Thursday August 3 2017
The story of Craiova

As they prepare to face Milan in the second leg of their Europa League qualifier, Gaby McKay gets the lowdown on the Romanians.

Tonight CSU Craiova will walk onto the pitch at a packed San Siro to face seven-time European champions Milan.

The Romanian side trail 1-0 from the first leg, and it’s extremely unlikely they’ll be able to overturn the Rossoneri’s lead. Midfielder Fausto Rossi insisted qualification was still possible this week, but admitted “we know it will be very difficult”.

The feeling is much the same in both his native Italy and his adopted homeland.

"It's the biggest game in the club's history, and I think it will probably stay that way for quite some time," Romanian football expert Emanuel Roşu explains to Football Italia. "They need to do something remarkable so they can come out of these two games with good memories.

"I think people were really proud of the performance Craiova put up in the first leg. They promised to live up to the game's importance and I think they did.

"Most of the voices in Romanian football agreed that a draw would have been a fair result considering Craiova's display. Many feared Milan would damage Craiova, but in the end everybody was sad they didn't manage to score one themselves to get a 1-1 draw.

"The general opinion was that Craiova deserved to draw.

"The players realise how important this game really is. They will not have anything to lose. If don't get smashed by the atmosphere at the San Siro, hopefully they can repeat the brave performance last week.

"Going through is difficult, it hasn't even been mentioned. All their public statements only encouraged fighting until the end and making the most of this wonderful trip."

They may not have much chance of progressing, but just the fact Craiova are here to play in one of European football’s temples is a minor miracle, given the in-fighting which has riven the club for the past six years.

In 2011, FC Universitatea Craiova was disaffiliated by the Romanian football federation, as owner Adrian Mititelu refused to pay a €7m debt to former Coach Victor Piturca. All of the side’s players were allowed to leave on free transfers, given their club had effectively ceased to exist.

The aftermath gave rise to a truly bizarre set of circumstances, with two clubs claiming to be the “real” Craiova, a story recounted by Brazilian journalist João Vítor Roberge in his film ‘Craiova versus Craiova’, which you can watch below.

In a truly modern twist, Roberge’s interest in the club came about through Football Manager.

“I was playing Football Manager with a friend of mine and he was hired as the manager of Universitatea Craiova, back in 2006,” Roberge tells Football Italia.

“We found the name funny and then I started to look on the internet about their history. The interest started there. When the club was disaffiliated by the Romanian Federation in 2011, I couldn't understand how they could just wipe out a giant club just like that. Then the interest and the  feelings for Craiova exploded in me.”

In 2012, Lia Olguta Vasilescu of the Social Democratic Party [PSD] was elected as the mayor of Craiova, promising to bring the team back in conjunction with Mititelu. She pledged to build a new stadium - which is now close to completion - but soon fell into dispute with the FCU Craiova owner.

“She made some partnerships with other businessmen, whose ‘leader’ was Mihai Rotaru,” explains Roberge. “These businessmen founded CS Universitatea, with the permit of the old CS Universitatea and the University.”

That left the town with two teams, both claiming to be the true Craiova, with Mititelu bringing back the club as FC Universitatea.

Many former Craiova stars viewed CSU Craiova as the true side, as after the Romanian Revolution the clubs had to be privatised, making FC Universitatea, for them, a new club founded in the 90s.

Those on the other side insisted that FCU was a successor side to that original club, while CSU was a clone, an artificially created impostor.

Both played in the Romanian second division in the 2013-14 season, but FCU were relegated before the season could conclude as they once again struggled financially, while CSU were promoted to the top flight and began to attract more fans.

Intrigued by the civil war engulfing his Football Manager favourites, Roberge travelled to Romania to tell the story of the two clubs, by producing a film for his final University submission.

“This isn't about Sunday league football, it's a major team that played in UEFA competitions for many years and even reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup and the semi-finals of UEFA Cup.

“I believe we talk too much about the rich, strong teams, sometimes it's all about Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Milan, Juventus, Manchester, PSG, when there are beautiful, curious and awesome stories everywhere in football.

“That's what I believe, maybe some kind of fate led me to Craiova and I tried to bring this beautiful/sad story out of Romania to the world.”

The two halves continue to exist, with Mititelu refounding FC Universitatea in the fourth division this year. With one of the Craiova sides riding high again, and playing at San Siro tonight, could the rivalries finally be put aside?

“No, that's impossible. FCU fans hate CSU. A strong, true hate has been created there.

“FCU say CSU is a dirty clone created by PSD, and CSU say FCU fans are Mititelu's slaves, because they can't detach from the person who destroyed the team, and can't look forward to a solution besides a Craiova with Mititelu.

“This whole conflict is a giant scar in Romanian football, it may last forever.

“There is a strong resistance supporting FC Universitatea, but at the same time we can see many people are going to CS Universitatea, because of the results and the feeling the good days are coming back to ‘Craiovean’ football.”

Have your say...
Great article!
on the 3rd August, 2017 at 7:31pm
“I believe we talk too much about the rich, strong teams, sometimes it's all about Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Milan, Juventus, Manchester, PSG, when there are beautiful, curious and awesome stories everywhere in football.

the irony this article wouldn't have been posted if they weren't playing milan. still good story reminds me of wimbledon plight.
on the 3rd August, 2017 at 7:28pm
This was actually really interesting, but forza Milan tonight!
on the 3rd August, 2017 at 4:22pm

Post new comment

Your email address is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
If you have your own website, enter its address here.
Maximum 500 characters.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Your responses will be moderated, and sometimes edited, by Football Italia before appearing on the site. Please keep your comments clean and try to keep them relevant to the blog above. We reserve the right to reject views that we deem unsuitable for publication.