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Sunday 8th May 2016

Giuleşti-Valentin Stănescu Stadium, home to Rapid Bucureşti

The Bucharest Groundhop had been rejigged considerably due the Romanian FA’s cancelling of all games in the top 3 divisions after the tragic death of Patrick Ekeng on Friday night. Organiser Andrei Otineanu should take great credit for thinking on his feet and finding alternatives. In this case our scheduled game at Voluntari was replaced by a lie-in, and a fascinating stadium visit to the home of Rapid Bucharest.

On one hand, we did see an amusing side of a problem afflicting Romania- corruption. Our minibus pulled up outside the main entrance, and Andrei asked the security guard if we could have a look around the ground? The reply was a rather gruff no, but it became clear that the refusal was less a rejection, and more an invitation to negotiate! His palm was gently greased…

Rapid are the team of the railways and that has remained the same before, during, and after communism. These days the club has seen a steady succession of owners with the club riding the rollercoaster of outrageous fortune. We caught the place at the top of the loop, they’ve won the 2nd League and promotion with it, but with no game this was a chance to enjoy a classic eastern European stadium, mushrooms and all! The stadium in the Giuleşti district is named after Valentin Stănescu, Rapid’s manager when they last were promoted back to Liga 1, in 1984.

It was originally built in 1939 as a scaled-down version of Arsenal’s Highbury, and backs on to the huge Grivița Railway Yards just a mile or two north of Gara de Nord station. The stadium is still owned by the ministry of transport and was extensively rebuilt in 2003. The stadium should have a capacity of just over 19,000 but is restricted to 11,704 due to safety concerns.

But to our little band of groundhoppers one fact looms large, the ground is to be demolished and rebuilt before the 2020 European Championships. I am bound to say the stadium design on the Rapid website looks like a photo of the Borisov Arena, home to BATE Borisov, Belarus, but the imperative now is to visit the stadium before the improvements start!

Over to you Andrei!