FC Steaua Bucureşti is a Romanian professional football club from Ghencea, south-west Bucharest. They are the most successful Romanian football team ever in European competitions as well in the Romanian Liga I (23 championship wins).They became the first east European team to win the UEFA Champions League being victorious in the 1986 European Cup final.
The club is historically known as the Romanian Army sports club. The football department separated, however, in 1998. At the moment, its only direct link to the Army is their home ground, Stadionul Ghencea, property of the Ministry of National Defence.
Steaua was founded on 7 June 1947, at the initiative of several officers of the Romanian Royal House. The establishment took place following a decree signed by General Mihail Lascăr, High Commander of the Romanian Royal Army. The club's first name was ASA Bucureşti (Asociaţia Sportivă a Armatei Bucureşti – Army Sports Association). It was formed as a sports society with seven initial sections, including football, coached by Coloman Braun-Bogdan. ASA was renamed CSCA (Clubul Sportiv Central al Armatei – Central Sports Club of the Army) in 1948 and CCA (Casa Centrală a Armatei – Central House of the Army) in 1950.
In 1949, CSCA won its first trophy, the Romanian Cup, defeating CSU Cluj 2–1 in the final. Under the name of CCA, the club managed to win three Championship titles in a row in 1951, 1952 and 1953, along with their first Championship-Cup Double in 1951. During the 1950s, the so-called CCA Golden Team became nationally famous. In 1956, the national team of Romania, comprised exclusively of CCA players, took on Yugoslavia in Belgrade and won 1–0. During the same year, CCA, coached by Ilie Savu, was the first Romanian team to enterprise a tournament in England where they achieved noteworthy results against the likes of Luton Town FC, Arsenal FC, Sheffield Wednesday FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC.
At the end of 1961 CCA changed its name once again to CSA Steaua Bucureşti (Clubul Sportiv al Armatei Steaua – Army Sports Club Steaua). The club's new name translates The Star and was adopted because of the presence of a red star, symbol of most East-European Army clubs, on their crest. A poor period of almost two decades followed in which the club claimed only three championships (1967–68, 1975–76, 1977–78). Instead, the team won nine national cup trophies, for which matter they gained the nickname of cup specialists. Also during this period, on 9 April 1974, Steaua's current ground, Stadionul Ghencea, was inaugurated with a friendly match opposing OFK Beograd. Up to that date, Steaua had played its home matches on either two of Bucharest's largest multi-use stadia, Republicii and 23 August.
Under the leadership of coaches Emerich Jenei and Anghel Iordănescu, Steaua had an impressive Championship run in the 1984–85 season, which they won after a six-year break. Subsequently, they were the first Romanian team to make it to a European Cup final, which they won in front of FC Barcelona on penalties (2–0 thanks to goalkeeper Helmuth Duckadam succeeding to save all four penalties taken by the Spaniards), after a goalless draw. Steaua therefore became the first Eastern-European team to claim the title of European champions. An additional European Super Cup was won in 1987 in front of SK Dinamo Kiev. Steaua remained at the top of European football for the rest of the decade, managing one more European Cup semifinal in 1987–88 and one more European Cup final in 1989 (lost 4–0 to AC Milan). This happened next to their four additional national titles (1985–86, 1986–87, 1987–88, 1988–89) and four national cups (1984–85, 1986–87, 1987–88, 1988–89). Furthermore, from June 1986 to September 1989, Steaua ran a record 104-match undefeated streak in the championship, setting a world record for that time and a European one still standing.
The 1989 Romanian Revolution led the country towards a free open market and, subsequently, several players of the 1980s team left for other clubs in the West. After a short pull-back, a quick recovery followed and Steaua managed a six consecutive championship streak between 1992–93 and 1997–98 to equalise the 1920s performance of Chinezul Timişoara and also three more cups in 1995–96, 1996–97 and 1998–99. At international level, they also managed to make it to the UEFA Champions League group stage three years in a row between 1994–95 and 1996–97, remaining, at the moment, the only team in Romania to have participated in this competition.
