The World Cup in Qatar shows us, once again, how far Romanian football has come from the highest international level. From all points of view! Technically, tactically, but also when we talk about the behavior and speech of those involved in the phenomenon.
After almost two weeks in Doha, where the world football celebration is in progressthe conclusion is sad: in Romania, we live in our “bubble”, we are the aces of “spoken football”, we are good at pranks, we see ourselves as better than we are in reality and, deceiving ourselves in this way, we distance ourselves even more, at high speed, by the good world of football.
Arabs light up when they hear about Romania.
And yet, a few Romanians who passed through here, in the last ten years, painted a beautiful picture for the country. Before the match Poland – Saudi Arabia (2-0) on Saturday, “Adevărul” approached the Saudi supporters at the “Education City” stadium, to find out who they associate Romania with. Surprisingly, here, in the Persian Gulf area, it is not Nadia Comăneci, Simona Halep and Ilie Năstase who are the most representative figures for Romania. Not even Gheorghe Hagi takes the podium. Mirel Rădoi, Cosmin Olăroiu and Răzvan Lucescu are there. The reasons for this novel hierarchy emerge from the answers provided by the Saudis.
Mirel Rădoi scored on his debut at Al-Hilal from a free kick.
“Rádó was fighting for the ball, as if it were his child!”
Although I live in a closed country where few foreigners enter – getting a visa to enter Saudi Arabia is extremely difficult! – Saudis are good English speakers. And their faces light up when you ask them what they know about Romania, about Romanian football.
„I know Cosmin Olăroiu, who coached Al-Hilal. And I know Mirel Rădoi. Are you radiating? The best player who was at Al-Hilal! Why do I like him? Because he was very strong. He fought for the ball, as if it was his child! Cosmin Olăroiu? Very intelligent. He still lost, sometimes, but, overall, very intelligent!“, says one of the thousands of Saudi supporters who have taken over the “Education City” stadium.
Another, who has a thorough knowledge of Romanian football, explains the source of his information: “I also have a Romanian friend, his name is George Țiriac, he is my colleague and we work in the oil field. I know a lot about Romanian football. I know Gheorghe Hagi, I know that his son is also a footballer now. I know Răzvan Lucescu, I know that his father is also a coach, he was at Shakhtior Donetsk. Romania is a country with a footballing tradition. In 1994, both countries, Romania and Saudi Arabia, had an exceptional World Cup. And I hope that, at the next World Cup, you will also be in the final tournament. Mirel Radoi? Of course I know him! He’s one of us! Cosmin Olăroiu? He coached our national team in the Asian Cup and was also at Al-Hilal. My message for Romania? You have a wonderful country and you will be at the next World Cup with the will of Allah!“
Cosmin Olăroiu (center) was the one who took Mirel Rădoi to Al-Hilal.
Radoi, described as a fairy tale hero
While he was an active footballer, Mirel Rădoi was considered a serious, disciplined and hard-working player, at the level of the national team, but without being seen as a “magician” on the field. Well, when you hear the Saudi supporters, your jaw drops! Because they talk about the current coach of Craiova as a hero of a story!
„Are you radiating? When he played at Al-Hilal, free kicks were like penalties for us! Every time we got free kicks, we were already starting to enjoy it. His shots were like bullets fired from a rifle. He was able to score from anywhere!“, an excited young man tells us.
Others, approached around the arena, talk about the footballer who collected 67 selections and 2 goals in the national team. “Radoi had a brilliant career at Al-Hilal. I liked him because he was very good at free kicks! A strong player with a manly style of play. Over the years, there have been many very good Romanian players who have gone through the Saudi championship. It always seemed to me that the Romanians have a similar style of play to that of the Greeks. Radoi was the best midfielder in the history of Al-Hilal! We have very nice memories with him. He was a real fighter on the field!“.
When you insist if they know other Romanian players, apart from Radoi, some Saudis remember three or four names: “I know Romanian football since 1994, since the World Cup of that year. With Gheorghe Hagi. Romania has good football and quality players. Alex Mitriță and Nicolae Stanciu! They were both with us, at Al-Ahli, and they were very good. And there was another Romanian player, who didn’t play at Al-Hilal, but I liked him: Chivu! He played at Inter Milan“.
Young Cosmin Olăroiu, when he was a coach at Al-Hilal.
Olăroiu and Lucescu jr, respected
When we talk about coaches, the Arabs have a special respect for Cosmin Olăroiu (53 years old) and Răzvan Lucescu (53 years old). This despite the fact that the first great results obtained in this area of the world by a Romanian technician were through the late Ilie Balaci. It’s just that the “Big Blond” made waves in the Middle East, between 1994 and 2004. Oli and Lucescu jr, on the other hand, are part of the recent history of Arab football, both with excellent results at Al-Hilal Riyadh.
„Cosmin Olăroiu is the one who created the future of Al-Hilal, when he took over the team. Many of the Saudi players now have been coached by Cosmin! He is the one who created the base of this team. Even in the current team we have at the World Cup in Qatar there are players formed by Cosmin. Salman Al-Faraj, Salem Al-Dawsari. Răzvan Lucescu led us to glory, after more than 20 years without any continental trophy. He brought us back the Champions League trophy. Who was better? Very hard to say, but I think Cosmin was better…“, is a summary of the answers received in the area around the stadium.
And the Arabs hope that, in the future, another Romanian coach will arrive in this part of the world. Their option? Not surprising given its popularity here: “Mirel Radoi! The best player. And now, I think he’s a very good coach. Now we wish that, one day, we will have Radoi as a coach at Al-Hilal. Until then, good thoughts for Romania from Saudi Arabia! We love you. We hope to see Romania at the next World Cup, because you have quality players”.
Răzvan Lucescu won several trophies with Al-Hial.
What did the most popular Romanians do in Arab football
*Mirel Radoi – He played for Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia), Al-Ain, Al-Ahli (Emirates) and Al-Arabi (Qatar). He won five trophies with Al-Hilal: two titles (2009-2010, 2010-2011) and three Crown Prince Cups (2008-2009, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011). Then in the Emirates, he won four trophies with Al-Ahli Dubai: the title (2011-2012, 2012-2013), the Emirates Super Cup (2012) and the President’s Cup (2013-2014).
*Cosmin Olăroiu – He coached Al-Hilal Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Al-Sadd Doha (Qatar), Al-Ain and Al-Ahli Dubai (Emirates), Saudi Arabia’s national team at the 2015 Asian Cup, and is now on the bench at Al -Sharjah (Emirates). In this part of the world, Oli has won 15 trophies since 2007 until now.
*Răzvan Lucescu – Trained El-Jaish (Qatar) and Al-Hilal. He won the Qatar Stars Cup (2012-2013) and three trophies with Al-Hilal Riyadh: the title (2019-2020), the King’s Cup (2019-2020) and the Asian Champions League (2019).