On Wednesday 7 May 1986, Steaua Bucharest pulled off one of the biggest surprises in European Cup history with their penalty shoot-out victory over hot favourites FC Barcelona: the first time an eastern European side had won the coveted competition. FIFA.com takes a closer look at the early beginnings, major successes and recent travails of the pioneering Romanian club.
Birth of an institution
The team now officially known as FC Steaua Bucureşti started life on 7 June 1947 as a multi-disciplinary Armed Forces sporting association under the name of ASA Bucureşti, but it was after a 1950 name change to CCA that the football wing began making a serious impact on the domestic scene.
Dubbed the ‘CCA Golden Team', the capital outfit clinched three league titles between 1951 and 1953, including a first league-and-cup double in 1951, with their players going on to dominate the Romanian national squad.
In 1961 came yet another identity change, with CCA becoming CSA Steaua: the word steaua (star) symbolising the red star on the club badge that was typical of Army teams in eastern Europe at the time. On the playing front, though the following two decades yielded just three league titles, Steaua's nine domestic cup successes established them firmly as Romania's most dangerous side in knock-out competition.
Making of a legend
This reputation as a cup force would be cemented in the Steaua's mid- to late-80s heyday. Under head coach Emerich Jenei and his assistant Anghel Iordanescu, the club's all-time leading scorer, Steaua clinched the Romanian championship in 1984/85, thus ending a six-year league title drought and ensuring a place in the following season's European Cup.
Once there, Steaua overcame Danish side Vejle BK, Hungary's Kispest Honved FC, and FC Lahti of Finland before sealing a place in the final in Seville with semi-final victory over Belgian champions RSC Anderlecht. Awaiting them were FC Barcelona, then coached by Englishman Terry Venables, the overwhelming favourites to clinch the European Champion Clubs' Cup for the first time.
However it was not to be for the Blaugrana, with textbook defending from Steaua and outstanding sweeper Miodrag Belodedici ensuring the final ended goalless after 120 minutes. It was then the turn of keeper Helmut Duckadam to be the hero, saving all four of Barça's spot-kicks to lay the foundations for Marius Lacatus and Gavril Balint to convert their efforts and clinch a historic victory.
After Jenei's subsequent departure to take the Romania reins, Iordanescu was handed the top job, going on to win the league-and-cup double in 1986/87, 1987/88 and 1988/89. The strategist also guided Steaua to victory in the 1986 European Super Cup - a sumptuous Gheorghe Hagi free-kick sinking Dynamo Kiev -, and to the European Cup semi-finals in 1987/88. They went one better in 1988/89 - though there would be no repeat of their Andalusian fairy-tale. Despite Hagi being at the peak of his powers, Steaua were demolished 4-0 in a ruthless display by the AC Milan of Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit.
That was a watershed moment for Steaua, with the 1989 Romanian Revolution preceding the break-up of their finest ever squad. After a brief lull, they rediscovered their domestic dominance with a run of six championships between 1992/93 and 1997/98 but have never again been such a force in Europe's premier club competition. Indeed, it is the UEFA Cup that has brought fans more cheer, notably in their run to the semi-finals in 2005/06: the best European performance by a Romanian team since Steaua themselves reached the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals in 1992/93.
Plagued by instability at the helm, with no fewer than 22 coaching changes since Iordanescu's exit in 1990, Steaua also appear immune to the old saying of "never go back": former idols Jenei (twice), Iordanescu, Hagi and Lacatus (twice) have all returned for invariably brief spells as head coach. Currently without a league title success since 2005/06, the new man charged with remedying that is Italian supremo Cristiano Bergodi.
Steaua play their home matches at Bucharest's Stadionul Ghencea which, when it was officially opened on 9 April 1974, was Romania's first football-specific stadium. Originally boasting a capacity of 30,000, this dropped to 28,100 when seating was brought in as part of a 1991 overhaul.
A further renovation took place in 2006, making the Ghencea one of only two Romanian venues suitable to host UEFA Champions League ties. The venue has also regularly played host to national-team encounters, while it also held several matches at the 1998 UEFA European U-21 Championship including the final.