Craiova versus Craiova (2016)

Romanian corruption in ‘Craiova versus Craiova’ (2016)

What is the most extraordinary aspect of the documentary Craiova versus Craiova? It’s not that 2 teams claimed to be the same club and then played each other in the Romanian Second Division. What’s amazing is that this excellent film was created by a student as his senior journalism project at a Brazilian university. Director João Vítor Roberge was 22 years old when he released this 45 minute film last year.

Roberge learned Romanian, interviewed key people involved with both teams, and translated the interviews into English sub-titles. He explains the situation thoroughly, and perhaps his youth loosens his subjects’ tongues to share frank details and opinions. It’s a delightful film for its honesty and simplicity.

The original club known as Universitatea Craiova was founded by university students and teachers in 1948 and played in the top division. After the fall of dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu in the 1989 Revolution, football clubs were privatized. Craiova struggled through a succession of owners, and in 2011 under Adrian Mititelu, the Romanian Football Federation disaffiliated the club.

“Craioveans like football on their bread”

Craiova has a fanatical fan base: a town without football is a town starving for sustenance. The city of Craiova worked with Mititelu to bring back the team. But Mititelu’s fractiousness led the relationship asunder. Each side put together their own team in the 2nd division, each claiming they were the legitimate continuation of the franchise. CS Universitatea Craiova is the city’s team, and FC Universitatea Craiova is Mititelu’s.

CS Craiova has prevailed and returned to the top division. They were just eliminated by AC Milan in the 3rd qualifying round of the 2017-2018 UEFA Europa League. Meanwhile, Mititelu is trying to kickstart FC Craiova down in the 4th division.

I summarized this story a great deal, skipping over the corruption on all sides, so it is best that you watch the film yourself. Or watch it twice, as I did!

Chaos and corruption

Some of that period’s context is just casually mentioned, so I researched the government’s administrative chaos after the revolution, and Mititelu’s mention of the Romanian Federation and the mafia.

Wikipedia has a good article on match-fixing in Romanian football. Although Craiova could brag about being in the 1st division for almost 50 years, it appears that achievement could be meaningless, as promotion and relegation were orchestrated by a “Committee” of owners. One of Craiova’s owners during the team’s 2000-2005 decline was Gigi Neţoiu, apparently a former member of the Securitate. He transferred many Craiova players to bolster Dinamo Bucharest. I was also sad to discover that even today, almost 50% of Romanians feel that life was better under Ceaușescu.

The film also mentions the building of a new stadium for the team. The Ion Oblemenco Stadium has since become another symbol of ineptitude as it is taking over 2 years to complete. Originally estimated at $100M, its budget was cut back to $50M. In Jul-2017, the 2 halves of the dome could not be joined because of a height difference of almost 1 foot (25-30 cm).

For a documentary of another misguided and misleading owner, watch The Romanov Revolution. People who own teams in Eastern Europe seem to have similar personalities.

8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8