FC Romania (in white) won their first FA VAse tie.
By David Barber - Tuesday, 04 September, 2012
The superfan saw an unusual FA Vase match.
My train from Liverpool Street on Saturday had a thousand people on it. Of those, 999 got off at White Hart Lane for Spurs v Norwich in the Premier League and one stayed on until Theobalds Grove for FC Romania v Tring Athletic in The FA Vase First Round Qualifying. Ladies and gentlemen, I was that soldier.
Cheshunt FC’s ground is only a five-minute walk. I’d been there twice before. For an Athenian League Final against Redhill in 1975 and a particularly obscure FA Youth Cup tie – against Brentwood, I think – in the ‘90s. I remember waiting on the platform afterwards, all alone late at night with some kind of gang fight raging in the car park below.
In that situation you really need your train to be on time. It wasn’t.
FC Romania play in the Middlesex County League at Step 7 and it was their first-ever tie in the competition. The club was only formed six years ago and it probably won’t be a surprise that all their officials, coaches, players and fans are Romanian. I think I can honestly say I’ve never been to a match before where the PA announcements were in Romanian. It was only three quid to get in and they did a nice little programme, so I was happy.
They came into Saturday’s tie with Tring Athletic, two levels higher in the Spartan South Midlands, on the back of five League wins out of five and 16 goals scored. I counted 27 spectators at kick-off, including a few from Tring – the Hertfordshire town where the bicycle bell was invented, as I always tell people – and they saw FC Romania start by passing the ball around to feet and threatening down both flanks. Technically adept, they looked a decent side.
On 25 minutes their No.11, named as Sergiu Pitaru, raced onto a ball chipped cleverly over the right-back’s head and a determined run into the box ended with a firm shot past the ‘keeper. They continued to hold the upper hand, their enormous goalie (6’8”?) largely untroubled, until Tring bagged an equaliser as the home defence stood and watched two minutes into the second half.
Tring looked more likely to score after that but the enterprising Pitaru completed his hat-trick with two strikes in the last ten minutes. Two gorgeous, spiky Romanian girls in the front row of the stand whooped with delight as the final whistle went. The team that finished third in the Valery Lobanovsky Futsal Cup now need to negotiate eight more rounds to line up at Wembley.
On Sunday morning I watched the re-run of ‘Match of the Day’ before setting off for The Hive, Barnet FC’s training ground, which was hosting several matches. This was reached via the Bakerloo line to Baker Street and Jubilee line to Queensbury. There was an Asian Football Festival going on but I plumped for the 90-minute match on one of the 3G pitches. I understood it was a friendly between two teams from the ‘Maccabi Masters Over 40s League’, Glenthorne United and Temple Fortune.
Several players hobbled off injured during a surprisingly feisty friendly. Two of them seemed to be on the point of coming to blows when the bespectacled ref stepped in with “Just shake hands and we’ll forget about it” or words to that effect. It was 0-1 at half-time and 2-5 at the end despite some very good goalkeeping. I made up 50% of the crowd.
Games this season =24
Games altogether = 6,319
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