heres the story in english:
In the summer of 2005, at a Romanian soccer tournament in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, one of my teammates, a Montenegrin, looked over to me and asked “Steve, did you know that Hagi is Macedonian?” I was in shock. One of my favourite soccer players is a compatriot? It couldn’t be true. Overhearing the discussion, one of the handful of Romanians in front of me turned around and confirmed that Hagi is Macedonian; in fact, this was something well known among Romanians. Then, this past summer, while playing soccer with a team of Turks, again: “Did you know that Hagi is Macedonian, Steve?” My head was spinning-it seemed like the whole world knew about this soccer tidbit but me! I’ve since taken it upon myself to learn more about the Balkan football legend of Gheorghe Hagi, and here’s what I’ve found…
The origins of a star
Gheorghe Hagi, born February 5, 1965 in Constanta, Romania, is the son of a poor Macedonian family which emigrated to Romania from Kavala, now Northern Greece, in 1932. Hagi is the grandson of a Christian “Hadji,” who, for the Macedonians, denoted a person who had visited the “Holy Mountain” via Jerusalem. Forced to leave their ancestral land to make room for 1.5 million Greeks from Turkey as per the 1923 Lausanne Agreement, the Hagi family first settled “Big Kaynarc,” a Romanian village close to the Bulgarian border, before transferring to Sacele, a village in the northern side of Constanta. It was there that, at the age of two, a barefooted Gheorghe Hagi began kicking around makeshift soccer balls, the first made from dried pig’s bladder, the second from grandmother Sultana’s cloth, then from horsehairs, and so on. By the age of 9, he was the youngest of a group of footballers in the Macedonian-populated village of Coiciu scoring goals with real soccer balls, on real nets, beginning to make a name for himself.
His rise to fame
In April 1975, an FC Constanta youth player took note of Hagi and advised his coach that there was a boy attending a nearby school who “destroys everyone,” leading to his mentorship of Hagi for some time. Hagi quickly became a favourite of the ruling Ceausescu’s in his university years, first joining Universitatea Craiova before his transfer to Bucharest’s Sportul Studentesc at the request of Minister of Youth Nicu Ceausescu. The talented Hagi joined childhood favourites Steaua Bucharest in 1987, scoring 76 goals in 97 first league games, eventually joining foreign sides Real Madrid, Brescia Calcio, FC Barcelona, and, last but certainly not least, Turkish giants Galatasaray. As well as leading Galatasaray to a UEFA Cup and the European Supercup, Hagi propelled Brescia to Italy’s Serie “A,” and led the Romanian national team to its best ever World Cup performance in 1994, retiring from football in 2000 at the age of 36.
How Macedonian is he, really?
How Macedonian is Hagi? Quite Macedonian, actually, and, quite frankly, surprisingly. Even though Gheorghe Hagi grew up outside of Macedonia, sacrificing his original family name and all, he still bears elements of his cultural roots. After his first marriage came to an end, Hagi remarried to a Macedonian woman by the name of Marilena, citing that it was “easier to communicate” with his current wife. And although his Macedonian is probably not perfect, it must be more than satisfactory considering remarks from peers that “he used to sing Macedonian songs in his merry moments,” entertaining the likes of former Rapid Bucharest president Paul Cazan. Imagine, Gheorghe Hagi, “The Maradona of the Carpathians,” singing “Makedonsko devojche” after a shot or two of “rakija”! Unbelievable!
“We should clone Hagi!”
In 1999, Romania defeated Hungary for the first time in 63 years, leading everyone in Bucharest and beyond to proclaim Hagi be cloned! I wouldn’t mind one bit, although I think it might be unfair to other clubs (unless they give Macedonia 20 Hagis for the national and reserve squad, then we would have a deal). While it might be difficult to fully encapsulate the genius of Gheorghe Hagi, son of Macedonia, a poem written on the occasion of the Hungarian triumph by Adrian Paunescu says it best:
“Love of home, love of nation
Does not let you stay in your place
Forget about the bad
Return home, serve your nation
Even if your decision of not playing
Lies on disaster and response
For our country and yourself
Your duty is to be the best
Even if dreams have called for this way
You can’t live alone
When you don’t have anywhere to go
Now our red, yellow and blue flag
Needs you as a soldier
For the memories of your mother and father
Come back and fight again
One more time show us
How good Romanians
You Macedonians are
Let’s feel the happiness of your return with you…”