Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Nostalgia of Soccer (Football) Magazines Project-Part 4

In my continuing collaborative series with @1888Letter, I will ask the Football (Soccer) magazine reading experiences of Romanian Catalin Tudose.

Name: Cătălin Tudose
Personal Description: I have been born and raised in Romania and I have lived almost my entire life here. 
My job is in the IT field, and I am pursuing it with great passion. But football has always been a part of my life, including here electronic sport publications that I have cooperated with or even designed and managed ( 

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: At what age did you become a Football fan and how long after did you start reading Football Magazines?

Response:  I can say that I was born in the middle of football. My father and my grandfather were fans and when I have started to look around, at a young age, there were a lot of discussions about football and our local team, FC Argeş Piteşti, which was at its height at that time, winning two championships and regularly participating in the European Competitions. One of the memories I keep is my father preparing in the morning to leave for the European Cup match against Nottingham Forest, that was taking place in the afternoon, while I was surprised why he was going so early… Later, I have found out that it was the top attendance ever for a football match in Piteşti, with about 25.000 spectators. The team had Nicolae Dobrin as its star, and Florin Halagian (nicknamed “Armeanul”, “The Armenian One”), as its coach. Sadly, Dobrin passed away in 2007, and Halagian passed away right today, August 12, 2019. (Note: this interview was submitted on August 12th).
I have attended the primary and middle school nr.11 in Piteşti, Argeş. However, I had arrived to the stadium a long time before arriving to school. The son of the team goal-keeper, Ariciu, was my colleague. There was a youth club, “Aripi” (“Wings”) associated with this school. On the pitch of “Aripi” I have seen for the first time future players of the Romanian National team, as Ion Vlădoiu or Constantin Gâlcă. Many of my classmates were trained there. The coach taking care of my colleagues was Mr. Iordache, nicknamed “Ţânţarul” (“The Mosquito”), because of his tiny figure. Later, his son became a player for FC Argeş, inheriting the same nickname, despite not being so tiny.
Some of my classmates later became professional football players in the Romanian first two divisions. Other ones are now coaching youth teams. I was attending their matches against other classes team in the school championship and we commented together about them and about the bigger official events. I was not talented, but I could not wait for the sport classes to jump outside and play. I have realized that my place was near the pitch, or browsing the newspapers and magazines to get more and more information. I am still in some contact with my colleagues, and when we have met again, football was one of the hot topics.
I started to learn reading before going to school. I had two children’s books, “Oac, o broscuţă dintr-un lac” (“Oac, a little frog from a lake”) and “Cip, o păsărică fără frică” (“Cip, a little bird without fear”) that I have kept on exercising on. Then, I have moved to the “Sportul” newspaper, that was my next interest. So, if the football magazines could not teach me reading, they helped me improving it.

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: What was the first Soccer (Football) magazine that you read as a new young fan of the game?

Response:  I was saying that I have improved my reading with “Sportul”, the only specialized  newspaper in the country in the ‘70s and ‘80s. We had a subscription for it at home.
It is really worth mentioning that one of the main information sources in Romania, in the ‘80s, was the radio. The match days usually scheduled all games at the same time. When you went to the stadium, you could always find someone in your neighborhood carrying a portable radio, broadcasting the very popular “Fotbal minut cu minut” (“Football minute by minute”). The coordinator was alternatively commuting between the games, to get the news. At the end of the match, fans were gathering around someone with such a portable radio, to hear the final results.
I was also getting information from “Radio Europa Liberă” (“Radio Free Europe”). It was not legal to listen to it in those times, as it was mainly criticizing the politics in the country, but we did at home – and we included here the sport news. For example, after the decisive Romania – Denmark 3-1, in 1989, I listened the headlines from the Danish newspapers and magazines at “Radio Europa Liberă”.

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Were there other local magazines that you also read?

Response:    The Romanian “Sportul” newspaper was among the very few alternatives that were available at that time. There was one page with letters from fans and comments into the weekly “Magazin”. There was a monthly magazine called “Sport”. And in 1985, a weekly newspaper called “Sportul – Supliment Fotbal” has been reintroduced, to replace “Fotbal”, that had disappeared in 1974. I was reading it from the first letter up to the last one.

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Describe the general format of these particular magazines? What was your favorite section(s) of these said magazines?

Response:   The newspapers were generally 4 pages, A3 format, black and white. The monthly “Sport” was a little larger than A4, sepia color. I was reading practically everything about football, I enjoyed mostly the matches chronicles and a post-matches rubric called “Între vestiar şi gazon” (“Between the locker room and the lawn”).