In 1998, the football club separated from CSA Steaua and changed their name for the final time to FC Steaua Bucureşti (Fotbal Club Steaua – Football Club Steaua), being led by Romanian businessman Viorel Păunescu. Păunescu performed poorly as a president and soon the club was plunged into debt. George Becali, another businessman, was offered the position of vice-president, in hope that he would invest money in the club. Becali eventually purchased the majority share in 2002 and turned the governing company public in January 2003.
Because of his controversial character, he has been contested by the majority of Steaua fans. The team qualified for the UEFA Cup group stage in the 2004–05 season and further on became the first Romanian team to make it to the European football spring since 1993 (also Steaua's performance). The next season, they reached the UEFA Cup semi-finals in 2005–06, where they were eliminated by Middlesbrough FC thanks to a last minute goal and thereafter qualified for the following UEFA Champions League seasons after a ten year break. In the 2007–08 season Steaua have qualified again in the group stage of UEFA Champions League. Nationally, they gained two titles in 2004–05 and 2005–06 and the Romanian Super Cup in 2006, the latter being the club's 50th trophy in its 59 year history.
The club was founded as ASA Bucureşti, by the Romanian Royal Army at the suggestion of a Russian Red Army general, on 7 June 1947, at which time Romania's form of government was the constitutional monarchy with a communist government. Nevertheless, at the beginning of their first season, even though supposing to attend a play-off for 2nd league promotion, at the order of the government, Carmen Bucureşti's was exclused out from the championship and its place in the 1st league was taken by ASA. Subsequently, the team never relegated and is currently one of the 3 teams to have only played inside the first league, along with FC Dinamo 1948 Bucureşti and FC Politehnica Timişoara.
The means players would transfer to the club links to the organization of sporting activities inside former Communist countries. As of 1947, the new Communist government instituted norms stating that every sports association was to be linked to a certain form of trade union or governmental institution. As professional football was therefore abolished, players would move between teams as arrangements between the clubs' governing institutions, and not as regular market economy transactions. Being the club of the Army, several young gifted players would often be tempted by Steaua to join their ranks, having the advantages of better conditions ensured by the club, the opportunity of a more productive career, but also, among other, of being exempted from the compulsory military stage. Gheorghe Hagi was borrowed this way from FC Sportul Studenţesc for the 1987 European Super Cup match with SK Dinamo Kiev and afterwards continued, at his will, to play for Steaua, despite his former club's opposition. However, another famous example is also the one of Gheorghe Popescu, transferred in 1988 from FC Universitatea Craiova, apparently without the club's or player's consent and who returned to his former club after one season.
Approximately during the second half of the 1980s and also last years of the Communist regime in Romania, dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu's adoptive son Valentin was involved in the life of the team. In spite of allegations of favouring the club nationally by transferring the best players in the country and of facilitating its five-title consecutive winning streak by arrangements with referees or opposing teams, Valentin Ceauşescu stated in a recent interview that he had done nothing else than to protect his favourite team from Dinamo Bucureşti's sphere of influence, ensured by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Relatively little is known, however, at the moment about Valentin Ceauşescu's role in Steaua's history. Claims of him being involved in the life of the team using unethical methods have yet to be proven, and, as a consequence, the topic is still subject to discussion.
As communists assumed total control of the country on 30 December 1947, the Royal Army was transformed into the People's Army and ASA automatically with it. Being inspired by the Red Army, the new Ministry of Defence decided to create a crest for the club, along with the change of name to CSCA, consisting in an A-labeled red star (symbol of the Red Army) on a blue disc.
Two years later, the change of name to CCA brought with it a new crest comprised of the same red star labeled CCA surrounded by a crown of laurel. The all-present star motif on the crest finally had its saying over the new name of Steaua as up 1961. It was opted for a badge which, redesigned, remains up to this day the club's symbol: the red and blue striped background with a golden star in the middle, to symbolize to Romanian tricolour flag. The shape for the emblem was redesigned in 1974, once the team moved to Stadionul Ghencea.
Following the 1989 Romanian Revolution, the Army decided to break all links to the defunct communist regime, so, in 1991, CSA Steaua had a last change of crest with an eagle also present on the Ministry of Defence coat of arms and also on Romania's. As FC Steaua appeared in 1998, the club added two yellow stars on top of the CSA Steaua badge signifying its 20 titles of champions won, along with the Fotbal Club specification.
