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How Gheorghe Hagi is transforming Romanian football

When Romanians or fans of Galatasaray reminisce about Hagi, they can’t help but smile and remember the joy this creative genius brought. Gheorghe Hagi, who is referred to as Comandante (The Commander) by his Turkish fans and as Regele (The King) by Romanians, was considered one of the best players in the world during the 1980s and 1990s. He single-handedly put Romania on the map of world football and enjoyed great successes with Galatasaray, including winning the UEFA Cup in 2000. But after his footballing days were over, Hagi’s influence on the future of Romanian football became even larger.

How Gheorghe Hagi is transforming Romanian football

Since Hagi retired, Romania has failed to qualify for a World Cup. They did play two European Championship and will now play a third one, which Hagi played a significant role in. Even though the expectations are not high of Romania this tournament, they were unbeaten in their qualification group, which also featured Switzerland, and qualified comfortably. 

To understand their sudden rise, we need to go back to 2009. Gheorghe Hagi noticed the decline of the national team and decided to open his own football academy in the small, but quite wealthy, town of Ovidiu. He declared that it was his aim to develop future world champions. In an interview with Sky Sports, Hagi said that the academy was created with the goal of giving young people a chance to succeed. 

Gheorghe Hagi Academy

There are currently 600 children between the ages of six and 18 within the Gheorghe Hagi Football Academy. The eleven best players of each age group from 13 to 18 are given accommodation, schooling, nutrition, medical treatment and much more. Five graduates of the academy represent Romania during EURO 2024, including his own son Ianis Hagi, as well as Razvan Marin, Alexandru Cicaldau, Denis Dragus, and Florinel Coman. In total, twenty academy graduates have represented the national team and sixty graduates have played in Romania’s top division. 

When opening up the academy, Hagi also already thought of the future and founded his own football club FC Viitorul Constanța in the neighbouring city, which would be a gateway for the young talents into professional football. In 2021, Viitorul merged with the other local team FCV Farul Constanța. Hagi owns 79,9% of the club and is also the manager of the first team. Former Romanian footballer Ciprian Marica and former Brazilian superstar Rivaldo are among the minority shareholders. 

In 2022-23, FCV Farul Constanța won their first-ever Liga 1. title, ending the five season domination of CFR Cluj. But winning trophies is not the main objective of Hagi and his academy. “The objective of the senior team, regardless of the moment, is to debut players from the academy every year. And with these young people, to whom we offer confidence, we have won the championship twice, being the youngest champion in Europe.”


Hagi feels pride and joy about the fact that some of his academy graduates are playing in EURO 2024. ‘’This means, as I said at the start, that the Romanian player is talented, but you need to find them, give them a chance, space to develop, to grow in a good environment to help them perform.” 

During Hagi’s time at Galatasaray, he brought the team the spirit of success. ‘’Never before had a Turkish team believed in their powers,’’ said his former teammate Hakan Şükür. ‘’But he taught us to fight. And I have never in my life seen anybody like him with the ball.’’ This winning spirit is now apparent in Romania’s national team as Hagi’s influence on the sport that gave him everything grows continuously.