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Was the coverage of Football mainly local  or was International Football news covered as well in a meaningful way?

Response:    It was mainly local, from the international football you could generally read the results and some very brief news.

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: In general on a typical newsstand, how many choices were available for reading Football?

Response:   You were lucky to have one! Sometimes there was none, as the media was strictly controlled and politicized at that time in Romania. And the sport newspapers were immediately disappearing from the stands. If you wanted to be sure about getting them, a subscription would have been recommended.

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Do you remember foreign Football publications at your newsstands as well? If so did you read any?

Response:   The foreign publications were extremely rare. I had the opportunity to buy, in November 1989, two issues of the Bulgarian weekly “Start”. I could read Cyrillic, but I did not understand the language. We had played against Bulgaria in the 1990 World Cup Qualifiers, and I could see pictures and comments after the Romanian decisive win against Denmark. One title was “Rumînska Fiesta” (“Romanian Fiesta”). And on the first page of the other issue I had bought there was a picture of Petar Mladenov, who had just replaced Todor Zhivkov at the top of the Bulgarian Communist Party. One of my schoolmates, a girl named Ruxandra, commented: “This is their new leader” and I have understood what she had meant in the background. At the time, we were all expecting the change in our country as well, and it happened one month after this moment.

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Growing up in a Communist Nation, was there anything unique in the coverage of the game in the West or was Football a universal language that transcended politics?

Response:   Usually, from the West you could see only the results and some very brief news. In the ‘80s, you could hardly watch a local match in the TV. For economy reasons, the Romanian television broadcasted neither EURO 1988 nor the World Cups of 1982 and 1986. We watched the Romanian games in EURO 1984 and, as big exception, the final between France and Spain. I think this was the last international match to be broadcasted in our country before the fall of communism in 1989.
Otherwise, many people were watching international football events (World Cups, EUROs, European Cups) at the neighboring televisions (Bulgarian, Yugoslavian, Hungarian, Soviet). In my home town Piteşti, I was able to follow the Bulgarian television.

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: I will ask this from everyone, one of my best memories as a young football fan was the anticipation of the day when new issues were available on newsstands. It was a weekly ritual that would stay with me for decades. In your own words, can you explain your memories of these days?

Response:   As I was saying, the best way to go was to have a subscription, otherwise it was hard to get much from the newsstands. “Sportul – Supliment Fotbal” was published on Friday, and arrived home on Saturday. I was following it from the first letter to the last one. Watching for the postman’s arrival, getting it from the mailbox and reading was indeed like a ritual.
Besides this, there were the rare colored magazines that were published by the clubs, and you could buy them from the newsstands. I have acquired in the ‘80s the magazines of my hometown FC Argeş Piteşti (“Suporter”), also magazines from Sportul studenţesc (they had a yearly quality one, plus the match programs “Regia fotbalistică”), Rapid, Progresul Bucureşti. After graduating middle school and being admitted to the high school, I “celebrated” by fully reading a magazine with green covers of Progresul Bucureşti. It had a lot of information for those times, including from the international football, it was printed in colors and had the list and squads of all European Cup finals until that year, 1988, together with some comments about them.

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Did you enjoy your magazines for the scores/league tables, etc or did you prefer the writing? Or was there an evolution as when you aged you started to appreciate the deep written analysis more?

Response:   I was interested about both the results and tables and about the writing. Anything that is providing true information was and is of interest for me. Information was rare in the ‘80s. There was no Internet, and there were political and economic restrictions that prevented the information to circulate. Sometimes, you needed to wait for one or two days to get even the result of a game played abroad… When Universitatea Craiova played against Benfica, on April 6th 1983, I tried to listen the match to the radio – it was not broadcasted on TV. But the match started late, there is a 2 hours time zone difference between Portugal and Romania, and I fell asleep. The next day, the newspaper was showing the result at the closing of its edition – the 20th minute. I had to ask around my colleagues about the result, not everyone was aware of it. And that was a really important match!

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: How has the quality of your favorite magazines changed (for better or worse over the years)?

Response:   At the beginning of the ‘90s, after the fall of the communism, the journalists were able to practice their professional qualities in an unrestricted way. So, immediately after December 1989, the quality changed for better. Then, with the temptation to sell and sell at any price, quality decreased, as the topics moved outside football. 

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Looking back what was the best era for your favorite magazines?

