Romanian football paid tribute to Gheorghe Popescu last night with a charity farewell match in the town where he began his career, Craiova.
Stars turn out
The Ion Oblemenco stadium drew a crowd of 27,000 match between the Romanian national team and an 'All-Star World Team' containing the likes of Claudio Taffarel, Hristo Stoichkov and Josep Guardiola, as well as Popescu's fellow 'golden generation' Romanians Gheorghe Hagi and Dan Petrescu. In the match itself, Romania won 3-2, responding to first-half goals from Andriy Vorobei and Damiano Tommasi with a 55th-minute effort by Florin Bratu and two late Ioan Ganea strikes.
More than €250,000 was raised for a local hospital, to be donated to the children's department named after Zoltan Crisan, a FC Universitatea Craiova player who died recently after a long illness. That included money raised in an auction of the players' shirts, with €22,000 paid for Popescu's by his brother-in-law Hagi.
Popescu, 36, bowed out last year after a career that saw him play at three FIFA World Cup finals and at EURO 96™ and UEFA EURO 2000™. During his playing days, he won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup with FC Barcelona, the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup at Galatasaray SK, and was voted Romanian Player of the Year six times.
He now works as an agent and has funded a football academy in Craiova that feeds Universitatea. Capped 115 times, Popescu said: "I left Craiova to join PSV Eindhoven in 1990, and today's event was proof of my gratitude to the fans who always backed me at home or abroad."
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