Episode 4: Pride & Tradition
For over 20 years, Ioan Chifan was booed on the streets of Gheraesti, being accused by the inhabitants of the village of stealing their children and brothers and making them fight against their families on the oina field. He was back then the coach of the team Laminorul Roman, the rival of Biruinta Gheraesti “On the field there was this extraordinary grimness. In the stadium we only had two people that were cheering for Laminorul. They were our only two fans”, says Chifan. Between 1991 and 2008 the team Biruinta Gheraesti had the same fate as other oina clubs and was shut down. Chifan remembers those days when an oina game would be organized right after church mass from 11am and then everybody young and old would come to the stadium. People would ask me, “why aren’t there anymore oina games”, because they were very fond of them, they would leave everything to come and watch, remembers Chifan. Oina’s moment of silence in Gheraesti lasted 17 years and it ended in 2008 when Mihai Blaj, baseball coach showed a VCR tape with a recording of an oina game to a Japanese baseball coach. The Japanese coach told Blaj that oina is much more beautiful than baseball and that he should do something about it that would keep the sport alive. Then Blaj talked to his good friend coach Ioan Chifan and together with the president of the Gheraesti sporting club, Andrei Adrian formed among the baseball teams, teams for oina. After one year the seniors oina team won the National Championship. It was the first time in the history of club that Gheraesti won the championship. A year later they won Romania’s Cup. Andrei Adrian, the club’s president remembers with tears in his eyes the moment Gheraesti was announced champion team: “These are unforgettable moments. In 2009 at Targul Lapus, I was crying of joy, especially because we played against 10 or 11 teams.” Gheraesti is the only club in the country that has teams for every age category for boys and also girls and last year all the major competitions for juniors were won by Gheraesti. At the club house a special room was organized to hold all of the trophies. Although the shelves are full, Andrei Adrian hopes that this year his players to respect the tradition and bring home all the trophies. “We don’t make any money. Anytime somebody wants to invest in oina, I, the president of the club, will give them my title and all they want with one condition to maintain the tradition and get positive results”
The club had financial difficulties in the last few years and had to close down the soccer teams, although the team was playing in the D league. “We gave up soccer for two years, but we never gave up oina. It’s our national sport more than soccer or anything else”, says Adrian. Chifan’s greatest joy is to take the children to competition and to see them put on the champions t-shirts. He loves to live through their joy, that’s why he commutes about 28km everyday from Roman to Gheraesti. He describes it as a “walk”. Today there isn’t one villager in Gheraesti that doesn’t say hello to him.
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