USSR II Division

Second Division. It was going to reduced from 24 to 22 teams, so 5 teams were relegated at the end of the season. As usual, the top 2 were getting promoted to First Division. The season was intriguing, including the make of the final table – the issue at hand was 20th place, the last relegation place. Four teams ended with 40 points, so the Federation decided who was going down: it boiled down to a mini-table between 3 teams, their head-to-head results in which Kuban (Krasnodar) had the worse goal-difference. Of course, the rule of the limit of ties to 12 was still in force and many teams lost points for more ties than the limit. If this rule was not in place not only the 5th relegated teams would have been the one which was not even considered by the Federation, but the champion of the league would have been different. As for the championship itself, observers largely recognized higher playing qualities of the players than before and simultaneously – more brutal football and incompetent refereeing. Three teams fought for promotion, entangled in dramatic battle, but that is according to the final table. Reality was more baffling – 8 rounds before the end, there was a leader, having 8-point advantage and needing just 3 points from the remaining games to win if not the championship, at least a promotion. This team finished 3rd… Other early leaders also unexpectedly went down near the end of the season – and since they were familiar names… Shinnik (Yaroslavl) and Pamir (Dushanbe). Two ‘eternal’ second division members. Both considered strong teams, yet, once again they failed – or may be decided to fail. Which was not new – they have been criticized for years for their ‘lack of ambition’ and some time even more directly: for preferring security among the stronger clubs in second level than risky life in first level and thus deliberately failing to reach promotion. Of course, nobody could prove anything.

Nistru (Kishinev) ended last – a hopeless outsider with 21 points and negative record maker: they received 101 goals in their net. Nothing surprising, though – football in Moldova was never strong and although Nistru used to play a bit of First Division football, they never built tradition and rarely had strong home-grown squad. Their decline was noticed a few years ago and eventually reached its conclusion – relegation to third level.

Atlantas (Klaipeda) was also outsider – 23rd with 29 points. It was expected as well – the newcomers from the Baltics hardly had strong enough team, for traditionally football was not strong there.

Iskra (Smolensk) was 22nd with 34 points. Tried to fight, but relegated at the end. Not a surprise either – they had their day already, but to maintain competitive squad was difficult. As many teams around Moscow, they depended on some help from the big Moscow clubs – but the big boys had many satellites and hardly enough players to dispatch to all.

SKA (Khabarovsk) suffered similar fate as Iskra – 21st with 36 points and relegated. The military club from the far, far East had little chance of getting help from mother CSKA (Moscow): yes, they craftily got a few players when they climbed to second level, but it was unlikely good players would go to the wilderness for long. And CSKA had its own difficulties in recent years, so supporting other clubs was not realistic.

Kuban (Krasnodar) was unfortunate 20th with 40 points. Perhaps theirs was not a real decline, but more a matter of bad luck. True, Kuban was not bog enough club to keep decent team and attract classy players from elsewhere, but still they were not all that bad. Rules worked against hem, however – if there was no limit on ties, they would have been safe with 42 points. But they lost 2 points for having more ties than the limit. Was it goal-difference decisive factor, Kuban would have been still safe – they had better one than Pakhtakor (Tashkent) and Kotaik (Abovyan). Well, it was goal-difference which relegated them at the end, but only goal-difference from games against direct rivals.

Kotaik (Abovyan) was lucky survivor – 19th with 40 points. For the small Armenian club remaining in Second Division for one more year equaled triumph. All about size… for another club such dramatic escape would have been a disaster, but for the tiny club was great achievement.

Dinamo (Stavropol) was also lucky at the end – 18th with 40 points, thanks to best goal-difference in the head-to-head matches with Kotaik and Kuban. Rules played a joke on them too – under ‘normal’ rules, Dinamo would have been safe on more points. Under standard goal-difference rule, they would not have been in danger of relegation either – the ended with rare record for a lowly team: with positive goal-difference, 66-58. On the picture – in white jerseys after a game against Dinamo (Kiev).

Rules benefited Pakhtakor (Tashkent) most, however – they ended 17th with 40 points and were not even part of tricky triangle on which the Federation decided the fate. Under usual rules, though… Pakhtakor would have been relegated. If there was no limit on ties, they would have been relegated on fewer points. If there was no head-to-head rule, they would have been relegated on worst goal-difference. Frankly, Pakhtakor suffered the consequences of the fatal 1979 airplane crash, killing their team. It was delayed backlash – for a few years the slump was postponed because a number of good players were dispatched to play for them from other clubs. It was artificial help, perhaps creating an illusion that worst was avoided – but as soon as grace period allowed by the Federation, in which Pakhtakor was not to be relegated from First Division, ended and the aging players other clubs gave them retired the truth was plain and ugly: Pakhtakor had no team to speak of. And down they went.

Spartak (Ordzhonikidze) – 16th with 42 points. Relatively weak season, but the prime aim for Spartak was to stay in Second Division, so the place did not matter.

SKA (Rostov) – 15th with 43 points. Another team in sharp decline, but in their case it may be also related to the weakness of CSKA (Moscow) plus the situation in Rostov itself. In the past SKA depended on CSKA players – either allowed to be recruited by SKA instead of CSKA, or just given by CSKA – to strengthen their team. CSKA was vulnerable now, so no gifts. And in the same time the other local team – Rostselmash – was quite strong, so local talent was more likely to join the civilian club than to SKA.

