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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Cluj-Napoca to Meet Chelsea in Champions League Tie

Premier League giant, Chelsea, takes a step into the unknown on 1st October, when the team travels to Cluj, in north west Romania, to play the city’s football team, CFR Cluj, in the UEFA Champions League group stages. Experts agree that the Romanian team will be the least of Chelsea’s worries - they are more likely to be concerned about their matches against Italian giants, Roma and French side, Bordeaux, but perhaps they would be wise not to underestimate CFR Cluj.

James Gonzalez, Market Analyst at Obelisk comments, “If the city’s football team is half as successful as its economy, Chelsea had better watch out. Chelsea fans may be beating a path to Cluj for this game, but foreign investors have also been turning their sights to the area and they are definitely here to stay.”

Cluj – a previously little-known city in the Transylvanian region of Romania was recently voted the Number 1 place to invest in the world, while the Financial Times called it a “hot new investment prospect.” The region has one of the most vibrant economies in the country and is one of Romania’s most important academic and business centres. The city has already attracted a number of high profile investors, such as US company, Emerson Electric, and the mobile phone giant, Nokia, which has invested €200 million in Cluj, creating thousands of new jobs in their new factory and research centre.

Chelsea’s Club Secretary, David Barnard admitted after the draw that the CFR Cluj team was something of a mystery to them, “Obviously the Romanian team is of interest to us as I'm not aware of them at all,” he said. “but any team that reaches the group stages of the Champions League deserves respect so we won't underestimate them but we will have to do a bit of additional homework on them."

When Chelsea do their homework, they will discover that CFR Cluj deserve their respect. The team won the Romanian league (Liga 1) for the first time last season and, like Chelsea, their rise to fame has been funded by a rich patron. Transylvanian tycoon, Arpad Paszkany, took over the club in 2002 when the team languished in the third division. Paszkany vowed then that Cluj would be in Liga 1 within 4 years, much to his critics’ amusement. Happily, the critics have been proved wrong; not only did the team reach Liga 1, they finished the 2008 season unbeaten and 11 points clear at the top of the table.

When the Chelsea team arrives in October, CFR Cluj may yet surprise them with their footballing skills and their wives and girlfriends will undoubtedly be surprised to find the brand new Polus Center in Cluj. When the footballer and their fans go home after the big match, the investors will remain, keeping Cluj well and truly in the limelight.

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