Raducanu’s Romanian Revolution


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Highly-skilled midfielder MARCEL RADUCANU of Borussia Dortmund, who fled his native communist Romania and notorious dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1981, takes a break at the near post during a West German Bundesliga match at the Westfalenstadion in North Rhine-Westphalia.
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The thunderous roar of the crowd following a goal for the national team against famous England, World Cup winners in 1966. The terrifying fear inflicted by a telephone call from the Securitate, the secret police of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. It was the footballing talents of Romania international midfielder MARCEL RADUCANU which were responsible for both.

The finest hour of Raducanu’s all too short senior international career arrived with the World Cup qualification game from UEFA Group IV contested at the Stadionul National in Bucharest on October 15, 1980.

After completely deceiving the England defender with a fake left-footed shot, Raducanu deftly cut the ball back and rifled a low drive past the diving FC Liverpool goalkeeper RAY CLEMENCE for the game’s first goal in the 35th minute as Romania went on to claim a memorable 2-1 win.

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Raducanu, who had been named his country’s Footballer of the Year in 1980, soon became disillusioned after not getting on the field for the return game with England at Wembley, a goalless draw, in April of 1981. Apparently, the Steaua Bucharest midfielder, who earned 21 caps and scored three goals in all for Romania, had the opportunity to defect in May following the World Cup Group IV 1-0 loss to Hungary in Budapest but did not take advantage of the situation. Raducanu later admitted to regretting that decision; the playmaker would not let the next lucky break pass him by.

In the summer of 1981, Steaua Bucharest went on tour in West Germany to prepare for the upcoming season. An old friend of Raducanu, a Romanian expatriate living in Hannover, contacted the footballer where the army club were staying near Kassel. After learning of the player’s desire to defect, the old friend immediately offered to help and a plan was hatched.

For Steaua Bucharest’s next Testspiel versus Borussia Dortmund, Raducanu would play his best to impress potential Bundesliga employers, then inform the coach at halftime of an imaginary injury. The scheme worked to perfection, and the midfielder was left all alone with a heavily-bandaged knee after the break in the visitors’ locker room. Raducanu then packed a quick bag and simply strolled out to the stadium parking lot, where his old friend was waiting with a car to whisk away to Hannover.

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Midfielder MARCEL RADUCANU of Steaua Bucharest (above) played 229 elite league games and scored 94 goals for the Romanian army club before defecting in the summer of 1981 with his 27th birthday approaching that fall. Because Raducanu held the rank of captain in the country’s armed forces, the midfielder was formally charged with desertion by a military court and tried in absentia. Convicted, the Romania national team player was sentenced to six years in prison.
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As was order of the day with all Eastern Bloc defectors, the Romania international midfielder was suspended from all football competition for one year by Union of European Football Associations and, so, Raducanu was forced to sit out the 1981-82 season. There were no shortage of Bundesliga suitors, though, and a dispute errupted between Borussia Dortmund and Hannover 96 over the player’s contract status. The problem was solved when Borussia Dortmund paid Hannover 96 half a million marks, a considerable sum at the time.

Raducanu made his Bundesliga debut in late August of 1982 in a 1-1 draw with Vfb Stuttgart; operating in the role of an attacking midfielder, the Romanian recorded nine goals in 26 Bundesliga games and added another pair in five DFB Pokal matches for Borussia Dortmund his first campaign in West Germany.

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In all, MARCEL RADUCANU spent six seasons with Borussia Dortmund (above) and contested 163 career Bundesliga games scoring 31 goals. Including DFB Pokal and UEFA Cup matches, the Romania international midfielder appeared 178 times and totaled 34 goals for die Schwarzgelben. At the age of 33, Raducanu transferred to FC Zurich in Switzerland to start the 1988-89 campaign.
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Years later, Raducanu confessed in an interview that, after his defection, the Romanian government confiscated all his earthly possessions, such as his house and car. He tried to maintain contact with his family via the telephone, even though he knew the line was tapped by the dictator Ceausescu’s Securitate. Initially, the player stated he had felt safe in West Germany until the phone rang one day.

It was the Securitate calling long distance.

“Wir kriegen dich, Verbrecher!” — We catch you, criminal.

It is interesting to note that when Borussia Dortmund were drawn to play FK Velez Mostar in the 1987-88 UEFA Cup, Raducanu — after having started the first leg for Borussia Dortmund in West Germany — did not make the trip to Yugoslavia for the return match of the second round tie.

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