Shinnik (Yaroslavl) – 14th with 44 points. Back to the 36th round… Shinnik was 3 points behind the leaders and observers entertained the illusion that may be they will run for promotion. An illusion… for Shinnik was careful not to leave the comfort mid-table zone this championship – just like every previous season. Considered strong, certainly experienced, but never wanting to get higher – that was really the truth. Sitting from left: V. Gavrikov – masseur, V. Pomazov, S. Novoselov, D. Popov, E. Kotrussov – administrator.

Middle row: V. Petrov – team chief, A. Piskunov, A. Tzenin, E. Martyanov, B. Gavrilov, A. Goryukhov, V. Melnitzky, V. Sotnikov, V. Chistyakov – coach.

Top row: V. Kossarev, D. Kurytzin, Yu. Mentyukov, Yu. Panteleev, V. Kasyan, V. Churkin, M. Morozov, Yu. Rodionov, A. Tyutikov, R. Bilyaletdinov.

Kuzbass (Kemerovo) – 13th with 44 points. Well, same as Shinnik – secure mid-table position. Still having the record-scorer of Second Division Vitaly Razdaev in the squad – the first man to score 200 goals in this division, but also a player of amazingly long career and not considering retirement yet.

Metallurg (Zaporozhye) – 12th with 45 points. Like Shinnik and Kuzbass – holding fast to mid-table position.

Dinamo (Batumi) – 11th with 46 points. Not bad, really. On the other hand… Georgia had 4 teams in First and Second Division. For a small republic without many resources, perhaps too many clubs playing high-level football.

Fakel (Voronezh) – 10th with 48 points. Nothing special.

Kolos (Nikopol) – 9th with 51 points. Expected to play bigger role, but weakened by injuries.

Rotor (Volgograd) – 8th with 51 points. Attracted little attention so far – and may be for their own good. Quietly climbing up.

Rostselmash (Rostov) – 7th with 52 points. Not bad at all and secret may have been in the name – they belonged and were named after a giant plant for farming machinery. As an ‘industrial’ club, they were hardly the first choice to support, but recently SKA was not in great shape and although they were traditionally ‘the’ club in the city, they belonged to the Army – not quite local, therefore, and also depending on Moscow orders. Rostselmash at least was local and very likely the weakening of SKA rallied local Party administration to support Rostselmash. Having the upper hand locally, but not able to run for promotion.

Lokomotiv (Moscow) – 6th with 53 points. Among the better Second Division and more likely to entertain ambitions for returning to top flight, but unable to make a strong enough squad.

Pamir (Dushanbe) – 5th with 54 points. They and Shinnik were usually blamed together as prime example of what was wrong with Second Division football: no ambition. Once again having strong squad, once again looking like going to make a jump higher, and once again settling for lower place.

SKA Karpaty (Lvov) – 4th with 54 points. Unlike Pamir, this was a team wanting to get promoted. The problem, however, was complex – a few years back local administration amalgamated the two city clubs – SKA and Karpaty – into one. The idea was to cut off the army from weakening Karpaty by taking young talent under the pretext of doing military service. Another hindrance was not up to locals to block – promising talent was most likely to be snatched by Dinamo (Kiev). The amalgamation was not to be able to prevent that, but at least, it was hoped, the new team will have the best players remaining in the city. It did not quite work, for fans did not like the new concoction at all. They wanted their old Karpaty, partly for nationalistic reasons. Anyhow, the club wanted to reach First Division, but was not strong enough.

Daugava (Riga) – 3rd with 60 points. Missed promotion by a point, but had incredible season nevertheless. After years of third level football, Daugava came to Second Division and now was a leader. However… after leading a good part of the season, Daugava suddenly failed. Remember: 8 rounds before the end they were leading by 8 points and needed only 3 points from the remaining games to get promoted. Finishing 3rd was tremendous failure, hard to explain. For many, they crumbled under pressure – a plausible explanation, for Daugava had little experience. But it may have been deliberate loss of form too – 3rd place was still great, the season still exciting. Going up though… risky. The team was not really at First Division level and there was hardly a chance of getting experienced players from other clubs. Better stay in Second Division than becoming the joke of top flight. Whatever the truth, Daugava lost the battle for promotion.

CSKA (Moscow) – clinched 2nd place and promoted with 61 points. Things were really dark and miserable for CSKA in recent years – playing second division football, struggling to return to toip flight, and unable to stay there. This season was good only in that the team managed to secure 2nd place, but they were not better than others – in fact, CSKA was on the level of small Daugava, even smaller Guria, and if Pamir and Shinnik played seriously, CSKA may not have been promoted. Lucky may be, but it all right – at least they were going up. Crouching from left: S. Fokin, D. Kuzhetzov, V. Tatarchuk, D. Galyamin, V. Medvid, S. Savchenko, S. Myasnikov, M. Kolesnikov, V. Novikov. Standing: M. Plakhetko – team chief, Yu. Morozov – coach, D. Bystrov, G. Denisov, S. Berezin, A. Afanasyev, V. Bubukin – assistant coach, L. Nikolaenko, G. Shtromberger, Yu. Shishkin, V. Kordivar – administrator, E. Veshev – doctor.

It was the squad – yes, few very good players, but few and somewhat not at the level they used to be. Novikov was national team goalkeeper once upon a time. Tatarchuk was perhaps the only great talent for the future, but at least the squad was generally young. Great coach – Morozov – was unable to do more with rather limited squad and the worst was that CSKA for years was unable to recruit enough good players.

