x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Andone is full of surprises

Al Ahli's new manager, who was a distinguished Romania international, exposes himself to the Pro League, writes Jonathan Wilson.

Some astute signings and Ioan Andone's guiding hand helped CFR Cluj to lift the Romanian double.
Some astute signings and Ioan Andone's guiding hand helped CFR Cluj to lift the Romanian double.

Ioan Andone was a distinguished Romania international, and has enjoyed some striking successes as a manager. But Al Ahli's new coach must surely now realise that whatever he achieves in the rest of his life, his career will be remembered for an incident that took place 21 years ago. Other players have received lengthy suspensions, but no other, surely, has been banned for a year for exposing themselves to the son of one of Europe's most capricious dictators.

The 1988 Romania cup final had been particularly tense. Dinamo Bucharest were improving under Mircea Lucescu, and the suspicion was that had their city rivals Steaua not enjoyed the benefit of a number of refereeing decisions - perhaps because their president was Valentin Ceausescu, Nicolae's son - Dinamo might have overcome them in the league. As it was, they had the cup in which to make their protest. With seconds remaining, and the score at 1-1, the Steaua midfielder Gavrila Balint headed what looked to be the winner, only for the linesman to flag for offside.

Steaua were furious and - apparently ordered by Valentin Ceausescu, although he denies it - stormed off the pitch. At which Andone, sick of the constant intrigue, dropped his shorts and staged his unique protest. With Steaua refusing to play the remaining time, Dinamo were awarded the cup. "We waited for half an hour and then we went home," Lucescu remembers, "but the next day they took the cup off us because Ceausescu had decided that Steaua had won. Steaua were a tool of the generals and they were afraid Dinamo were growing too powerful."

Andone, an elegant central defender, returned from his ban to help Dinamo to the championship in 1990 - a sure sign, Lucescu insists, that "the generals were losing their grip", although it was the third league title Andone had claimed with the club. Aged 30, he left Romania that summer, taking advantage of the opening up of boundaries with the collapse of Communism to join the Spanish side Elche, before ending his career in the Netherlands with Heerenveen.

His coaching career began with Sportul Studentesc in Bucharest, and took him through a series of mid-ranking Romanian clubs before he returned to Dinamo in 2002. Three successful seasons there brought him a league title and three cups, but it was when he returned to Romania after a spell in Cyprus that he really made headlines. CFR had always been the second team in Cluj, and six seasons earlier had been third-flight nonentities, but thanks to the money of their car-dealer owner, Arpad Paszkany, some astute signings and Andone's guiding hand, they saw off the machinations of the present Steaua owner Gigi Becali - himself facing corruption charges - to lift the Romanian double.

Managers in Romania, though, have a lifespan that makes most mayflies look geriatric, and he was soon gone after a handful of poor results at the beginning of the following season. Romanian football, it would seem, can never escape its turbulent nature, but at least these days Andone has calmed down enough to keep his trousers on. jwilson@thenational.ae