On Sunday night Real Madrid arrived at Otopeni airport. This event was trumpeted like they were ...well, I was going to say royalty, but if it had been Juan Carlos showing up, for example, there would have been much less fanfare. Like gods maybe. The TV stations all had someone stationed in the presidential lounge of the airport where the team would appear (why in the presidential lounge I have no idea, why they couldn't come through passport control and customs and baggage reclaim like the rest of us is beyond me, but you know these are overpaid and overhyped celebrities we're talking about), and the sports sections of all the Sunday evening news shows were all taken up with exciting trivia such as whether Posh Spice would be on the plane and what exact route the bus was likely to take from Otopeni to the Marriot Hotel. Two stations even elected to cover the arrival and subsequent bus journey live in all its detail. Really, I swear I'm not making any of this up.
The excitement continued to build on Monday with press conferences being covered in full, training ground action and various sundry bits of information. Then yesterday came the reason that this exalted bunch had deigned to touch down on Romanian soil and bless us all with their presence. The match against Steaua. ["Star Wars" as one channel oh so cleverly billed it - you see Madrid are all stars and Steaua means star. Oh ho.] Sadly, for Romanian football fans, many of whom had travelled across the country to watch this game, and who had played vast amounts for a ticket, Steaua had seemingly been watching too much awestruck breathless TV coverage themselves, and they too seemed to feel unworthy of being on the same pitch as the wealthy has-beens from the Bernabeu, capitulating miserably and losing 4-1.
Still, the upside of that result is that we won't have to endure weeks of Gigi Becali crowing on TV with the compliant Romanian media hanging on his every word. Even more pleasingly the killer third goal was scored by black Brazilian forward Robinho, thus being one in the eye for the bigot Becali and the racists who seem to make up a reasonable proportion of Steaua's fan base.
I have to say that the fawning arselicking of the Real team and their presence in Romania did the nation as a whole no favours. They're not messiahs, they're just overrated footballers. Steaua deserved to be in the Champions League group stages (much as it pains me to say it), and Romania is just as much part of Europe as anywhere else. This media-led prostration at their feet is pathetic. It's at times like these when I feel an understanding of those who can't stand football.