Guria (Lanchkhuti) won the championship. Standing from left: A. Kiladze – the chairman of the District Football Federation, G. Dundua – assistant coach, G. Giligashvili, A. Kondratyev, T. Tchkhaidze, L. Melikia, M. Akopyan, B. Sikharulidze – coach, G. Imnadze, M. Tevzadze, T. Ebanoidze, D. Ugrelidze. Front row: Ya. Ormotzadze – administrator, E. Tevzadze, B. Pridonishvili, G. Tkebuchava, M. Kiladze, V. Kopaleishvili, B. Danelia, D. Imnadze.

One of the greatest surprises in the history of Soviet football. It was a victory only on better head-to-head record against CSKA, but it was truly David beating Goliath – CSKA represented not only Moscow, but all-mighty Soviet military. Guria represented a village… even in Georgian terms it was peripheral and obscure place. Yet… 28 wins, 5 ties, 13 losses, 80-66 goal-difference, 61 points. Who would have imagined it? This victory should be placed in proper perspective: a small club cannot be really dominating. Guria apparently played all-or-nothing kind of football, so they lost many games. But the opposition was no better… Georgians usually depended on attack and scored lots of goals – no surprise here, only Rostselmash outscored Guria. The defence was dismal, which was also no big surprise. Enthusiasm certainly played big role and various weaknesses of other teams also helped. And may be the fact that Guria was not coming from relatively big provincial city, but from from really small town helped – here going to play first division football was matter of great excitement and pride, no matter the coast. No calculations what could be ‘safer’ in the long run – even one year among the best was something historic, worth risking everything, even going broke because of it. It was simply wonderful. As for the future… what Guria had at hand was a few players who played a bit for Dinamo (Tbilisi) and Torpedo (Kutaisi). A bit… not good enough, they were quickly dismissed and thus ended up in Guria. Local boys mostly. New recruits were certainly needed and there was little hope for significant additions: may be some second-stringers and veterans at the end of their careers from Dinamo (Tbilisi). The republic was too small and usually supported Dinamo (Tbilisi) with talent. The short spells of Torpedo (Kutaisi) in First Division were direct result of the small pool… Now Guria and not Torpedo was going to get those not needed by Dinamo, but there was no much certainty even in that: Georgia was having 4 teams in First and Second divisions now and Lanchkhuti was the smallest location of them. Practically there was no way attracting players from outside Georgia. But the present was great – Guria was found in 1952 and reached Second Division in 1979. Now they were the third Georgian club to play in First Division. They were going to be above the Georgian second ranking club – Torpedo (Kutaisi), the first club representing agrarian – or village – sport society in top flight, Second Division champions. Amazing story, one of those making football so attractive and dear.

USSR III Division

USSR. At the end of the season it was said that it was Dinamo (Kiev) year and the whole championship was practically under its star. But the end was particularly dramatic – two of the 3 last games were between the leaders Dinamo (Moscow) and Dinamo (Kiev), the last match was in Kiev, Moscow leading by 1 point and Kiev extracting 2-1 win and thus prevailing and taking the title. Such victory was exciting, but doe not suggest any dominance of the new-old champions. Why, then, Dinamo (Kiev) was considered dominant? A combination of reasons – first, Dinamo won the Cup Winners Cup and was in everybody’s mouth. Second, it was practically the national team of USSR and played at the 1986 World Cup finals, getting considerable attention. The international involvement led to postponing many championship fixtures of Kiev and the new international season further complicated playing them – thus, Dinamo (Kiev) played at the very end of the season, including both matches against Dinamo (Moscow) – they were 2 of the last three games, the first in Moscow, which ended 1-1, then Kiev had a home game against Shakhter (Donetsk) – they won it 4-1 and before the last home match against Moscow they were trailing by a single point – only a win would give them the title, but they were already on track and before home crowd, they won. Frankly, this championship should be taken with a grain of salt – the Soviets always changed the schedule of the championship in order of accomodating the national team when it was playing at World Cup finals. Changed schedule instantly created opportunities for scheming and this season was not exception: on November 23 the situation was as follows – Dinamo (Moscow), practically without national team players, was leading with 36 points. They played 27 games so far and could have a maximum of 42 points. Spartak (Moscow) was 2nd with 35 points, but they had only 1 match left and their maximum could be 37 points. Zenit (Leningrad) was 3rd with 33 points and had 2 games to play – so, their possible maximum was 37 points. Dinamo (Kiev) at the moment was 7th with 30 points, but they played only 25 games so far. Five games still to play meant they could have maximum 40 points. It was clear that Spartak and Zenit had no chance winning the championship, they were already out of the picture. And for good measure consider that Torpedo (Moscow) at this moment was already going on vacation – they finished the championship, 30 games played already. With games to play at hand, one can calculate… the opposition was greatly reduced and the mood of lower-placed opponents was already restive. One can quite safely suggest that Dinamo (Moscow), in decline for many years, mostly took advantage of the situation – Kiev and Spartak were destructed by international football, having the most national team players in the country, and when nobody was looking Dinamo (Moscow) collected points. Good or bad, one thing was certain – they were among the leaders during the season, but hardly ever on the top position. Thus, they were not some new exciting squad and rightly the focus was on their Kievan namesake. That was the pinnacle of Soviet football, hiding very different reality behind. Not a new reality at all…

