It was a grim day for Romania on Thursday, and today’s newspapers make sure everybody understands that. First, the Romanian soldier killed in Iraq, than, the terrible defeat of Steaua Bucharest against Middlesbrough in the UEFA Cup semifinals, which steals the headline in most of the media, where everything pales before these two terrible pieces of news.
"Steaua was brought to its knees", Evenimentul Zilei, quoting coach Cosmin Olaroiu who said that "We took foolish goals" in the match between Steaua and Middlesbrough in the English second leg of the UEFA Cup semifinals last knight.
It was a 4-2 defeat after the Romanian team was already leading by two goals within the first 24 minutes. And it was enough to oust Steaua from the competition as it only managed a 1-0 victory in Bucharest a week before.
"We made the mistake of believing we could keep the result" of the early match, Olaroiu is also quoted by Evenimentul Zilei while criticizing Steaua’s defense, including a series of hazardous moves by goalkeeper Carlos which were enough to prompt a sports commentator for the Romanian public television to say "another match like this and we drop our job".
A beautiful dream was over as four goals from their English rivals led the Romanian team from extasy to agony, according to the same newspaper, which puts the blame largely on goalkeeper Carlos whose outbursts – along with other team issues - prevented Steaua from achieving its dream to play a European finals once again after 17 years.
And the match was a hard one as the goal that sealed Middlesbrough’s victory came min. 89 (!) at the foot of Maccarone. Enough to deal a blow to Steaua owner Gigi Becali, a maverick politician-businessman who was boasting before the match that nothing could stop his team to reach the finals.
"Steaua lost in a Romanian way", Cotidianul writes, reporting on the "incredible collapse" of Steaua after the 2-0 advance in the early game.
The newspaper puts the blame on Romanian players Carlos and Balan and points out that the difference between victory and defeat was made by coaches: Olaroiu sent Balan and Nesu in the field, and the failed to prevent the fourth goal of the English team. Meanwhile, McClaren chose Maccarone for a replacement – and the man stood up to the task with the min. 89 goal.
"Disaster and humiliation", Jurnalul National headlines, who claims no explanation can be given to the incredible fall of Steaua. It reports two sceneries on the Riverside stadium in Middlesbrough – one of a Romanian team with 60 minutes of loss-granting play and one of an English team that lacked glamour, but was worth all the applause.
And it mourns the goals by Dica and Goian in the first half of the game, which "might have been the landmarks of a magical and historical night for the modern Romanian football, which is lacking the real performance".
Adevarul accuses Steaua of "wasting a once in a lifetime occasion" to play the UEFA Cup finals and describes the match as a perfect play which evolved into a real nightmare as the Romanian team failed to manage the favorable moments correctly.
In another report, the same newspaper hints at something else. Steaua owner Gigi Becali, so self-confident when it comes to football, politics or business, has his mind focused on building a prison in the Romanian town of Ramnicu Sarat, of leading opponents of the Communist regime spent years behind bars for their political opinions.
And Gigi Becali is quoting Becali himself saying that he wanted to change the prison in "a Museum of Communism Holocaust".
Another sad moment for Romania came early yesterday when it was announced that a Romanian soldier was killed in Iraq. Corporal Bogdan Valerian Hancu, from the Romanian city of Iasi, and three Italian troops were killed in the first hours of the day when a roadside bomb exploded while they were patrolling an area in An Nassiriya.
As Evenimentul Zilei reports, he is the first Romanian soldier to be killed in Iraq, And the newspaper reports that he was coming from a family of career army officers and had gone to Iraq to jumpstart his career as well.
And the paper reports that his mother was just returning from the cemetery, where she visited the grave of her father, when she learned the news of her son’s death.
Bogdan Hancu, 28, did not go to Iraq for the money but for career, Cotidianul also reports, quoting his family as saying that he was enthusiastic about being there despite some of his relatives’ belief that Romanian troops should not be in such a remote country.
And he was due to return home in June this year, according to the Adevarul newspaper, which writes that he was encouraged by his father to go on the mission.
Newspaper Gandul focuses on the implications of the event and comments on the "capsunari" of the Romanian Army. "Capsunari" is a term used for Romanian workers going to plow the land and "pick strawberries" for better salaries in Western countries.
Its lead opinion article claims that many like Hancu go to Iraq for better salaries only, taking advantage of a long-lasting policy in which Romanian authorities speak of dangers abroad – from American imperialism to Soviet hegemony – when in fact it "is the emblem of a long-legged lie".