Members of FC Steaua Bucuresti's 1986 European Champion Clubs' Cup-winning team have returned to Seville, the city of their triumph, to cheer on their successors in the UEFA Cup today.
On 7 May 1986, Steaua became the first Romanian side to lift club football's greatest prize by defeating FC Barcelona 2-0 on penalties following a goalless draw at Sevilla FC's Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán stadium. Steaua owner Gigi Becali invited all of that squad to travel aboard the same charter flight to Spain as the class of 2006, who are looking to reach the UEFA Cup quarter-finals at the expense of Real Betis Balompié following a 0-0 first-leg draw.
Becali's "gesture of gratitude" will lead to Steaua's coach of two decades ago, Emeric Ienei, being reunited with many of his players from that famous night. Among those making the trip yesterday were Steaua's most decorated player, Marius Lacatus, who claimed ten Romanian titles, the European Cup and the UEFA Super Cup. Now the club's executive president, Lacatus scored one of Steaua's penalties against Barça, while goalkeeper Helmut Ducadam, who saved four of them, will also be in attendance.
"Since the final, I have only been back to Seville once when UEFA invited me," said Ducadam. "It is a special feeling for me and I will bring the gloves I wore in the final. I want Steaua to qualify so who knows, if it comes to penalties again, I might give my gloves to Steaua keeper Carlos Alberto Fernandes." Stefan Iovan, Steaua's captain in the 1986 showpiece in the absence of the suspended Tudorel Stoica, has also journeyed to southern Spain along with team-mates Adrian Bumbescu, Ilie Barbulescu, Mihail Majearu, Lucian Balan, Marin Radu and Constantin Pistol.
However, a number of the European Cup-winning team have been forced to turn down Becali's offer. Victor Piturca is too busy in his job as Romania coach, Anghel Iordanescu is attending a meeting in Zurich, while Miodrag Belodedici is in Slovakia in his role as a Romanian Football Federation technical director. Other absentees are the scorer of the other penalty against Barça, forward Gabi Balint who is coaching FCU Politehnica Timisoara, reserve goalkeeper Dumitru Stangaciu who is second-in-command at Wisla Kraków, and Stoica who misses out again due to business in Bucharest.
Nonetheless, Steaua will receive one unexpected guest with key midfielder Laszlo Bölöni - now coaching French club Stade Rennais FC - set to meet up with his former colleagues in Spain. It all augurs well.
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