At the beginning of the season a survey was organized down in the Third Division – the coaches were asked about the structure and only a handful of them were in favour of it. Third level currently had 153 teams, divided into 9 Zones – or 10 really, for the Ukrainian Zone 6 was itself divided into 2 groups of 14 teams each. The winners of zonal championships proceeded to the promotional tournament – 9 clubs divided in 3 groups, the winners promoted to Second Division. Nothing new… including the problems and because of that old problems most coaches were against the structure. Dividing USSR geographically was good only on paper – in reality, the Far east has always been too weak compared to the European part of the country. But different republics were involved in the zonal championships and they had different rules, requirements and ambitions. Thus, often criticized club from Alma-Ata – SKIF – was excused in the same time: sure, it was a shame having a team regularly finishing last and receiving at least 100 goals per season, but what would you expect from squad made of juniors playing against men? Local rules permitted that, unfortunately. Also unfortunate was that there were hardly enough clubs in the area, so SKIF at least made the numbers. It was recognized that bellow 3rd level only Ukraine had meaningful football system and that was a problem as well, because Ukrainian administrators feared structural changes – they thought, perhaps rightly, that any change will break the system they carefully made. Thus, in the survey the Ukrainian opinions were rather weird: yes, the Third Division structure was a failure and counter-productive, but if changes are to be made, then only with the provision of not touching Ukrainian football. And what was ‘the Ukrainian system’? That: the champion of the Zone 6 was also the champion of Ukraine. Thus the champions of the Ukraine had real chance to go to Second Division – good motivational points. But Zone 6 was made entirely of Ukrainian teams, so it was easy to serve as republican championship as well – the other zones were mixed and none of them could serve as republican championship. The Russian republic was too large to have its clubs in one zone and Russian clubs played in few zones, some of them mixed – Third level was not meaningful solution even for Russian clubs. Thus, republican champions hardly ever had the chance to compete for promotion to Second Division and no big motivation as a result. What third-level coaches considered a better solution was reduction: no more than 60 teams playing in no more than 3 zones. It was not a new proposal – it was suggested 10 years earlier.

Whatever ‘the Ukrainian system’ was, it depended on relatively well-financed and numerous clubs. Vorskla (Poltava) was the champion of the Ukrainian republic in 1986 and they were not Third Division member – they played at even lower level and if there was motivational factor, it was in promotion to Third level, not to Second Division.

What was painfully true, though, was the fact that clubs possibly able to play quite well in Second Division played in Third level, in the European more competitive zones. Clubs like

Niva (Vinnitza), along with other former Second and even First Division members, played in the Ukrainian Zone 6;

Arsenal (Tula),

Rubin (Kazan),

Torpedo (Tolliati), and others playing in various European zones, where Russian clubs were dispersed. Too much competition for going higher…

In the same time mediocre, even plain weak, teams like Kyapaz (Kirovabad) from Zone 9,

Meliorator (Chimkent) – Zone 8, and

Sokhibkor (Khalkabad) – Zone 7 – won their extremely weak zones and had a chance to get promoted to Second Division. Just a chance, for nobody considered them potential winners in the promotional tournament.

For some reason Krassnaya Presnya (Moscow) was not considered potential winner either – as their logo suggests, they belonged to ‘Spartak Society, the reason Oleg Romantsev was starting his impressive coaching career here (last at right, middle row), but former Spartak players were dispersed in many clubs and Krassnaya Presnya apparently was not having strong enough squad for more than winning Zone 1. Similarly, the winners of Zone 3 – Sokol (Saratov) – were not expected to go up. he favourites for promotion were Metallurg (Lipetzk) from Zone 5,

Krylya Sovetov (Kuybyshev), Zone 2, and

Zarya (Voroshilovgrad), Zone 6.

At the end of the promotional tournament it was as expected – Metallurg (Lipetzk) unexpectedly underperformed, but Geolog (Tyumen), Krylya Sovetov and Zarya won their final groups and were promoted. Geolog was somewhat a sensation – not only they never played Second Division football before, but given their Northern geography, were hardly a football place. But Tyumen was producing oil and natural gas, so it was a rich place and money could do miracles – football miracles. As for Krylya Sovetov and Zarya, both clubs were more often associated with First Division than third level football and it was only natural to come back after their huge decline. In terms of possible reforming of Third Division… well, the newly promoted only spelled out the reality again: 2 Russian and 1 Ukrainian teams. Two teams from traditional football centers, but… the rise of Geolog (Tyumen) from deep-northern obscurity seemingly supported the current structure of the Third Division. That in terms of Third Division, of course.

Romania the Cup

The Cup boiled down to the usual big clash between Steaua and Dinamo. Steaua was looking for a double, Dinamo – for revenge. Dinamo prevailed 1-0.

That was a disappointment for Steaua – no double – but Dinamo was also very strong and highly motivated team on one hand and playing in Europe on top of domestic football plus having too many national team players was taking its tall. The success of Steaua apparently made life hard for various foreign journalists – the names were new and mistakes were common: here the playing assistant coach Iordanescu is named Weissenbacher. Well, Weissenbacher was a player… so far, largely a substitute.

Dinamo (Bucharest) took its revenge and also ended the season with a trophy. Top row from left: Andrei Marin – assistant coach, Ioan Zare, Alexandru Suciu, Ioan Andone, Lica Movila, Dumitru Moraru, Alexandru Nicolae, Marin Dragnea, Nicolae Ivan, Marian Damaschin, Florin Keran – assistant coach, Constantin Gaiu (?) – doctor.

