Columnist Eleonore af Schaumburg-Lippe writes in her weekly column about life as an expat in Romania. This week she describes how watching the match between FC Steaua Bucuresti and FC Copenhagen suddenly made her feel very Danish among 50,000 Steaua fans.
Some days ago I went to the National stadium to see the football match between FC Steaua Bucuresti and FC Copenhagen, and for the first time in my life, I was happy that the match ended with Steaua winning 1-0 over the Danish Team.
Usually I am not a real football fan and I don’t have a favorite team, but I enjoy seeing a good match, and being Danish in Romania, this match I just had to see.
Initially it was the plan that I, together with two Norwegians friends, should see the football match between Steaua and F.C. Copenhagen in Lipscani, where we had heard there would be a huge flat screen in front of the restaurant Hanul Manuc.
After work I went to the German National day, and around two hours before I was going to be in Lipscani to meet up with the Norwegians, I talked with one of my Danish friends, and he told me that he was going to see the football match at the National Stadium. I was keen to see the match at the stadium live, thinking it must be quite an experience.
He called me again an hour later with great news. He had some extra tickets, so the Norwegians and I were welcome to come and see the match at the stadium. I got a lift home and ran all the way through Lipscani to find the Norwegians so I could tell them that we could go to the stadium to see the match.
I found them in front of Hanul Manuc, where there wasn’t any big flat screen anywhere to be seen, so I think we were all very happy to go to the stadium. The alternative would have been watching the match on a small TV screen in one of the cafes in Lipscani. We arrived at the stadium and met my Danish friend, our mood was good, and we were really looking forward to seeing the match. The stadium itself is an impressive building, very big, huge in fact.
We found our seats among the Steaua fans, a very large group and on the right side of the stadium. We could see the huge group of extreme fans called the Outlaws, mostly men only wearing pants and naked from the waist up. They seemed extremely passionate and were shouting in unison, creating a very intense atmosphere, so it did not take us more than a few seconds to see that these were very very devoted fans. On the left side we could see the other group of fans, called the Ultras, they were less extreme compared to the Outlaws. But we often glanced especially at the Outlaws group, since they were making us a little nervous.
Up in the right corner of the stadium the Danish F.C.Copenhagen fans were placed quite far away from everybody else, and we noticed that their little fan group was surrounded by guards. I was told that it would only have been possible to buy tickets to the “Danish area” if we had bought the tickets in Denmark, which is why we found ourselves among the Romanian Steaua fans.
The match began and the Danes were playing very well, and suddenly the four of us realized that we were the only Scandinavian looking people sitting there among the 50,000 Steaua fans.
We didn’t talk so much Danish, and instead we were cheering very silently for the Danish team. At one point we two Danes thought there was going to be a Danish goal, so we almost jumped up, but half way we luckily realized the situation and quickly got down again.
We had to adjust our cheering, since when the Romanian fans thought there was going to be a goal, we found ourselves being the only ones in the group sitting down, so we had to get half up, so it looked like we were cheering for Steaua too.
Then the break came, and we all went out to buy something to drink. There had not been any goals, but the Danes were pressuring the Romanian players, and we could indeed feel the other fans staring at us, so we were very quiet, and not saying much until we got back to our seat.
The second part of the game began, and we heard an announcement saying that the Danish fans had to stay 15 minutes longer that the Romanians, then they would be let out of the stadium. We were getting more nervous, and talked in low voices about how popular we would be if Denmark won. We agreed that we would not talk and then just pretend all to be Norwegians and go in silence out of the stadium, but we were obviously a bit afraid of what could happen to us. And another glance at the extreme Outlaws was not helping; we felt if Denmark wins, they would eat us… or worse.
The match ended 1-0 to Steaua, and even if we as Scandinavians were not happy with the result, we felt a sincere relief, and for sure felt more safe.
On the way home, we couldn’t find a taxi so we ended up walking all the way to Unirii, quite a walk, during the walk home I heard some people speaking English with a Scandinavian accent, so I turned around and asked if they were Danish. They turned out to be Swedes dressed like Steaua fans, and then they showed their flags and scarfs. That made us laugh, but we also realized that we had not thought at all about any consequences of going to the match, we had simply wanted to see the game. I’m aware that some of my more football oriented readers will be chuckling away at my experience, but, for newcomers particularly, it’s worth thinking about.
Apparently they were not the only ones who had the idea, after the match I talked with a few other Scandinavians and they had also bought Steaua scarfs etc. to fit in.
So next time there is a match at the stadium and you decide to go and support your country, maybe you should think twice, it is a great pleasure to see the match, but if your country wins, who knows what would happen? Maybe watch at home, nice and safe. Being in the enemy’s camp, so to speak, was an extra adrenalin rush, but not one I would recommend.
By Eleonore af Schaumburg-Lippe, columnist
Eleonore is Danish, she holds a BA in Organization and Management and specializes in Corporate Communication & Strategic Development. She is also a Market Economist and a Multimedia Designer. She is currently working in Bucharest as the Executive Director of UAPR the Romanian Advertising Association. As a Danish Viking in Romania, with a great passion for ’covrigi’, she has a burning desire to find out more about Romania especially Bucharest, and enlighten the small differences in the culture between Denmark and Romania.. Her weekly columns will give you insights into an expats life in Bucharest written with humor and a big Danish smile.