Ion “Liță” Dumitru (72 years old) he was one of the greatest midfielders in the history of the Romanian national team, with whom he participated in the 1970 World Football Championship in Brazil.
Here he started in all three matches played: 0-1 with England, 2-1 with Czechoslovakia and 2-3 with Brazil. Ultima would go on to win her world title that year.
Dumitru also played in that pomina match with Finland since 1973, when Romania won 9-0 in Bucharest, in the 1974 WC preliminaries, scoring the very first goal.
I called the former great footballer in America, where he has settled for several years, together with his family, his wife Mariana and daughter Alexandra (14 years old).
How are you, how are you?
First of all, I am healthy. Otherwise, life goes on, the little girl is doing well at school, we are by her side.
I read that you have a very bright little girl who studies in a class of gifted children…
God helped her and she got where she needed to go. He is a good child. When I came to America, he had barely passed from second to third. Now he is in high school.
“We also destroyed Denmark”
I called to ask you about that 1973 game against Finland, 9-0. What do you remember from then?
I know I scored the first goal. We had a good team. Even Denmark, a force now, we destroyed (no – 6-1 in Bucharest, on May 11, 1975, in the European preliminaries).
It was 1-1 in Finland then, what happened in Bucharest?
Finland wasn’t 7-0 or 9-0, but we caught a special day and they caught a very weak one. But, of course, then they were below us. That we are now under them or under others…
Do you think we are under them now? Or over there, next to them?
About there, with them.
And apart from the goal scored, what do you remember from that time?
Not too many. It is, however, some 50 years since then. I think Dumitrache was still playing.
The first 11 was this: Răducanu, Sătmăreanu, Antonescu, Sameș, Deleanu. Dinu, you, Pantea, Mircea Sandu, Dumitrache and Marcu.
Ooooo, it was a different team from the one in Mexico, real team. The one from Mexico played for about two years, then younger players came, the older Culae Lupescu.
Are you still in touch with anyone since then?
I have no connection with anyone anymore.
With anyone from Romanian football?
I am talking to you from Romanian football.
With Mircea Sandu?
Not. Aaaa, with Mircea Lucescu. He’s a very valid boy, he still calls me, we’ve met before in Romania, we still talk. I am happy for his results. It’s a pity that Mircea is not used by Romania, that the FRF did not convince him, it’s a mistake. Others want him, you can see what he does, and we let him stay abroad…
“FRF has put coaches who are learning a trade at the national team”
He could be the coordinator of all the national teams or the technical director, right?
And not only. There used to be a technical committee made up of real football people. The coach decided the team, but had to get the approval of the Technical Council of the Federation. Then he let go of practice, training camp and the game. Now they put coaches who are learning a trade on the national team.
Do you mean Radoi?
And Rădoi, and those who were at the youth teams, who had nothing to do with the national team… But that’s life, what to do? We are going forward. I catch Romanian television here in America, I watch all the matches, even Division B, I’m in the game.
You were a great footballer of Romania. Has anyone from the Federation been looking for you? Maybe for a position in the Technical Commission?
No one was looking for me. Since I left the U18 national team, they stopped looking for me. Look, you were asking me who else I talk to from football. I am on good terms with Gica Hagi. I’m also waiting for something to happen in Romanian football, because we can’t go on like this. Some measures are needed. Gica gave them ideas, it depends a lot on the people from the federation. At the beginning of all prelims, we wait to qualify or beat ourselves.
“Trainers who got their license on the pile!”
And why don’t we qualify anymore?
We have no way, everything starts from the bottom, from children and juniors. They are trainers who got their license on file. It is these piles that run the country, the party and the government…
We should have seen a little progress in these 8 years with Burleanu in charge, right?
What to see? We never qualified for the final tournaments with the big national team. We don’t have much to see. We also watch the English and see real football.
Are we beating Finland?
I think we beat, we have to beat. I would like us to win, but why would we win? It’s hard, we don’t really have number 10 anymore, let’s see how Stanciu plays now. Ianis Hagi is injured. And in our championship you don’t really see number 10. Maybe Deac, from CFR.
Why do you think there are no more cracks in our football?
No more work was done at the level of children and juniors.
- October 14, 1973, August 23 stadium, WC preliminaries
Romania – Finland 9-0
They scored: Dumitru (‘6), Marcu (‘8 and ’43), Mircea Sandu (’25, ’65), Dumitrache (’45, ’63), Pantea (’55), Dudu Georgescu (’81)
Romania: Necula Răducanu – Lajos Sătmăreanu, Dumitru Antonescu, Ștefan Sameș, Augustin Deleanu – Cornel Dinu, Ion “Liță” Dumitru – Nicolae Pantea, Mircea Sandu, Florea Dumitrache (’75 Dudu Georgescu), Dumitru Marcu. Selector: Valentin Stănescu.