Middle row: Ioan Varga, Iulian Mihaescu, Nistor Vaidean, Florin Prunea, Mircea Lucescu – coach, Ion Bucu, Mircea Rednic, Costel Orac, Nelu Stanescu.

Front row: Alexandru Cristescu – masseur, Dan Topolinschi, Cristian Sava, Gheorghe Banica, Marius Iordache, Virgil Mitici, Daniel Sava, Gheorghe Pantele – masseur.

No wonder they won the final – if Steaua had half-the-national-team, Dinamo had the other half. If Steaua was coached by great Jenei, Dinamo had Lucescu – already on the road of becoming famous coach. It was a matter who would have the day and this time Dinamo had it – and won its 6th Cup.

Romania I Division

First Division. This was definitely Steaua’s season. Political maneuvers aside, great teams usually have at least one all-conquering season and that was the year of Steaua – they dominated the championship. No fun at the opposite side of the table:

FC Bihor (Oradea) was the hopeless outsider – last and relegated with 17 points.

Other teams fought for survival, almost half the league, but at the end ASA (Targu Mures) was 17th with 26 points and relegated.

Politehnica (Timisoara) was the third relegated team this season: 16th with 27 points.

Gloria (Buzau) survived – 15th with 28 points.

Chimia (Ramnicu Vilcea) – 14th with 29 points.

FC Olt (Scornicesti) – 13th with 29 points.

Victoria (Bucharest) – well, it was Dinamo-Victoria at first, eventually becoming just Victoria, but really… former and future Dinamo (Bucharest) players here. Take a look and some well-known names of the 1990s will catch your eye – presently, only promising youngsters, not good enough yet for Dinamo. Helped by well known players from the 1970s, now too old to play for Dinamo. Was this a separate club, or second Dinamo in the same league? 12th with 29 points.

FCM Brasov – 11th with 30 points.

SC Bacau – 10th with 30 points.

Petrolul (Ploiesti) – 9th with 31 points.

Rapid (Bucharest) – 8th with 33 points.

Universitatea (Cluj) – 7th with 33 points.

Arges (Pitesti) – 6th with 36 points.

Corvinul (Hunedoara) – 5th with 37 points. They were the second highest scorers this season with 84 goals.

Dinamo (Bucharest) – 4rd with 46 points. The best teams were way above the rest, no matter how murky the way they got points, but may be Dinamo was caught by surprise by the sudden strength of Steaua and were not title contenders at all.

Universitatea (Craiova) was not giving up the fight with foes backed up by mighty powers – 3rd with 46 points.

Sportul Studentesc (Bucharest) – 2nd with 48 points. Perhaps their best season ever and the highest scoring team in the championship: 87 goals. The club was never able to build a squad on the level of Steaua and Dinamo, but they had Gheorghe Hagi. Well, they had him so far – soon he will be ‘loaned’ for 1 match by Steaua and will never come back.

Steaua (Bucharest) did not permit anybody to come even close to them – 26 wins, 5 ties, 3 lost games, 79-25 goal-difference and 57 points. Sportul Sturdentesc was 9 points behind. It was beautiful squad with Boloni as the key man. Jenei was already the leading Romanian coach and he left the club after the end of the season, but not before winning the European Champions Cup and preparing very talented young coach to take his place – Iordanescu. Who was an assistant coach this season, but played one match – at 36, he came on the pitch as substitute in the European final and helped his teammates against Barcelona. It was interesting nice touch – risky, but also a tribute for former star player. Steaua already had wonderful team and whatever really happened to Duckadam, his sudden disappearance did not affect the team – Stingaciu was a long-serving national team goalkeeper and played for Steaua many years already. Duckadam disappeared, but Hagi appeared. But that was later – 1985-86 was not great: it was the greatest season of Steaua ever. Second consecutive title and 9th altogether.

