The official UEFA European Football Championship, Euro 2012, kicks off in Poland and Ukraine today. Reigning champions Spain are favourites, with the likes of Germany, the Netherlands and France also among the most-hotly tipped of the 16 competing teams. Much entertainment is promised, but let’s be honest here, most spectators will be distracted by the same niggling thought: “I wonder who the Unofficial European Football Champions are…” Fear not! In order to satisfy curiosity, and allow full concentration on the official tournament, we now present a quick update.
The Unofficial European Football Championships (UEFC, perhaps?) is a spin-off of the Unofficial Football World Championships (UFWC, obviously) maintained by the good folk over at the UFWC forum. It works on exactly the same principle as the UFWC – via a continuous series of boxing-style title matches. Winners of title matches become title-holders, and must attempt to defend the title in their next match.
The last time we checked in on the Unofficial European competition, the long-standing “UEFC” champions were Greece, enjoying a successful Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. However, the Greeks slipped up in November, losing 3-1 to Romania. The Romanians took the UEFC title into 2012, and have successfully defended it this year via a 1-0 win in Switzerland, and, earlier this month, a goalless draw in Austria. The Romanian team didn’t qualify for Euro 2012, so unfortunately there will be no unofficial title contested at this official tournament.
Romania are ranked 26th in Europe by FIFA, behind Scotland, Wales and Montenegro, but ahead of Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland and Ukraine. They’re ranked 21st in the UFWC world rankings, having won eight Unofficial Football World Championships title matches. The most recently held the UFWC title in 2005/06, taking the title from Nigeria in bizarre circumstances, then beating Armenia and Slovenia, before losing to Uruguay, again in odd circumstances. (Both the Greece v Nigeria and Greece v Uruguay matches are featured in detail in the UFWC book.)
The likes of Gheorghe Hagi, Dan Petrescu, Gheorghe Popescu and, most recently, Christian Chivu have all retired, leaving 33-year-old Adrian Mutu as the only remaining member of the Romanian dream team that reached the quarter finals of Euro 2000 at the expense of England and Germany. Current captain Razvan Rat was in the side that won the UFWC title in 2005. Mutu and Rat now play alongside the likes of Gabriel Torje, Cristian Tanase and Alexandru Chipciu – the three goalscorers against Greece. The team’s recent resurgence has been steered by former Steaua Bucharest coach Victor Piturca.
So the Unofficial European Football Champions are Romania. You can now stop wondering about that and go off and enjoy the official tournament entirely worry-free. Oh, and don’t forget to come back afterwards for the resumption of the Unofficial Football World Championships, with title holders North Korea preparing to face Iran in what is being described as a “UFWC Megaclash”. That’s scheduled for October, but, who knows, the Koreans might pull their fingers out and arrange another fixture before then. Whatever happens, we’ll keep you bang up to date right here. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.