The stadium in Scornicești is in bad condition now.
The stadium in Scornicești is in bad condition now.

A dictator’s hometown club

The Romanian football club that disappeared because of the revolution

Romanian football peaked in the 1980s. Steaua Bucharest won the UEFA Champions Cup in 1986, and three years later the team once again reached the final of this tournament. Steaua got financial backing and moral support from the national leadership. But it wasn’t the only team who received a helping hand. Much attention was also paid to the modest FC Olt from the town of Scornicesti. This town in the south of Romania is known for the fact that Nicolae Ceausescu, the main political figure in the history of the country in the second half of the 20th century, was born there in January 1918.

Romania under the dictatorship

Ceausescu came to power in 1965. Although Romania was formally part of the socialist bloc and was an ally of the USSR, he tried to follow a more independent course. He took Western loans from the IMF to develop the economy. The country’s industry did grow, but in 1980 Ceausescu unexpectedly decided to fully repay the entire external debt, which amounted to $9.4 billion. This led to very strict energy and resource saving standards for the population of Romania. An economic crisis began that lasted for decades.

In addition, Ceausescu implemented an all encompassing cult of personality. Any criticism in society and of the Communist Party was not allowed. The dictator was presented by the media as a godlike figure, and was called names as The Genius of the Carpathians or the Deep Danube of Wisdom. Television crews always made sure to shoot Ceausescu from such angles that no one would pay attention to his short height – only 1,65 meters. 

At the same time, the People’s House was being built in Bucharest – the material embodiment of the greatness of the politician and his regime. For the construction of this huge structure, a significant part of the historical center of Bucharest was demolished. It is a luxurious palace with marble interiors, hundreds of crystal chandeliers and giant carpets. It took so long to build that it was opened only in 1997 – 8 years after the death of the dictator.

The football club from town

There has never been a big team in Ceausescu’s small homeland, Scornicesti. A new one was founded in 1972. Soon, a stadium for 30,000 spectators was built here, although the town only counted with 15,000 inhabitants. FC Olt quickly rose to the top league of the Romanian championship. However, the progress of the club did not always look fair. For example, in 1978, the team scored 18 goals in one match to rise to the next level thanks to the best goal difference. 10 years after the founding the team for the first time became the fourth. This was the highest achievement of the football club.

FC Olt did not have a strong football academy, but the team was always supported by other clubs. Football players loaned from Steaua and Dynamo played for it. One of the most famous examples is Ilie Dumitrescu. He played for the club from Scornicesti in 1988, and a year later he helped Steaua to reach the UEFA Champions Cup final.

The Revolution and the collapse

In 1989, the crisis in Romania reached its peak. The state paid back the debt, but the cost for this was huge. The country was devastated and discontent grew. In autumn, protests erupted in northern Romania following the arrest of a priest. This provoked unrest, which was suppressed very cruelly. Ceausescu was sure that he was supported by the majority of the population. He organized a large demonstration in downtown Bucharest in December 1989. Speaking from the podium, he heard the disapproving roar of the crowd. Then shots rang out – it was firecrackers. Nicolae was frightened and quickly disappeared. On December 22, he fled the capital and wanted to get to neighboring Bulgaria. But on the way, he was arrested by the military, who had already turned on him. On December 25, a trial took place, which sentenced the dictator to death. He was executed on the same day.

The Romanian Revolution had an almost immediate impact on local football. The destruction of everything that resembled the old regime began. FC Olt was also in this list. During the winter break in the national championship, the team was disqualified only because it was associated with the city where Ceausescu was born. In all the remaining matches, it was awarded a forfeit defeat. The football club was dissolved, but in the mid-1990s it was recreated. Nowadays it does not count with the backing of such important patrons, so cup wins and big achievements are still out of its reach. 

Thinking points

This story is an example of how short-lived the legacy of fallen tyrants can be. How many teams in the world have been created at the whim of dictators? 

Was it fair to disqualify FC Olt because it was created at the will of Ceausescu? 

Did the team’s fans deserve the destruction of the club?

Find out more

The football club from Scornicesti is sometimes mentioned in the Romanian media. In addition, the BBC narrates about FC Olt.

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