Romania – “The collapse of football: Greed and Corruption.”

Dumitru Dragomir

The year is 1998, the location is Toulouse, France. Romania and Chelsea right-back Dan Petrescu receives a high ball from the left hand side, out muscling England left-back and Chelsea team-mate Graham Le Saux before delicately placing the ball through the legs of England’s ‘keeper David Seaman and into the gaping net. The Romanian players, and fans, go wild as a 2-1 victory over one of football’s traditional powerhouses is achieved. The baying hoards up and down Romania, from Bucharest  to Craiova, had little idea that, by 2010 they would still be waiting for another taste of World Cup football.

The sorry state that Romanian football now finds itself in could not have been foretold in the 1930’s as Romania were one of only four teams to compete in the first three World Cup’s. The journey from founders of competitive international football to the crumbling bastion of flair is a long and arduous process that would be better described in a historical volume. One of the main reasons for the decline in Romania’s national game, in recent years, is the corruption within the national game and the way the game is run in the former communist Country.

The degree of corruption has been highlighted recently by the Romanian daily ‘Adevarul.’ The daily published, on Monday, a detailed and damning analysis of the state of Romanian football holding the ominous title “The collapse of football: Greed and Corruption.” The heavily critical analysis of the current Romanian plight pinpoints Mircea Sandu, president of the Romanian Football Federation (FRF), and Mitica Dragomir, president of the Professional Football League (LPF), for vehement criticism.

Part of the analysis reads: “Everything started immediately after the revolution when the legitimate issue of taking this sport out from under any government, hence political, influence was raised. The Romanian Football Federation was organized as a non-governmental association; however those that created it made sure to basically ensure their “immortality.” Mircea Sandu was the beneficiary. A few years later, Dumitru Dragomir, another “man of football,” requested for his share of the pie and received the leadership of the Professional Football League (LPF), the entity that manages League I. Under their reign any worthless person was able to become a football club owner. In recent years the Sandu-Dragomir duo watched as some amazing cases of corruption were revealed in the system that they have led for two decades: money laundering, bribing referees, bribing players. They said and did nothing. Now they sit and watch, just like us, the draw against Albania”

Sandu was a renown goal-scorer in his day’s as a player, netting 169 goals in 442 appearances, although he made little impact on the Romanian national team. He was elected to the presidency in 1990 and has since been reelected twice, his past pales in significance to his colleague Dragomir. With a nickname like “Corleone,” you can immediately see the portrayal of the League’s president in Romania.

Dragomir is not a footballer, he is a politician who entered the world of football in 1977, aged just 31 when he became president of, the now disbanded, Ramnicu Valcea. So that’s his induction into the football world, now for his induction into the murky world of crime and imprisonment. in 1976, yes so that means Ramnicu allowed him to preside over footballing matters even though he had a criminal record, Dragomir was handed a three-month sentence for illegal gambling, but his criminal jaunts don’t stop there. Whilst president of yet another football club, Victoria Bucharest, Dragomir was handed another prison sentence. The politician was handed a seven month sentence for “abuse of office” in 1990, making that ten months in total. Surely a candidate to become deputy in the national parliament and president of the national football league…

As well as a politician, it transpires that Dragomir is a xenophobe and anti-Semite. These, less than startling, revelations came after the collapse of his sports newspaper, Romanian Sport, after the editorial team of the newspaper left to create a rival institution. Dragomir then launched these attacks through the national tabloids until he was given a “warning” by Sepp Blatter and his pals at FIFA.

Just to put this into a little bit of perspective for English readers, this is like Richard Scudamore, head of the Premier League, being a twice convicted criminal with xenophobic and anti-semitic tendencies and when these tendencies became apparent, him being given a slight slap on the wrist by the men leading the world game. Ho hum!