Helmut Duckadam recalls his role in FC Steaua Bucureşti's 1986 European Champion Clubs' Cup final win and hopes the fans' passion can inspire his old side to further success.
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Helmut Duckadam's place in Romanian folklore was assured after he kept his cool while all around him lost theirs in the 1985/86 European Champion Clubs' Cup final in Seville.
Having held FC Barcelona to a 0-0 draw over 120 minutes, Steaua missed their first two penalties but still won the shoot-out 2-0, with goalkeeper Duckadam yet to tire of recalling how he played his part in the Catalan side missing all four of their spot kicks.
"I just put myself in the penalty taker's shoes," the 53-year-old told UEFA.com. "It was a game of logic. After I saved the first penalty from Alexanko, I put myself in the penalty taker's position, thinking: 'If the goalkeeper had saved a penalty to the right, what would I do now?' The goalkeeper would normally change to the left, so I went to the right. And that was best seen on the third penalty, when I was 100% sure that Pichi Alonso would aim to the right as well, because it was logical that after two saves by the goalkeeper on one side, on the third he would try the other side – so he aimed at the same spot."
He has also not forgotten the welcome that awaited his side back in the Romanian capital. "When we returned home the next day, more than 15,000 people were waiting for us at Otopeni airport," said Duckadam, now Steaua’s club president. "Many people had walked a long way to wait for us and see us. Leaving the airport, there were tens of thousands of people who applauded us until we arrived at the stadium. It was a fantastic atmosphere – something that you only experience once in a lifetime, or never."
Now, Duckadam is hoping that the current Steaua side can experience something on that scale this season as they go into the away leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie against Chelsea FC a goal to the good. However, his main focus is winning the league title, something his side have not managed since 2005/06. "Our main goal is to win the championship, because we haven't done it in ages," he said, adding: "It is practically the year of Steaua – we are on track towards a 24th title, and consistency has been the cornerstone in the home games."
In Europe, playing at the capacious National Arena has been a real bonus for Laurenţiu Reghecampf's side. "It is not the same thing playing in front of 20,000 fans as playing in front of 50,000," Duckadam said. "And I believe that the public made a significant contribution to us reaching the round of 16." The Bucharest crowd will have no influence over Thursday's second leg, but Steaua can bank on them to raise the roof once more if they make it to the quarter-finals.