2003 was the year of the last change of crest, decided by the new Board of Administration run by George Becali, which was a return to the old emblem of 1974–1991, redesigned with the two yellow stars on top.
During their first season, 1947–48, Steaua wore yellow and red striped shirts with blue shorts, to symbolize Romania's tricolour flag. Starting with the following season and with the Army's change of identity from the Royal Army to the People's Army, the yellow was gradually given up, so that the official colours remained, up to this day, the red and the blue.
Steaua has never had a standard playing kit. However, the most widely used throughout time was the combination of red shirts, blue shorts and red socks. Other variants have been all-red, all-blue and also shirts in vertical red and blue stripes during the 1960s and 1970s. Other kit colours have very rarely been used. Exceptions were the 1986 European Cup Final in which Steaua wore, for the only time in their history, an all-white kit, the 1999–00 away kit (yellow and red) , the 2005–06 third kit (yellow and black)and the 2008–09 away kit (all yellow).
The 2008–09 home kit, different from the previous seasons, consists in vertical-striped red and blue shirts with blue shorts and socks, while the away strip is all-yellow. Various combinations of these kits also occur.
Steaua's kit is currently manufactured by Nike, which was contracted in 2002, after a long partnership with adidas. In 1988, Steaua was the first football team from Romania to display the name of a Western company, Ford. Several other sponsors succeeded thereafter: Castrol, Philips, CBS, Bancorex (initially BRCE), Dialog (currently Orange), BCR and RAFO. As of September 2007, the club's new shirt sponsor is CitiFinancial, with a one-year contract valuing EUR 1.3 million.
Steaua played its three first matches in history at the defunct Venus stadium. Opened in 1931, the venue had previously been in the property of ASC Venus Bucureşti, a club disbanded in 1949. After the ground's demolition through order of the Communist regime, Steaua had played its home matches on either two of Bucharest's largest multi-use stadia, Republicii (built in 1926 and put down in 1984 to make room for the erection of the Casa Poporului) and 23 August (built in 1953). Of these two, 23 August (current Lia Manoliu) was mostly used when two matches between Bucharest clubs were scheduled in the same matchday or for important European matches, while Republicii for regular matches inside the championship.
Steaua currently plays its home matches at the Stadionul Ghencea, a football stadium situated in South-Western Bucharest. Part of Complexul Sportiv Steaua, it was inaugurated on 9 April 1974 when Steaua played a friendly match against OFK Beograd, at which time it was the first football-only stadium ever built in Communist Romania, with no track and field facilities.
The original capacity was 30,000 on benches. A general renovation occurred in 1991. This included installing seats, which dropped the capacity to 28,139, inaugurating a floodlighting system and erecting a VIP personal box section.
After a second renovation, in 2006, which included refurbishing the turf, Ghencea is one of the two stadia in Romania (along with Stadionul Dr. Constantin Rădulescu) qualified to host UEFA Champions League events, being a third category arena according to the UEFA classification system. Lately, there have been talks for increasing the capacity to either 45,000 or 60,000.
Romania is also a tenant. The first game played by the national team at Ghencea was in March 1977 against Turkey. 59 other games have been played ever since, the last one occurring in October 2006 against Belarus. Also, several matches from the 1998 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship, including the final, have been hosted by the arena.
The stadium, built through order of the Ministry of National Defence inside a former military base and was long used by CSA Steaua. Currently, FC Steaua are the only tenants. Despite lobbying from the current FC Steaua Board of Administration, the venue is still under Romanian Army ownership, but has been leased on a 49 year-long period to the football club as of 2006.
As Steaua is, judging by performances, the most successful Romanian football team, they enjoy the biggest support among Romanian football fans. A survey conducted in June 2007 suggested that the Ghencea-based team accounts for approximately 42% of all Romanian football lovers, as opposed to the following two ranked teams, Dinamo, with 12%, and Rapid, with 9%.
