To help mark UEFA's Jubilee in 2004, each national association was asked to nominate its most outstanding player of the past 50 years. Moldova chose Pavel Cebanu as their Golden Player.
In the history of Moldovan football there have been few real stars, though the country has produced some fine players. Without doubt one of the best was Pavel Cebanu.
Born on 26 March 1955 in the Ukrainian town of Reni, Cebanu would spend his entire playing career from 1973-85 at the leading Moldovan side FC Nistru Chisinau. He was captain for many years and played 341 games scoring 45 goals for a club subsequently disbanded in the early 90s then refounded as FC Zimbru Chisinau. Although there was interest from many teams from around the USSR eager to sign him, Cebanu chose to remain loyal to his country.
From his very first match, Cebanu became a crowd favourite at Nistru. He had outstanding technical ability, good vision and real leadership qualities. After the 1974 FIFA World Cup, Moldovan fans started calling him Zé Maria because of his perceived resemblance – physical and footballing – to the Brazilian player.
Cebanu played in the Nistru sides that featured in the Soviet Supreme League in 1974 and 1980. According to Cebanu, that league could be placed among the three strongest in the world at the time and he must have fared well for in 1980, the second of those campaigns among the elite, Cebanu was named as Nistru's player of the year. He later received wider recognition for his efforts with the USSR Master of Sports award – an honour created in Soviet times for top performers in various sports.
After he had stopped playing, Cebanu was keen to stay in the game and attended the leading coaching school in Moscow. Subsequently he worked with several clubs at home and in neighbouring Romania, including Zimbru, FC Amocom Chisinau, FC Speranta Nisporeni and FC Olimpia Satu-Mare.
This experience led to him joining the Football Association of Moldova (FMF) in 1996 as general secretary, before he assumed the role of president on 1 February 1997. Cebanu's main aim was to increase the level of funding for football in Moldova, a difficult task considering the prevailing economic conditions. Yet progress has been made, for instance with the building of the national teams' training centre at Vadul-lui-Voda which includes an artificial pitch to allow for year-round use.
Cebanu's work earned praise from UEFA President Michel Platini when he visited Moldova in August 2010 to take part in celebrations to commemorate 100 years of football in Moldova. "The FMF president has laid solid foundations for future success. The training facilities are a perfect example of sound football investment. I am pleased the FMF board understands the importance of a proper football infrastructure," said UEFA's President.
Cebanu has also sought to inspire ex-players to remain in football after hanging up their boots. "Previously our footballers went into business after retiring," he said. "They did not see any potential in remaining in the game. Today, thanks to help received from FIFA and UEFA, the situation is very different. Many now study to become referees and coaches, and they feel supported by the FMF."
Last updated: 2 February 2011
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