Romania II Division

Romania. This was the most glorious season of Romanian football – Steaua won the European Champions Cup. But behind the success was a scene difficult to hide, not a new one and not to end, leaving its ugly stamp on the country’s football to this very day. Corruption is the word, but it had peculiar flavor of Communist Eastern Europe and thus, with time, rumors eventually distorted reality to the points that truth cannot be even unearthed. Versions depend on who tells the story – and in effect it is story of the rivalry between Army and Police, both politically powerful and given to all dirty tricks. But since both players were the arms of the ruling Communist Party, at the end it was the game the Party itself played with the active involvement of the top man himself. To say that the triumph of Steaua was just a football matter would be at least incorrect: like everywhere in Eastern Europe, everybody had to go through military service, so recruitment of quality players was easy – just call them to do their service. Steaua always had a strong team – once you get whoever you want, it was to keep him by the double temptation of high officer salary and belonging to real good squad. But the Police had its own ways: the Secret Police was on top and ruled, all-powerful. Usually, the vast Police system had its own military force – the border guards service – so they were also able to call players to do their service and nobody can refuse. If the Army offered officer’s ranks and corresponding salaries and perks, the Police offered the same. That was still the base – there was more: intimidating referees, intimidating club officials, intimidating players and their relatives. Securitate – the Romanian Secret Police – had more options than the Army: for instance, before a derby the father of Steaua’s captain Tudorel Stoica would be arrested and charged for public disorder – that to upset Stoica, but it was also so easy to do – his father was notorious drunkard. In Steaua’s mythology, Securitate bugged their offices and dressing room – once the head of Securitate General Tudor Postelnicu told the Minister of Defence Constantin Olteanu verbatim the private conversion Olteanu had with Steaua’s assistant coach Anghel Iordanescu. Steaua’s efforts to sign the defender Adrian Bumbescu from Olt Scornicesti were frustrated for weeks – according to ‘innocent’ Steaua, who eventually blamed Securitate for that, but Olt was a club with special status of its own on one hand and Steaua still got the player they wanted, so they applied their own muscle. And this muscle was Valentin Ceausescu, the older son of ruler of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu. It was a brilliant move by the Army – in 1983 Steaua was falling behind not only Securitate’s Dinamo, but also behind provincial Univeristatea (Craiova) and was already 5 years without a title. General Constantin Olteanu appointed Valentin Ceausescu head of Steaua. Having a member of Ceausescu’s family as head of the club neutralized not just Securitate – the already mentioned Olt was much pampered club since the late 1970s, because it was part of the promotion of the village Nicolae Ceausescu was born – that is, the village became something a combination of villages called a town, Scornicesti. Can’t go against the glory of the most glorious – and if there is not enough glory to show, let create some. A football club, if there is nothing else. Thus, Olt suddenly had a strong team and climbed up to the first division. Once there… no way going down. Getting players from Olt was difficult, beating Olt was difficult – for it was unwise to beat them. But having a Ceausescu running Steaua neutrilzed Olt and Dinamo. And everybody else. By many accounts Valentin Ceausescu was modest and serious man, who worked hard for the club – that’s Steaua’s version, confirmed by players. On the other side of the fence… Valentin was and is a nuclear physicist. Nuclear physicists usually are quite ignorant of the art of managing sportclubs. And if Valentin was so gifted football manager, he would have been one now – but after Communism fell, he went back to nuclear physics. From this insight, it could be concluded that he was just a muscle – cannot say ‘no’ to the son of dictator. His mere presence was enough to get desired results. Bumbescu joined Steaua and not only he did. However, Securitate was not done with – they had the ear of father Ceausescu too. Besides, Valentin was not enough protection against his own father – the murky story of Ducadam, who disappeared for 5 years right after Steaua won the European Cup largely thanks to him, is attributed to the wrath Nicolae Ceausescu – according to one of the rumors, Ducadam angered Nicolae and Valentin could do nothing to stop his father. One common myth is that Valentin was so talented a manager, that he got Ford to sponsor Steaua – it is true that Steaua eventually played with Ford log on their shirts, but … at that time Nicolae was getting some US business to Romania. And when Valentin tried to get FIAT building a factory in the country in exchange for giving Hagi to Juventus, papa Nicolae blocked the deal – most likely because of his own deal with the Americans and also with Renault. As for Hagi, he was loaned from Sportul Studentesc for one game only – to play in the Supercup match against Dinamo (Kiev) in early 1987. He never returned to his original club – or he was never returned… The whole saga lasts at least 7 years, so everything now is mixed, but the presence of Valentin helped Steaua a lot. Yet, Securitate’s Dinamo was not blown away – just to keep the balance, let say that Dinamo managed to promote its second team to the top division. True, this club was renamed and became Victoria, but was it ever independent club? Victoria (Bucharest) quickly disappeared after the fall of Communism. It was still named Dinamo-Victoria in the great 1985-86 season, though… and had some interesting names in its squad: future stars of Dinamo. Yet, politics, intrigues, power struggles, and corruption aside, there was one very important fact: Romania had very strong generation at this time. Thus, at least two clubs were exceptionally good. Manipulating and fixing domestic football is one thing, but cannot be done on international stage – and Steaua, Dinamo, and the national team of Romania were internationally strong and stayed strong at least until this generation retired in the second half of the 1990s. This season, however, belonged entirely to Steaua.

