Romania Liga I

Published: 08/10/2013

Professional football in Romania is organised under the auspices of the Liga Profesionista de Fotbal din România (LPF), also known as the Romanian Professional Football League, and the Federaţia Română de Fotbal (FRF) or Romanian Football Federation. Its top-most tier is called Liga I and its 18 clubs play a season lasting from July to May. They employ a system of relegation and promotion shared with the second tier Liga II, which is made up of two divisions, Seria I and Seria II. The UEFA currently ranks the Liga I as #15 among European football leagues.

A Century of Development

Although the date when football was first played in Romania is uncertain, sometime between 1889 and 1893, British and German expatriates began organising matches along with other foreign nationals and a minority of local Romanians. Olympia București, established in 1904 by German Charles Viereck, is widely recognized as the first true football club in the country, and by 1909 three clubs united to create the fledgling Association of Athletic Societies of Romania (ASAR) and its “Divizia A” (Division A) along with the ASAR Cup, the forerunner to today’s Romanian national championship, which was won by Olympia București in 1909-10.

Only after World War One, when all of Romania’s provinces were unified, did football become broadly popular in the country. It took until 1932 to form a true nationwide league and the inaugural Cupa României (Romanian Cup) followed in 1933/34. It was won by Ripensia Timişoara, who defeated Universitatea Cluj in the final by a score of 5-0 in front of some 10,000 fans at Stadionul ONEF in Bucharest. By that time, Divizia A had expanded to 16 clubs; it would retain its name until the start of the 2007-08 season before becoming known as Liga I.

When the UEFA was created in 1954, Romania was a founding member. Three years later, the FRF was formed, although it had limited powers as governing body under Romania’s communist regime. It took until 1990 for the federation to hold its first election of officers as an independent organisation. Meanwhile, the LPF was launched in 1970 to foster professionalism.

Two clubs from Bucharest began to dominate league play in the 1950s, starting with Steaua București’s first of a record 24 top-tier championships in 1951 and followed in 1955 by the first of 18 titles for FC Dinamo București 1948. The two cross-town rivals have dominated Cupa României action, too, with 21 domestic cups for Steaua since 1948-49 and 13 for Dinamo since 1958-59. On the international stage, Steaua Bucureşti were the first Romanian club to breakthrough, defeating FC Barcelona to win the 1986 European Champion Clubs’ Cup final and then beating Dynamo Kiev for the 1986 UEFA Super Cup.

Heated League Competition

In the new millennium, a third club, Rapid Bucureşti, added to the capital city’s hegemony, winning its third league title in 2002-03 along with five of its 13 Romanian Cups between 2001 and 2012. However, provincial clubs have not stood by idly. CFR 1907 Cluj have captured three league championships and three cups since 2008, while Unirea Urziceni captured the 2008-09 league title and Petrolul Ploieşti claimed the 2012-13 Romanian Cup. Universitatea Craiova, SC Vaslui and FC Timişoara (formerly ACS Recaș) are other teams to watch, too—all having UEFA Champions League experience now.

Domestically, fully four teams face relegation each season, making the competition in Liga II’s two divisions quite heated, too. Since 1932, there have been 93 different clubs with participation in at least one Liga I season. The Bucharest trio each have at least 64 seasons of top-level experience, while Petrolul Ploieşti have 55 and Universitatea Craiova can count 46 seasons in the upper echelon.

Steaua București are the defending Liga I champions going into the 2013-14 season. Four teams were relegated to Liga II, namely Gloria Bistrița, Turnu Severin, CSM Studențesc Iași and CS Concordia Chiajna. Coming up to Liga I from Seria I are champions FC Botoșani and runners-up Săgeata Năvodari, while Corona Brașov and ACS Poli Timișoara were promoted from Seria II. The other 13 clubs competing for the league title are Astra Giurgiu, Brașov, Ceahlăul Piatra Neamt, CFR Cluj, Concordia Chiajna, Dinamo București, Gaz Metan Mediaș, Oțelul Galați, Pandurii Târgu Jiu, Petrolul Ploiești, Universitatea Cluj, Vaslui and Viitorul Constanța.

Published on: 08/10/2013

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