The largest concentration of fans are in Bucharest, notably in areas adjacent to the arena, covering the whole southern half of Bucharest, a city geographically divided by the Dâmboviţa River. Also, the club has an important fan base inside the country, where several towns are renowned for counting vast majorities of Steaua supporters, and outside the borders, among Romanian emigrants.
The Steaua Ultras movement began in 1995, when the bases of Armata Ultra (AU), the first Ultras group from Bucharest (and second in Romania after FC Politehnica 1921 Ştiinţa Timişoara's Commando Viola Ultra Curva Sud), were set. The group quickly reached an impressive number of members, but, in 2001, they dissolved due to internal problems. Currently Steaua's supporters are comprised of several groups, most of them located at the Peluza Nord (North End) (Sharks Ferentari, Tineretului Korps, Titan Boys, Nucleo, Gruppo Tei, Skins Berceni, Insurgenţii, Armata 47, Ultras Colentina, Gruppo Est Voluntari, Triada, Roosters,etc.), with some other ones taking their place at the Peluza Sud (South End) (Ultras, Stil Ostil, Glas, Vacarm, Banda Ultra, etc).
More recently, as of 2006, the supporters have formed their own official association, called AISS (Asociaţia Independentă a Suporterilor Stelişti – Steaua Supporters' Independent Association). AISS was formed as a legal entity with its stated goals of protecting the interests and image of Steaua supporters, as well as identifying and promoting the club's perennial values.
A heavy debated topic about the fans is the one related to racism. Stemmed from their rivalry with FC Rapid Bucureşti, whose fans are often envisioned as Roma ethnics, the issue degenerated on certain situations in several incidents between factions of supporters of Steaua and Rapid. Also, the UEFA Champions League 2005–06 qualifying match against Shelbourne FC, resulted in a one-matchday pitch suspension for Steaua during the same European season, after racial chants were heard from the crowd.
Lately, crowd turbulence has been one of the club's main problems. During the last three seasons, 11 Liga I matchday suspensions and one in the UEFA Cup have been dictated against the Ghencea-based club out of reasons such as crowd trouble, racial chants or torch lighting.
Steaua's most important rivalry is the one against FC Dinamo 1948 Bucureşti. Marele Derby (The Great Derby) has been the leading Romanian football encounter in the last 60 years, as Steaua and Dinamo are the two most successful football teams in the country. With 41 titles won altogether (Steaua–23; Dinamo–18), the two clubs have won 23 of the last 26 seasons. It is also a match between the former clubs of the Romanian Army (Steaua) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Dinamo). Several clashes between different factions of supporters have often occurred and still occur inside and outside the stadium. The heyday was reached before a match kick-off in 1997, when Dinamo's fans set a sector of Stadionul Ghencea's Peluza Sud, where they were assigned, on fire. Between October 1991 and April 2000, Steaua counted 19 undefeated official matches in front of their rivals, both in the championship and the cup. Just as well, a period of 17 years and 7 months has been recorded in which Dinamo did not manage to win away against Steaua in the domestic league.
The second most important rivalry is the one with FC Rapid Bucureşti. Several matches in the last years between Steaua and Rapid have also ended in serious clashes between fans. Rivalry has become even fiercer since Steaua outpassed Rapid in an all-Romanian quarter final of the UEFA Cup 2005–06 season. The local sports newspapers said that the 2 teams were liked up in this quarter final by the line of the number 41 tram which links the Ghencea Stadium to the Valentin Stanescu Stadium.
Steaua currently boasts itself with the most impressive pedigree in Romania. With 60 seasons spent in Liga I, they are one of the three teams to have played only in the first national league, along with FC Dinamo 1948 Bucureşti (59 seasons) and FCU Politehnica 1921 Ştiinţa Timişoara (six seasons). At the same time, the club is the current record holder for the number of national championships (23), national cups (20) and national super cups (five). Between 1993 and 1998, their run of six consecutive national titles won equaled the one of Chinezul Timişoara from the 1920s. Internationally, they are the only domestic club to have won a European Cup (European Champions Cup in 1986 and the European Super Cup in 1987) and to have qualified inside a UEFA final (European Champions Cup in 1986 and 1989).
