Just Like Paradise (Football In Heaven 2017)

Well isn’t that just typical you wait ages for someone to organise a groundhop in Romania and then two come along within a few weeks of each other. This one was to be in the stunning Bucovina region in the north east of the country close to the borders of the Ukraine to the north and Moldova to the east. The event was publicised as “Football In Heaven”.

Organising this adventure into the Carpathian mountains and sharing with us his stunning home province was Emanuel Rosu, World Soccer’s Romanian correspondent (@Emishor on Twitter). Emi had combined with the regions Football Association president, Ciprian Anton, to open up the region to groundhoppers. Very kindly this extended to providing a minibus free of charge for the weekend and Emi, Ciprian and the bus were duly waiting to collect 11 hoppers at a slightly chilly Suceava airport, early on the Friday afternoon. We were also joined by local journalist Chidoveţ Dănuţ and film maker Daniel Vatamanu.

We arrived a little late at the Stadionul Vasilica Onofrei home of fifth tier Viitorul Adâncata, but when you have “El Presidente” of the local FA on board your bus the game waits for you and duly kicked off some 25 minutes late! Now ok this wasn’t much of a ground, a few benches to the right hand side and a cabbage patch of a pitch but we witnessed a decent 90 minutes which saw the hosts win 4-2 in an entertaining encounter with local rivals Voinţa Zvoriştea.

Now what happened after the game, as darkness enveloped the ground rapidly, is the sort of heart warming thing you find on these trips to remote and far flung places. Behind one goal was a raised covered platform and this was covered with trestle tables laden with food. A woman laboured over hot pots and pans to produce some delicious sarmale (pork, rice and cabbage parcels), platters of cold meats, bread and drink (including whiskey and brandy) are provided free of charge for everyone in attendance. It wasn’t a one off for the president and some strange foreign guests either, it’s done at every home game, such is the milk of human kindness at a small village club like Adâncata.

Friday October 27th 2017 – Romania Liga V

AS Viitorul Adâncata 4 (Bilţ 15, Ujeniuc 19, Munteanu og 45, Atomei 49)

Voinţa Zvoriştea 2 (Munteanu 20, Bejinariu pen 90)

Att:107 (at Stadionul Vasilica Onofrei)

IMG_0562IMG_0566IMG_0586Oct 2017 033

After a pretty decent breakfast at the Hotel Continental in Suceava, we ambled down to the Stadionul Areni home of second division Foresta Suceava Friday for an 11am kick off against UTA Arad . The visitors had endured a hellish nine hour 350 mile journey from western Romania to fulfil this fixture. Tickets costing 10 Romanian Lei (£1.90) were purchased from kiosks outside the ground. The ground is a typical 1960’s concrete and breeze block affair with more recent touches of an electronic scoreboard and some plastic seating being the only concessions to modernity. Someone however has taken the time and trouble to liberally paint the concrete in the clubs’ colours of yellow and green the result is a fine looking venue. Foresta have been battling hard with financial woes of late a desperately need a win. The hosts duly go in front of around 700 spectators before UTA fire a double quick salvo before halftime, the second a quite monumental header from the centre back. Foresta work hard in the second half and manage to find an equaliser and it looks like a share of the spoils until UTA, cruelly, score again with virtually the last kick of the match.

Saturday October 28th 2017 – Romanian Liga II (11am kick off)

Foresta Suceava 2 (Renquin 29, Acolatse 84)
UTA Arad 3 (Hlistei 35, Ciucă 37, Păcurar 90)

Att:678 (at Stadionul Areni) Admission 10 Lei (£1.90)

IMG_0626IMG_0627IMG_0624Oct 2017 097

The bus then whisks us up into the foothills of the Carpathians as we head for a fourth tier match between Victoria Vatra Moldoviței and Foresta’s reserve team. Well what can you say about this ground? Set in a hollow surrounded by tall forest where bear sightings are not uncommon. Behind one goal there are stunning mountain vistas. The pitch is noticeably wet and had standing water on the dressing room side. Of course this not being England, there is no doubt the game will take place and a small crowd gathers in the spectator accommodation. This consists of a long row of bench seating at the top of the bank the seating is just inside the crash barrier of the D17 highway. Cars whizz by and lorries trundle by some slowing down for a sneaky look at the game. It gives you a great vantage point for the game but this is a seriously dangerous place to be a spectator! If the location isn’t memorable enough about fifteen minutes into the game a pick up truck screeches into the small clearing on the other side of the road and a bearded man with leathery skin and welly boots leaps out and marches down the road banging an enormous drum. He certainly livens up what is a poor quality encounter which went the way of the hosts with a solitary goal in the second half.

Saturday October 28th 2017 – Romanian Liga IV (4pm kick off)

Victoria Vatra Moldoviței 1 (Pelinar 59)
ACS Foresta Suceava II 0

Att:63

IMG_0693IMG_0692IMG_0690IMG_0691

Overnighting in the mountain town of Vatra Dornei, we arrive at the ground of fifth division Vânătorul Dorna Candrenilor in rain and morning temperatures of -2 but the welcome is warm and a buffet of food and some scarily strong firewater fortify us for the trek to the stand. It’s an excellent stand for the level and was built two years ago. Vânătorul are top of the league and race into a two goal against Sporting Poieni Solca. There is a flurry of late goals and the result of 3-2 suggests it was closer than it actually was.