Response:   The ‘90s were the best era. There were no more political restrictions, and journalists were mostly focused on providing the information. It also overlapped with the golden era of the National Team and with Romanian participations in the Champions League. I had moved to Bucharest by that time and I used to attend all these important matches, mostly together with my colleague and friend Dan (he later arrived to represent Romania as ambassador in the Baltic Countries). As time has passed by, I have seen a stronger tendency to make tabloid news and articles. Besides this, nowadays television and Internet are taking a large amount of people following the phenomenon.

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Did daily newspapers play a part in the coverage of the game? Can you compare these daily papers to the Football specific weekly monthly magazines?

Response:   I was able to follow the chronicles and squads into the daily papers. The newspaper “Sportul” that I have mentioned was a daily one. “Sportul – Supliment Fotbal” was weekly and was summarizing the most important events, plus adding brief news, not published during the week. And I could watch some sepia-colored pictures in the monthly “Sport”.

 Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Has your taste in magazines changed over the years or do you still read your favorite magazines?

Response:   My favorite magazines have generally disappeared. “Gazeta sporturilor”, the daily newspaper that followed “Sportul”, is now oriented to include tabloid news – I do not follow it any longer. I follow the web-site of the Romanian sports television “Digisport” – it includes more informative news, together with videos from the events, the ideal thing for me. I had the opportunity, for some time, to follow my colleagues and friends from 
I am also following, at some extent, the information provided by top magazines as “France Football”, “World Soccer” and “Kicker”. I am able to read fluently in French, English and German, but the time is usually not enough to get all the delight from these high quality publications. And sometimes I am reading foreign newspapers concerning events even outside football. I have enjoyed a lot reading the comments from the French “L’équipe” after the victories of Simona Halep at Roland Garros 2018 and Wimbledon 2019.
So, my taste hasn’t changed. The sources that address my taste have changed, and the technology has changed as well.

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Looking back, do you feel these magazines kept you sufficiently informed about the events of the game as a whole?

Response:  The ‘80s were problematic in Romania. Since then, I am satisfied with the information that I have been able to get, from national and foreign sources. I do my own selection to be able to be sufficiently informed. To summarize:
In the ‘80s, we had the national newspaper “Sportul”, the weekly “Sportul – Supliment Fotbal”, the monthly “Sport”. When you were lucky, you could get the magazines created by local clubs.
In the ‘90s, we had an explosion of publications. I include here the daily ones (“Gazeta sporturilor”, “Sportul românesc”, “Pro Sport”, “Sport XXI”), the weekly ones (“Fotbal”, “Fotbal plus”), and the monthly “Sportul ilustrat”, in colors, the successor of “Sport”. Excepting “Gazeta sporturilor”, the successor of “Sportul”, all the other ones have meantime disappeared.
In the ‘90s I have also had some good contact with the western press, especially the French one – “L’équipe” and “France Football”. I made a trip in France in 1990, right during the World Cup from Italy, and again in 1995. I have bought some issues and still keep them at home, They remain a high-level example in the field.
As the Internet and many specialized televisions have progressed, the information from here has captured my attention. I follow Digisport (television and web-site) and the big western publications (“France Football”, “World Soccer” and “Kicker”).
There are no more politic restrictions. One has a lot of choices. However, there are some other types of restrictions. The cable company that I do have does not broadcast Telekom Sport, for concurrency reasons, and I am not able to follow this one as well.
Between 2006 and 2012, I had the satisfaction to put in practice some of the ideas I had acquired in time with my colleagues at 

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Did your interest in reading magazines wane with the advent of Internet and 24 Hour Sports Television channels or are you as interested as ever in reading?

Response:   I have said that I have moved some of my interest to TV and Internet. But even on Internet, you may follow the information from the top magazines that I have mentioned.

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Are there publications that have since been defunct that you miss?

Response:   I mostly miss the weekly “Fotbal” (successor of “Sportul – Supliment Fotbal”), defunct in 1996, the weekly “Fotbal plus”, defunct in 2002, and the monthly “Sportul ilustrat” (successor of “Sport”) defunct in 1993.

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Getting back to my earlier question about anticipating the release of magazines. Given that now many receive their magazines on PDF, do you feel that a level of excitement has been lost as a result?

Response:   We have to recognize the advantages of the contemporary technology. But people that have been raised with the newspaper and with the magazine in the hand really miss that! And I also remember the excitement of following, on the window, the arrival of the postman, and then running to take the newspaper from the mailbox. This is priceless!

Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Once again thank you for taking the time in participating in this project.

Response:   Thank you as well for such a wonderful opportunity!

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