Piturca Looks To Complete The Job
Romania go into tonight’s game against Holland knowing that a win against the already qualified Dutch side will seal qualification to the Quarter Finals at the expense of Italy and France. Very few people had tipped Piturca’s side to be anything other than whipping boys in the Group of Death but they have shown both the major sides in this group that they are anything but an easy touch. To be fair, Romania should already be through, they underestimated just how bad France have been in these Euro’s and were incredibly unlucky not to beat Italy, thanks largely to Buffon’s heroics. Tonight’s game will be pivotal not only for the Romanian nation, but also to Victor Piturca, personally and professionally.In December 1999, Piturca was looking forward to taking his Romanian side to the Euro 2000 finals with some confidence. His team had remained unbeaten throughout the qualifying group finishing above Portugal and Hungary and they were looking to build on a growing reputation forged through the last 3 major tournaments but dark clouds were on the horizon.Piturca had refused to budge on a matter of principal and had gone against Romania’s golden hero, Georghe Hagi, in a bonus payment deduction. Piturca didn’t want anyone who hadn’t featured in all the qualifying matches to receive as much bonus as those that had played in all the games. Hagi and also Popescu had missed the crucial game in Portugal and Piturca stood his ground on the payments. Incensed, Hagi and Popescu flexed their muscles with the Romanian FA and Piturca was out on his ear.5 years later and with Romania missing qualification for the 2002 World Cup and the 2004 Euro’s, Romania came back to offer him the managers job. They missed out on qualification for Germany 2006 by dropping 2 points in Armenia, but they made no mistakes this time finishing top of their group ahead of a resurgent Bulgaria and tonight’s opponents Holland.Piturca’s personal life is also soaked with sorrow. His cousin, Florin Piturca, collapsed and died at home aged 27, after playing in a Romanian Second Division game in 1978. His Uncle Maximillian, distraught at the death of his son, built a mausoleum for him and slept every night next to his coffin, such was the power of his grief. Even when the daughter of the dictator, Niclaue Ceausescu, was so incensed by the tomb she had it knocked down, Maximillian rebuilt it and moved back in 9 months later after the revolution. He stayed with his son in the graveyard until he too passed away in 1994.Whilst much has been made of Piturca’s love of wearing all black clothing, his nickname of Satan and that his car has the number plate 666, for me, tonight will be more about the tragedies that affected Piturca both inside football and in the wider world. I for one will be delighted if he gets his team into a Quarter Final with Spain. After that, who knows where they could end up.