Sunday October 29th 2017 – Liga V (11am kick off)

Vânătorul Dorna Candrenilor 3 (Clanetariu 18,30, Iosub 80)
Sporting Poieni Solca 2 (Hamcescu 70, Martolea 85)

Att:76 (at Stadionul Dorna Candrenilor)

IMG_0717IMG_0742IMG_0741Oct 2017 152

Everyone races back to the bus to warm up and we head back down the mountains to Pojorâta. The local side, Bucovina Pojorita have suffered a couple of bankruptcies in recent seasons and are now in the fourth tier. The main stand sits at the foot of a contoured hill dotted with shepherd’s huts, heavy forestation sweeps up almost as high as the eye can trace. It really is like watching a football match on a “Lord of the Rings” film set. To heighten the state of frenzy of the hoppers further the club have also produced a programme albeit a modest four pager. The hosts win at a canter by two goals to nil.

Sunday October 29th 2017 – Liga IV (3pm kick off)

ACS Bucovina Pojorita 2 (Tomco 23, Timpau 71)
ACS Şomuzul Preuteşti 0

Att:87 (at Stadionul Pojorita)

IMG_0751IMG_0763Oct 2017 159IMG_0750

Our hosts were magnificent and as for the scenery, well sometimes words just fail to come out when you try to speak. There is already talk of a “Football In Heaven 2” next year, do yourself a favour and move heaven and earth to get yourself on it, you won’t regret it.

Some years ago an ageing long haired American rocker sang “This could be just like living in paradise” spending a few days in this astonishing place he could well have been talking about beautiful Bucovina! The second line of that chorus certainly hit home waiting in the departure lounge as David Lee Roth sings “and I don’t want to go home”.

A much expanded version of this article will appear in a future edition of “Football Weekends” magazine.

Advertisements

Jette Boys (Royal SCUP Dieleghem Jette)

Sporting Club Union et Progrès (SCUP) Jette were formed in 1922 and were one of a myriad of clubs in the area which included Avenir Jette, La Jettoise, Excelsior Jette, Saint-Anne Jette, Dieleghem Jette, Union and Progrès Jette, and Sporting Club Jettois. None of the clubs had registered with the Belgian FA so SC Jettois and Union et Progrès did this in 1926 and were awarded the matricules of 474 and 493 respectively. Less than a year later these two clubs came together under the Sporting Club matricule.

The newly named SCUP were initially fairly successful rising up out of the provisional leagues in the national leagues (third tier) for the first time in 1931. However, as the Second World War broke out the club had returned to the Brabant league. The post War years saw success return to Jette and following a substantial reorganisation of Belgian football they won promotion from the new Vierde Klasse (fourth tier) to the third in 1954/55. The rest of the century was fairly uneventful for SCUP Jette as they spent the majority of their life in provincial football interspersed with the odd spell in the national leagues.

In 2002 the club merged with old rivals Étoile Dieleghem, and the fused club became Royal SCUP Dieleghem Jette. However, the club slipped down into the second level of the Brabant League in 2008 but eventually got themselves together to win the division, and with it promotion back to Division One, for the 2016/17 campaign.

Today’s game sees them play FC Kosova Scharbeek, a club formed in 1991 and using the excellent Stade Chazal, the former home of the defunct US Albert Schaerbeek. It’s only the second round of league fixtures and Kosova opened their campaign with a 3-0 home defeat to Sporting Bruxelles whilst Jette drew 2-2 at Stockel.

It is something of a surprise then when Kosova stormed into a two goal lead and in all honesty could have had more in the opening period. Jette pulled one back when a Kosova defender unfortunately stood on the ball in his penalty area and toppled over landing on the ball with his hand. Kosova though just didn’t turn up for the second half and Jette ran in three unanswered goals to rise to second in the fledgling league table.

The stadium in the Avenue de l’Exposition was built in 1953 under the auspices of Corneille Slachmuylder, the forward thinking Alderman for Sport in the area. There is a homely clubhouse on the left as you enter the ground and this area also houses the changing rooms. The Basilica of Koekelberg looms over the roof of the clubhouse. To the right begins a vast semi circle of superb terracing with a small stand in the middle which has been renovated to have three rows of modern plastic bucket seats. These days Jette share the main pitch with BX Brussels, the club owned since 2013 by Vincent Kompany.

Behind the main stand is a set of steps leading to the B team ground which has an artificial surface. Amazingly there is also a huge amount of terracing at the far end and this sweeps around down half of one side as well. It really is extraordinary. Initially this ground was used by Royal Avenir FAC de Jette who are the oldest football club in the town. Avenir were formed in April 1921 in the back room of a small printing shop owned by Corneille De Clercq, Jette’s first socialist councillor. Nowadays the second pitch is used by Jette’s multiple youth teams and also for games in the ABSSA, a Brussels amateur league.

Built on a simply audacious scale for the level of football in Jette its size is reflective of the post war boom in attendances at football matches. Sadly nowadays a crowd into three figures is fast becoming a rarity for RSD Jette. The Stade Communal de Jette, however, more than merits a place in pantheon of great Belgian football grounds.

imagesjette

Sunday September 10th 2017 – Brabant Provincial League Div.1

RSD Jette 4 (Kalulika pen 18, Matos 66,71, Gharbi 81)

Kosova Schaerbeek 2 (Salihu pen 8, Libonge 12)

Att:83 Admission €5, free teamsheet

Gallery

IMG_8398IMG_8399IMG_8400IMG_8401IMG_8402IMG_8409IMG_8411IMG_8418IMG_8431IMG_8432Sept 2017 089Sept 2017 103