Second Division. The usual 3 groups of 18 teams each, the winners promoted to First Division. Exotica appears here, but the stronger teams and typical candidates for promotion were former top flight clubs. Nothing very different from second division everywhere, but Eastern Europe had a specific different from the West. Exotic names like Gaz metan (Medias), Chimia (Falticeni), Metalul (Plopeni), Electroputere (Craiova), Tractorul (Brasov), Automatica (Bucharest), Mecanica fina Steaua, ICSIM (Bucharest), Armatura (Zalau) suggest industries – the bulk of Second Division was made of such teams, factory clubs, sometimes not only suggesting profession or what particular plant produced, but often just having the name of the plant as club name. However, such clubs declined as time passed and although it is difficult to make the point clear, it is good to try: what lays on the surface is money. Since Communist sport was supposed to be amateur, financing teams, maintaining facilities, paying the players had to be done in some disguised way. Having a factory team solved the problem, but there was more to it – originally, the idea of ‘true proletarian sport’ was formulated as workers sport – true workers in their spare time pursue sports. True workers are also proud of their ‘own factory’ and identify themselves with it – hence, electricians support their own club, textile workers – their factory team, and so on. And since, ideologically, the Socialist state is made from the union of workers, the army, the police, and the intellectuals, every branch has corresponding club. Back in the 1950s, factory clubs had their peak, but during the 1960s things changed – workers were somewhat left behind and factory clubs lost their position. Not immediately, but by the 1980s such clubs had lowly existance and served more private purposes: for instance, it was good for a factory director to have factory team – it was useful for reporting to the Communist Party: we are so forward-minded and do so much developing not only industry, but sports as well. Ill-guided pride also played role – many a director wanted to have his own pet projects, often they were sport teams. But the importance of such clubs declined and no factory was able to compete with big clubs belonging to central ministries, particularly with Army and Police. The sharp decline was most evident in the fate of Progresul (Bucharest) – once upon a time, it was very strong club, but since the late 1960s it was slowly going down until finding itself a permanent second-division club and even having to merge with another club to keep its place there – it was Progresul Vulcan by 1985 and one thing was sure: there was no coming back. May be occasional promotion to top flight was still possible, but no leading position in Romanian football. That was why the clubs with most industrial names were playing in Second Division or lower. But it was also depending on place: the only club of relatively large provincial city would very often have industrial name. It would be also attached to the biggest plant in the city – to finance relatively decent squad there was no other way. Party helped as well, for such a club practically represented the city on both sporting and ideological levels. If there were more than one club, the most popular got everything – thus, Universitatea represented Craiova, the students club, and Electroputere, the local industrial club, was left on its own. Back in the 1950s it was not like that, even the names of old clubs like Universitatea were changed to ‘proper’ proletarian names. By mid-80s the picture was very different – old clubs had their names restored, Army and Police remained leading clubs, bigger provincial cities had one strong club, and ‘workers’ clubs had secondary position at best. One other reason played a role in the decline – it was somewhat not taken into account in the original utopia: no factory club became popular. People tended to support old clubs or drifted to the new, but successful clubs, belonging to Army and Police. The idea that textile workers will support the team of their textile plant was illusion from start and to play a championship without fans in the stands… was just a waste of both money and ideological message. One result was exactly the Second Division final tables – city clubs, formerly in the first division, were in the upper half; factory clubs – in the lower half. Battles for promotion were fought between former top flight clubs – depending on how many of them were in particular Second Division group. And also depending on their current strength and ambition. Thus, only one group had a two-team battle for first place this season and all together 4 teams dominated the championship by far.

Serie I.

CS Botosani – 9th with 34 points. The league was pretty equal – 7 points divided the 17th from the 4th – so Botosani was one of the bulk. Dunarea CSU (Galati) was 3rd with 37 points. Politehnica (Iasi) – 2nd with 39 points.

Otelul (Galati) dominated the championship and without challengers won it with 52 points. 24 wins, 4 ties, 6 losses, 86-29. Easy return to top flight. Note their shirts – looks like they played with sponsor’s logo – not the first Romanian team to do that, but still before Steaua got Ford sponsorship.

Serie II. Not different from Serie I – most of the league was similarly strong or weak. CS Targoviste finished 3rd with 42 points. Progresul Vulcan (Bucharest) – 2nd with 42 points, thanks to better goal-difference.

Flacara (Moreni) had no competition and won the championship with 48 points. 20 wins, 8 ties, 6 losses, 46-25.

Serie III. The only difference between this league and the previous two was the exciting battle for the top position.

UTA (Arad) – with dark shirts, pictured here together with Hagi’s Sportul Studentesc, perhaps before a cup fixture – was 4th with 36 points. Down on their luck, this once upon a time strong club, was now resigned to II-division existence.

Gloria (Bistrita) took 3rd place wit 42 points, but was out of the race for promotion. FCM Baia-Mare and Jiul (Petrosani) fought to the end and only goal-difference divided the winner from the loser. FCM Baia-Mare lost the battle: 20 wins, 8 ties, 6 losses, 65-29, 48 points. Goal-difference: +36.

Jiul (Petrosani) clinched 1st place after 22 wins, 4 ties, 8 losses, 72-30, 48 points. Better goal-difference of +42 returned them to First Division.

Belgium the Cup

The Cup final was a Brugge derby – FC Brugge vs Cercle Brugge. Cercle Brugge was playing second consecutive final – they lost the previous year, so now was the time to win. And to beat the big-name city rivals… but they were too strong and too hungry. Class on their side and no matter how motivated Cercle Brugge were, FC Brugge won 3-0.

Most unfortunate – Cercle Brugge won the Cup the year before and would have been great to win a second, especially against their city rivals. But Cercle Brugge was a modest club, not matching their big neighbours in anything and miracle did not happen.

FC Brugge triumphed as expected and the season ended fine – with a trophy in hand. Would have been much sweeter if they won a double, but still fine. This was their 4th Cup. It was also their first trophy since 1980 – FC Brugge was coming back from somewhat secondary position in this decade.

Belgium I Division

First Division. No real outsiders, fairly equal league, and two outstanding teams, entangled in dramatic battle.

K. Lierse SK – last and relegated with 21 points.

K. Waterschei SV Thor (Genk) – 17th with 22 points.

RFC Seresien – or FC Seraing – 16th with 25 points.

KV Kortrijk – 15th with 25 points.

KSC Lokeren – 14th with 26 points.

RWD Molenbeek (Bruxelles) – 13th with 27 points.

R. Charleroi SC – or Sporting Charleroi – 12th with 28 points.

KV Mechelen – 11th with 31 points.

KSV Cercle Brugge – 10th with 34 points.

Royal Antwerp FC – 9th with 35 points. Vladimir Petrovic, however, was not in the team this year – he moved to France.

KSW Waregem – 8th with 35 points.

Beerschot VAV – 7th with 37 points.

RFC Liege – 6th with 39 points.

SK Beveren – 5th with 40 points.

