(note: Football post follows. Just so you know)
Yesterday was a day I'd rather forget for rather painful/uncomfortable reasons. I won't divulge them here as (a) it wouldn't be exactly edifying; (b) it's still too raw (in a number of ways); and (c) there are some things that are best left unspoken/unblogged
So, instead, to take my mind off my current discomfort, I need to report on the shock winners of the Romanian football league this year. The town of Urziceni (Err - zee - chen) is a small dusty piece of nothingness sort of north east of Bucharest. I have driven through it a couple of times on my way to the coast, and really it's not exactly the must buzzing metropolis on the planet. It even makes Csikszereda look quite attractive and lively, and believe me, that's a difficult thing to do. The population of the town is 17,000, and it's one of those southern Romanian towns in which every lamppost is plastered with posters advertising agricultural labouring jobs in Spain and Italy. In short, it's the sort of place that people leave as soon as they can.
But miraculously, incredibly, its football team Unirea Urziceni (which roughly translates as Urziceni United) have just become champions of Romania. They've achieved this without any real star name players and without importing vast quantities of South Americans as most of their rivals have done. The town will, I think, be by far the smallest ever to host Champion's League football (well when I say host, the ground is too small, so they'll play their games in Bucharest, so it won't really exactly host CL football, but you know what I mean)
The manager who has worked this miracle is none other than Dan Petrescu, who is famous the world over for playing his football for the mighty Sheffield Wednesday (he did also play for some other minor teams, but it was his time at Wednesday which will have been the pinnacle of his career). Indeed, he hasn't yet reportedly said, but I am pretty sure he has it on the tip of his tongue "Winning the Romanian league with Unirea is the proudest moment of my career since the day I signed for the great Sheffield Wednesday". (So successful was his time in England at Wednesday and another lesser club whose name escapes me, that he had a popular TV show named after him)
Anyway, it's a remarkable achievement, and it adds to the highly amusing recent denial of any trophies or any kind of success whatsoever to Bucharest teams. Last year CFR Cluj did the double, and this year Urziceni have won the league and the cup final (this weekend) will be contested between CFR Cluj and FC Timisoara. In addition the second Champions League spot has gone to FC Timisoara after they (yesterday) got their 6 points back from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (and thus pushed Dinamo down into third place). So, all in all, ha ha Bucharest. Sadly Steaua just scraped into the last spot for the "Europa League" (the new UEFA Cup).
In other good news for Romanian football (and Romanian football managers), Mircea Lucescu led Shakhtor Donetsk to the UEFA Cup, László Bölöni won the Belgian league with Standard Liege, and little known local Csaba László (from Udvarhely/Odorheiu Secuiesc just down the road) took Hearts to a very creditable third place in Scotland. And Mircea's lad Razvan is now the new coach of the Romanian national team about which I feel very positive as I think he's an excellent coach and has to be an improvement over the rubbish, and now sacked, Victor Piţurcă. South Africa 2010 is well out of reach, but it could be a brighter future for the national team.