In the first instalment of our shirt hunting endeavours, the three of us took the opportunity to spend 48 hours in Bucharest; a city just about doable in this time frame considering the three hour flight from London! By the end of the weekend we treaded wearily onto the plane, yet tremendously satisfied with our efforts.
Hunting for football shirts is much like trying to identify those companies which are undervalued in the stock market, and the approach you take to it matters a great deal. I tend to liken the approach to buying football shirts at home in the UK much like ‘top-down’ investing – you start with the bigger picture and then break it down into smaller segments.
The exact opposite was true for Bucharest. We had to start from the ‘bottom up’, which meant identifying an absolute gem of an independent FC Steaua retailer, based a few kilometres outside of the city centre. The two shopkeepers greeted us with near astonishment as they realised that the only way they were going to sell us anything was to converse in broken English with us, and thank God they did, or ‘mulțumesc’ should I say!
The football shirt market in Romania is not developed in any way at all. A player issue FC Steaua 16/17 home shirts costs more than half of the average Bucharestian’s monthly salary, while a replica issue costs approximately one-third of that. We settled for the latter, while we were also able to source a Romania player issue Euro 2016 shirt, specifically from their second Group Stage fixture versus Switzerland.
In the two hour interim period between purchasing the shirts and waiting for the Gabriel Tamaș and Nicolae Stanciu namesets to be printed, we headed back into the city centre with the ultimate goal of locating the FC Dinamo București club shop. This almost proved a thankless task (it took two attempts to find it), but the three of us agreed the Dinamo shop to be far more professionally run than that of the independent Steaua retailer. With FC Dinamo being bought by Romanian businessman Ionuț Negoiță in 2013, it gives the entire club a far greater commercial advantage over Steaua. Nevertheless, despite the professionalism of the Dinamo club shop, we found the lack of knowledge possessed by the lady at the till somewhat frustrating, which meant we decided to hedge one’s bets and leave with nothing.
The remaining time which we had in Bucharest left us with ample time to sample the local cuisine and beer, whilst also doing a bit of sightseeing on the Sunday. The Palace of the Parliament is a mightily impressive building, the second-largest in the world for administrative purposes, after the Pentagon in the US.
To sum up, we found Romanians to be incredibly friendly people and the city of Bucharest somewhat chaotic (taxi drivers take note!), but left with a sense of pride that we had successfully navigated our way through a market which has very different business customs to that of the UK. Football shirts do not hold any commercial value in Romania, and the industry there still appears to be in its embryonic phase.