the finest players in the country to play for their respective sides both clubs were offering the promise of no national service and free foreign travel to further entice players and a power struggle for dominance of Romanian football emerged. Both clubs, after failure, said there were suspicious plots to stop their side winning the title; Dinamo stated that the Ceausescu family, then rulers, favoured their fierce rivals whilst Steaua felt that Dinamo were using, the infamous, Secret Police to exert pressure on their opponents for upcoming fixtures.
Since then the brutal dicatator, Nicolae Ceausescu, has been overthrown but the rivalry between the two club still remains with fans of both clubs looking to seize the opportunity to show their team is the best. In terms of success Steaua can claim they are the dominant force over Romanian football. They hold the record for the amount of times every major domestic trophy has been won. The Roş-Albaştrii – the reds and white’s – have won the Romanian top division 23 times, the Romanian Cup, the equivalent to the English F.A Cup, twenty times and the more recently installed Romanian Super Cup five times in their illustrious history. The clubs greatest success, however, came in 1986 when they won the European Champions League becoming the first Eastern European based club to win the trophy and the only Romanian club to lift European football’s top prize. This was, and still is, Romanian football’s finest hour, unless you happen to be a Dinamo fan of course.
Dinamo Bucharest, even though not winning as many trophies as their Bucharest counter-parts, still boast a very full trophy cabinet. Câinii Roşii – the red dogs – have won the Liga 1 title eighteen times, the Romanian Cup on twelve occasions and have achieved a solitary success in the Romanian Super Cup. Despite many domestic successes the clubs greatest achievement came in European competition, much like their rivals, when they reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League in the 1983-1984 season.
The two clubs are the best supported football teams in Romania. Steaua, according to a survey conducted in January 2007, are cheered on by a whopping 42% of all football supporters in Romania with Dinamo taking 12% of the nations fan base. This shows that over half of all Romanian football fans support one of the two Bucharest based clubs; this derby is not just one that means a lot in the nation’s capital but is a rivalry felt all over the country. ‘The Eternal Derby’, as it is known, is one that, as the name suggests, is likely to be one of the most fierce in World football for a long time yet.