Almost a year passed since Porto won the UEFA Europe League, but I can’t forget this episode, because one player impressed me so much. Naturally, he’s Romanian and his name is well known by all football lovers from our country: Cristian Săpunaru. Yes, I wrote about Cristi before, but I feel the need to do it again.
In such cases, all players are very euphoric and may forget to do many things and concentrate only to celebrate the success in the the best way they can. But Săpunaru isn’t like that. After the referee whistle blew and Porto was crowned champion, the defender got quickly three things: a Romanian flag, a message for Mihai Neşu and a cherry foulard tight to his arm, of his beloved team, Rapid Bucharest. It the first two looked quite naturally, the last one was the supreme proof that Cristi thinks of Rapid every time and everywhere.
Some ignorant people said that this was gesture of lack of respect for FC Porto, but only true supporters of Rapid could accept and understand the cherry foulard from around Săpunaru’s arm. Cristi spent his childhood in the center of Bucharest, where he was born and his first senior side was FC National. For this team he also debuted in the first league, but he still went in the Giulesti’s north kop to watch Rapid’s matches, whenever his schedule permitted. Finally, in 2006 his dream came true, and at 22 years he signed a contract with Rapid. He won a cup and a super cup in 2007 and a year after he scored the winning goal against Steaua, in a 1-0 victory on Giulesti Stadium. His value was increasing so an unexpected 6 million euro offer from Porto arrived. After only two years, Săpunaru left Rapid.
He played well in some matches in Portugal, but didn’t impose as a starter in the first line up so, after a season and a half, he returned on loan to Rapid, to play here a few months. He was the best player by far, but his three goals helped Rapid to win only seven points, not a qualification in the European Cups. Cristi was also the best man in the matches against Steaua, 5-1 and against Dinamo, 2-2, both held on home soil.
A special story is around the game with Steaua from April 2010. With a day earlier, Sandu Neagu, one of Rapid’s legendary players passed away and all Rapid’s players dedicated him the 5-1 success against their rivals. But Săpunaru did more than that, because of the close relationship that he had with Neagu. Some time ago, it looks like Sandu gave Cristi his Romanian champion medal from 1967. So, Cristi suffered the most when Neagu died and decided to help his family. Especially Robert, his five year child, who wants to become also a footballer.
Knowing all this, you may realize now that the cherry foulard around the arm was a natural gesture, a gesture imposed by Săpunaru’s big heart. And if you think that this is the only extravagant thing that he did in connection with Rapid since he plays for Porto, you are wrong, and a witness in this case can be Beto, the former Porto substitute goalkeeper, now playing at CFR Cluj. He was the room mate of Cristi for a while and now, arrived in Romania, he had say what was the only thing that he bothered him when he was in the presence of the defender: Săpunaru was listening loudly, all day long, in his room, at Rapid Bucharest’s official anthem!
And guess what? Săpunaru made recently a tattoo on his right arm that proves once more his unconditionally love for one beautiful and unique club, Rapid Bucharest.