KAA Gent – or La Gantoise, or ARA Gantoise… 4th with 41 points.

Standard (Liege) – 3rd with 42 points.

FC Brugge – 2nd with 52 points. Lost the championship on worse goal-difference. Top row from left: Jean-Pierre Papin, Tew Mamadou, Birger Jensen, Luc Vanwalleghem, Dwight Decert, Alex Querter.

Middle row: Eddy Warrinnier – kinesiologist, Didier Bargibant, Franky van der Elst, Rene Verheyen, Hugo Broos, Jan Ceulemans, Phillipe vande Walle, Raymond Mertens – assistant coach.

Sitting: Willy Wellens, Gino Maes, Marc Degryse, Henk Houwaart – coach, Stefan Vereycken, Antoine Cly, Leo van der Elst.

Anderlecht clinched the title with 7-goal better goal-difference than FC Brugge. 22 wins, 8 ties, 4 losses, 84-33 goal-difference, 52 points. Everything else equal with FC Brugge, but at the end – victory for Anderlecht.

Not a squad to be brushed away – everybody here was a national team player at some time: 7 players still playing for Belgium, 2 regulars for Denmark, one for Iceland, Peruzovic- no longer involved, but played regularly for Yugoslavia in the past.


Belgium III & II Divisions

Belgium. Goal-difference decided the champion this year. Down in Third Division FC Assent won Group B and was promoted.

KV Oostende was 3rd in Group A with 42 points.

KRC Harelbeke won Group A with 45 points.

Second Division. Three-team race for the top position.

RAEC Mons – last and out with 21 points.

R. Union St,-Gilloise – 15th with 24 points.

FC Verbroedering Geel – 14th with 25 points.

KRC Mechelen – 13th with 27 points.

FC Diest – 12th with 28 points.

St. Truiedense VV – 11th with 28 points.

Beringen FC – 10th with 29 points.

K. Boom FC – 9th with 29 points

KSC Hasselt – 8th with 29 points.

Patro Eisden – 7th with 32 points.

FC Winterslag – 6th with 33 points.

SK Tongeren – 5th with 33 points.

K, St.Niklase SK – 4th with 33 points.

KSC Eendracht Aalst – 3rd with 35 points.

Racing Jet – 2nd with 36 points.

Berchem Sport clinched 1st place with 38 points – 13 wins, 12 ties, 5 losses, 48-25 goal-difference and 38 points.

The second promotion was decided in the post-season tournament between the 4 teams right bellow the winner – but, curiously, Winterstag, 6th, played instead of the 5th, Tongeren. Did not help: Winterslag finished last with 3 points. Eendracht Aalst – 3rd with 4 points.

St.- Niklaase SK – 2nd with 6 points.

Racing Jet (Bruxelles) won the 1st place and was promoted with 11 points. Great achievement for the small club from the capital.

Portugal the Cup

The Cup. The final was a Lisbon derby – Benfica vs Belenenses. Some hope for faded club to come back, but it was mostly a dream, placed against harsh reality. Benfica won 2-0.

Belenenses lost the final – by now, they were just modest team, mostly trying to keep place in the top league. Standing from left: Hélder, Jaime, Sambinha, Jorge Martins, Paulo Monteiro, Joel Ademar. First row: Artur Fonte, «Djão», Sobrinho, Kostov.

A title could be better, but still Benfica ended the season with a trophy.

Portugal I Division

First Division. Three-team race for the title and at the opposite end of the table – another three teams competed for the safe 12th place. The last 4 were relegated and 2 of them were outsiders.

Sporting Covilha was last and out with 17 points.

FC Penafiel – 15th with 18 points and relegated.

Vitoria Setubal was really down on their luck – they ended with 22 points, the same as their two other rivals, and had better goal-difference than them, but… head-to-head record plunged them down to 14th position and relegation. Quite a surprise – Setubal was not an usual candidate for relegation.

CD Aves managed to finish ahead of Setubal, but head-to-head record placed them behind Maritimo – if goal-difference was counted, they again would have been behind Maritimo, but also a place lower. No escape… they were relegated.

CS Maritimo was lucky and survived with 22 points, but best head-to-head record – 12th.

SC Salgueiros – 11th with 25 points.

Academica Coimbra – 10th with 25 points.

Sporting Braga – 9th with 26 points.

CF Belenenses – 8th with 28 points. Masters of ties – 14 out of 30 games total, the league record.

Portimonense – 7th with 28 points.

GD Chaves – 6th with 29 points. Rarely successful season – may be a bit lucky to be there, but only final positions count.

Boavista – 5th with 36 points. Well, they were too small of a club to be able to rub shoulders with the grands for long, but they were still of a much higher level than most of the league.

Vitoria Guimaraes – 4th with 40 points. Consistent, but forming somewhat a second category with Boavista of clubs too weak to challenge the leaders, yet, too strong for the rest of the league.

Sporting Lisbon eventually lost the race and settled at third place with 46 points.

Benfica bested their city rivals by a point, but still ended behind the enemy from Porto – 2nd with 47 points.

FC Porto clinched the title with 49 points – 2 points ahead of Benfica. It was a matter of single match difference: they won 1 game more than Benfica, which lost 1 game more than FC Porto. It was tough battle, nobody giving up and Porto was a bit luckier than Sporting and Benfica. Which, if anything, suggested further reinforcement of the squad – and that was done after the title was won. It was second consecutive title and 12th altogether.