For three years and three months (June 1986 – September 1989), Steaua counted a number of 104 unbeaten matches in the league, establishing, at that moment, a former world record and a European one still standing. Also inside the national league, they counted 112 matches between November 1989 and August 1996 of unbeatability at Stadionul Ghencea in Liga I. Their run of 17 straight wins in 1988 is another record, equal to the one held by Dinamo as of one year later.
Tudorel Stoica is the player with the most appearances for Steaua in Liga I, a record unlikely to be broken in the nearby future, as none of the current players have entered the top 10 so far. The club's all-time top scorer in the league is Anghel Iordănescu with 146 goals, a record that also looks solid, out of the same reason as above-mentioned. Other records are currently owned by former players such as Dorinel Munteanu (most national caps – 131) or Gheorghe Hagi (most goals scored for Romania – 35; most appearances of a Romanian player in the European cups – 93). Gheorghe Hagi also holds a record for the third most expensive transfer abroad from the national league, with USD 4,300,000 paid by Real Madrid CF to Steaua in 1990.
The football department however, in order to comply with UEFA rules, separated and turned private in 1998, owned and financed by a non-profit organization called AFC Steaua Bucureşti, chaired by businessman Viorel Păunescu.
In January 2003, the club turned public, under the leadership of investor and current politician George Becali, who had already purchased 51% of the society's shares and later on acquired the rest to become owner of the club. Currently, Becali detains no official link to the club, as he gradually renounced his shares. However, the facts that the current shareholders, that include several nephews of his, are people loyal to him and that he is still in charge of Steaua are obvious. An unofficial explanation for this situation is represented by the heavy amount of unpaid taxes added up by the former governing company, AFC Steaua Bucureşti, whose payment towards the tax authority was avoided this way by transferring its assets to the new-formed company, with the old association going on liquidation bankruptcy.
George Becali is currently a highly controversial person, whose involvement in the life of the club and the team has often been described as authoritarian and dictatorial by both the media and the fans. Such decisions as threatening to sell the Steaua brand towards the tax authority following a scandal of unpaid taxes, using the club to promote the New Generation Christian Democrat Party, which he runs, banning Queen music on the stadium on grounds of Freddie Mercury's sexual orientations and also various coach sackings (culminating with the one of Gheorghe Hagi) are only few of the reasons of a certain current state of resentment on behalf of the majority of fans towards Becali.
As Steaua is currently the most popular football team in Romania, a good number of musicians or TV and film directors have inspired themselves from ideas linked to the Ghencea-based club. Popular reference, however, appeared only after the 1989 Romanian Revolution, as before, mass-media programmes were mostly being controlled by the former communist regime. The 2002 Romanian film Furia depicts scenes in which Steaua and Dinamo gangs of supporters are fighting on the streets after a direct match between the two sides. Prima TV comedy show Mondenii often airs sketches parodying Steaua owner George Becali, the players and other representatives around the club. Pro TV series La bloc aired an episode in which characters Nelu and Costel are displayed as representing Steaua in a parking lot match against two other neighbours representing Dinamo.
Several other examples from music can be attributed as Steaua-related. Apart from club anthems played throughout time by Marcel Pavel, Bere Gratis, Gaz pe Foc, an album was released in 2006 as a compilation by Mircea Vintilă, Chicanos, Bogdan Dima and several other artists. Delikt and Ultras are two former hip hop bands whose members ranked the defunct Armata Ultra' brigade and would always show up displaying fan materials. Also, Voltaj, in their song 'MSD2', make reference to the fans in the line Poţi să fii câine sau poţi fi stelist (You can be a dog or you can be a Steaua fan). Eventually, even though resented by some fans, several manele singers occasionally inspire their lyrics from popular football teams in the country, including Steaua.
One of the most famous pop-culture references about the club is the association with Scooter's song Maria, first sung spontaneously in 2003 by the fans in Peluza Nord after the team would score. Ever since, it has been adopted as an unofficial club anthem and is being played at the stadium at every match, sung together by the supporters. Nonetheless, the song is beginning to lose popularity, mainly because it has become too commercial and many fans do not feel bonded with it any more.
For recent transfers, see the "Squad Changes" section of FC Steaua Bucureşti season 2008-09.