Sunday 27th September 2015 12.00
4 Liga Bucuresti
A.S.F. FRATIA BUCURESTI 3 (Grigore 81 85 Hoganu 90p)
A.S. TERMO 6 (Oprea 21 Balan 32 Barbu 39 Tache 55 61 79)
It’s not the best start to your footballing day when you ask your taxi driver for “Stadionul Fratia-Vulcan” and despite asking another driver, he has no idea where the place is! With local non-league expert Andrei unavailable we’d taken the Bucharest metro south to Aparatorii Patriei (Defenders of the Motherland!) station and found what we really wanted was the Vulcan factory in Berceni but what threw our driver was that it has been closed for many years!
So I found the ground on a maps app so off we went, our driver steering with one hand and holding my phone for navigation with the other! Even that wasn’t sufficient, we passed a 3G pitch that he thought was where we wanted, it wasn’t, but eventually we found ourselves at the factory gate in Strada Dumitru Brumărescu. The place was locked, and there was no obvious way round to the alleged pitch on the far side of the works.
Fortunately the security guard was able to rouse himself from the soap opera playing on the TV in his booth to direct our driver, who reversed sharply, then moved forward, then back in disbelief at what he’d been asked to do. The tyre tracks gave the game away, you have to drive across a disused field, there’s not even a track, to reach the ground. We made it, agreed I’d phone him when we wanted to return. He bumped his way back to civilisation and Sim and I stood slack-jawed at our surroundings.
I have a feeling that if a team entered the TV show “Scrapheap Challenge” and were given the task of build a football ground they’d probably come up with this. It’s a vision of chipboard, iron and ingenuity, sat underneath the rusting remains of a huge overhead crane once used to move components for oil-pumping machinery. On its own the Fratia-Vulcan stadium is a ground to visit before you die, but its story manages to be even more amazing than the surroundings.
The big clue is the name Fratia, Romanian for brotherhood, and is very much the baby of its founder and president Constantin Zamfir. He set up the club in 2001, 13 years after the fall of Communism here, and did so on the basis that age, race, religion, ethnicity or disability should not be barriers to playing football.
They practice what they preach here too. Goalkeeper Tudorel Miihailescu was born missing his left arm below the elbow, the communists stopped him from playing by making him see an endless series of doctors, but he’s found a home at Fratia. The club welcomes the Roma community too, in a country where the group is a sizable minority but still is marginalised.
It costs Zamfir around €1,000 a month to run the club, and he is not above raising chickens and other livestock around the ground to help feed some of the more disadvantaged players.
Once the club had spotted the foreigners we were given the guided tour of the facilities as a generator was fired up to give power to the changing rooms, and a steady stream of cars bumped over the field, to decant the visitors. As is the Romanian way there was a little to-ing and fro-ing as ID’s were checked but we kicked off with the minimum of delay.
Now I suspect you’re thinking how can a one-handed man possibly play in goal? Well the best answer I can give you is that Miihailescu makes the best of what he has. He’s not going to be anywhere as strong to his left-side as an able-boded keeper, and Termo were able to exploit that. Fratia worked hard but they were found lacking in too many vital areas, so the 3 late goals slightly flattered them.
All took soon it was over, and we said our goodbyes wondering who was more grateful, the club for someone to play in front of, or us for discovering somewhere incredibly special at the southern-most tip of Bucharest.