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Romania rise to the challenge

Romania have battled through adversity during their sometimes turbulent history.

Romania rise to the challenge
Romania rise to the challenge ©AFP/Getty Images

It is hard to say exactly when football was first played in Romania. Some think 1889, others 1893, but the date remains uncertain. Given the fragmented nature of the country and surrounding territories in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is no surprise that the majority of the early players were foreign nationals – particularly British and German expatriates.

Romania's first football club was founded in October 1904 by German citizen Charles Viereck – the Olimpia Sport Club. By 1909 three teams were up and running and they formed the Association of Athletic Societies of Romania (ASAR). The next year the ASAR Cup, forerunner to the modern-day Romanian championship, was launched. After World War One and the unification of all the Romanian provinces, football became more widely and more effectively established. It was as late as 1932, though, that a national league was organised, with the Romanian Cup following in season 1933/34.

Before these developments, the Romanian Football Association Federation (FRFA) had been set up in February 1930, facilitating the country's participation in the first FIFA World Cup. Twelve months later, at the FIFA Congress in Budapest, the FRFA was admitted as a full FIFA member. With a communist regime in power after World War Two, however, Romanian football's governing body did not have the power to act autonomously and underwent several name changes.

Romania nonetheless became a founder member of UEFA in 1954, albeit by proxy: Romanian delegates due to attend the inaugural congress in Basel did not receive Swiss visas, so had to authorise Czechoslovakia to vote on their behalf. Finally, in July 1957, the Federaţia Română de Fotbal (FRF or Romanian Football Federation) was born, although its first elections as an independent organisation had to wait until August 1990. Mircea Sandu became president, a position he subsequently held for the next 24 years until March 2014, when Răzvan Burleanu was elected for a first term.

Romania's national team debuted in June 1922 against Yugoslavia in Belgrade, with the visitors triumphing 2-1 to lift the King Alexander Cup. Acclaimed playmaker Gheorghe Hagi remains the country's joint-top scorer with 35 goals alongside Adrian Mutu. Former midfielder Dorinel Munteanu holds the appearance record with 134 caps.

The side's best performance in a major tournament came at the 1994 World Cup where, with Hagi pulling the strings, they reached the quarter-finals, a finish they repeated at the UEFA European Championship of 2000. They also claimed the now-defunct Balkan Cup of Nations six times. However, UEFA EURO 2016 was the last time Romania qualified for a European finals, while the World Cup stage has eluded them since 1998 (and the third of three successive qualifications). 

Romania's national Under-21 team has also achieved much in recent times, qualifying for the European Under-21 Championship semi-finals in 2019 - their first finals appearance for 21 years. They will also compete in the Olympic Games football tournament for the first time in 56 years in Japan in 2020. 

In the last ten years, Futsal has also improved continuously, and this progress was crowned by three UEFA Futsal EURO final tournament appearances in 2007, 2012 and 2014. The same can be said of women’s football, with a European U19 final tournament appearance in 2012 followed by the senior women’s team’s first-ever participation in a UEFA Women’s EURO play-off in 2016.

At club level FC Steaua Bucureşti have collected the most silverware, culminating in their victory over FC Barcelona in the 1986 European Champion Clubs' Cup final and ensuing UEFA Super Cup success. Steaua, who also lost the European Cup final in 1989 a year after making the semis, have been Romania's most prominent participants during the UEFA Champions League era – though CFR 1907 Cluj and FC Unirea Urziceni also featured in that tournament's group phase. FC Dinamo Bucureşti and CS Universitatea Craiova are other sides with European semi-finals on their CVs, though Steaua are the most recent club to get to the last four of a UEFA competition, the 2006 UEFA Cup.

Despite Steaua, Dinamo and FC Rapid Bucureşti's traditional hegemony, the Bucharest outfits faced tougher opposition from the provinces for a while, with CFR Cluj (five top-flight titles, four cups and three FA Supercups), FC Petrolul Ploieşti (one cup), Unirea, SC Vaslui and FC Oţelul Galaţi among the challengers, while in recent years, FC Astra Giurgiu and FC Viitorul became increasingly important forces as well. Even when Steaua were crowned First League champions in 2014 and 2015, FC Astra Giurgiu landed the Romanian Cup and the Super Cup, beating them in both finals in 2014. Yet while Dinamo attempt to regain their lustre and Rapid currently play in the second tier, Steaua are looking to rediscover their status of national heavy weights,  given that their rivals have enjoyed various successes in recent years. FC Astra won the championship title and Super Cup in 2016, FC Viitorul captured the league title in 2017 and the cup in 2019, CFR 1907 Cluj were champions in 2018 and 2019, FC Voluntari won the cup in 2017, and Universitatea Craiova gained a cup success in 2018.     .


Răzvan Burleanu

Răzvan Burleanu
Răzvan Burleanu©UEFA.com

Nationality: Romanian
Date of birth: 1 July 1984
Association president since: 2014

• The son of a former footballer – his father Gheorghe Burleanu made more than 350 top-flight appearances – Răzvan Burleanu played football at youth level.

• He decided to move into academic studies at the age of 19, reading Political Sciences at the National School of Political and Administrative Studies in Bucharest, and graduating following several master's studies and a doctoral thesis.

• Burleanu has worked for the municipal authorities in the city of Bacau, as well as for the Romanian parliament and the administration of the Romanian presidency. "Now the Romanian Football Federation will start a new era," he said upon his election. "I assure everybody that we will obtain high performances from a management and sporting point of view. We want to qualify for final tournaments on a regular basis and be proud of being Romanian."

General secretary

Radu Visan

Radu Visan
Radu Visan©FRF

Nationality: Romanian
Date of birth: 14 January 1981
Association general secretary since: 2015

• Radu Visan gained two bachelor of arts (BA) degrees in administrative and political sciences at the universities of Bucharest and Ploesti, as well as two master of arts (MA) degrees in management and political sciences at the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration and the University of Bucharest. In 2006, he began as an adviser within the European integration and foreign affairs unit of the Ploiești local administration, and then worked as a central public administration adviser.

• In March 2014, he joined the Romanian Football Association (FRF) as an institutional development manager, helping to draw up the mission, vision and strategic plan for Romania’s football development. He was also responsible for all affairs (including financial aspects) related to international organisations (UEFA, FIFA, etc.) and civil society.

• Visan became FRF general secretary in July 2015. He coordinates all of the country’s football competitions, including national-team matches, as well as the strategic plan for the development of Romanian football between 2015 and 2020, and ensures that the FRF contributes to the implementation of public sports policies and sports legislation in Romania.