Soccer

Exclusive: Viitorul Constanța star Rivaldinho on playing under Romanian icon Gheorghe Hagi

Rivaldinho, currently of Casa Liga 1 club Viitorul Constanța, the Ovidiu-based professional football team, owned and coached by the most revered Romanian professional footballer of all-time, Gheorghe Hagi, affectionately nicknamed “Maradona of the Carpathians”, Romania’s all-time joint top scorer international goalscorer with Adrian Mutu, has witnessed the talented 25-year-old Brazilian forward, the son of FIFA World Cup winner, Rivaldo, score nine times and assist four goals this season for his side in an otherwise testing campaign which presently sees Viitorul Constanța sitting 7th place in the Casa Liga 1 courtesy of registering 40 points from 26 games in the league.

São Paulo-born, Rivaldinho, who both played and scored alongside his iconic father, Rivaldo, an FC Barcelona and Brazil legend, as Campeonato Brasileiro Série B outfit Mogi Mirim defeated Macae 3-1 in July 2015, has unquestionably produced the finest season of his career to date this term at Viitorul Constanța and has additionally been a catalyst for the Romanian club under the watchful eye of Gheorghe Hagi.
However, Hagi’s valiant side, primarily comprised of graduates promoted from Viitorul Constanța’s youth academy, currently top of the relegation group table in Casa Liga 1 with 18 points from nine games, comprehensively defeated FC Academica Clinceni 5-0 on July 11 courtesy of a delightful brace from Rivaldinho, a sublimely timed header and a confident close-range drive respectively from the Brazilian, as well as a solo finish from French defender, Damien Dussaut, and two goals from Gabriel Iancu, formerly of Steaua Bucuresti, to majestically provide the exclamation and further credence of Hagi’s image built team invariably prolonging realistically closer to retaining its status in Romania’s top-flight professional football division; Iancu has scored 16 goals this season for Viitorul Constanța.
Puştii lui Hagi, who finished third in the Casa Liga 1 last season, reached the second qualifying round of the 2019/20 UEFA Europa League before being eliminated 5-7 on aggregate to Belgian First Division A club KAA Gent, the East Flanders-based club inspired by the sensational Jonathan David, the highly-rated 20-year-old Canada international standout.
At the Stadionul Viitorul this term, however, Viitorul Constanța have scored 44 and conceded 29, although their general trajectory in form has relatively improved in terms of results as of late since the resumption of the current 2019/20 Casa Liga 1 campaign.
Gică Popescu, formerly of PSV Eindhoven, Tottenham Hotspur, FC Barcelona, and Galatasaray, the brother-in-law of Romanian national treasure Hagi, who competed in three FIFA World Cup tournaments (Italia ’90, USA ’94 and France ’98) throughout his storied career, currently serves as Chairman of Viitorul Constanța, a role indeed previously served by the current Owner and Head Coach of Viitorul Constanța, Gheorghe Hagi, a beloved hero in both Romania and Turkey.
Viitorul Constanța, who claimed their first Casa Liga 1 title in the 2016/17 season, won the league four points clear ahead of Steaua Bucuresti, now known as Fotbol Club FCSB, the decorated 26-time Casa Liga 1 champions, incidentally a former club of Hagi’s, whereby the Romanian national hero was indeed at the behest of Valentin Ceauşescu, the son of then General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party and the leader of the Socialist Republic of Romania, Nicolae Ceauşescu, the latter who ruled fervently with implicit dictatorship and tyrant oppression until both the power abusing, much-maligned Ceauşescu and his beloved wife, Elena, were both remorselessly executed by an unrelenting firing squad on December 25, 1989, in part to Ceauşescu’s assertive, autocratic regime which led him to be viewed widely as a Romanian political hate figure.
Viitorul Constanța’s last seven Casa Liga 1 matches since the resumption of their season on June 6, 2020, which was initially halted due to Covid-19 pandemic, has ultimately seen Viitorul Constanța win four, draw twice and lose once; Viitorul Constanța has scored 16 and conceded seven since the resumption of domestic action. Furthermore, Hagi’s side has taken 14 points from a possible 21 in their last seven Casa Liga 1 encounters, while boasting three consecutive clean sheets in their previous three league matches.
Hagi, the former Steaua Bucuresti, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Galatasaray superstar, who has been the Head Coach of Viitorul Constanța since September 2014, served as Chairman of the Romanian club prior to Popescu, the revered 55-year-old’s former teammate at FC Barcelona, under the late-great Johan Cruyff, the architect of Total Football with Rinus Michels’ Holland during the 70s, and more notably with the Romania national team during their 90s golden age.
Elsewhere, Viitorul Constanța’s next five games meanwhile in Casa Liga 1 are against: Politehnica Iaşi (Away – July 20), Chindia Târgovişte (Home – July 24), Hermannstadt (Away – July 29), Sepsi OSK Sfântu Gheorghe (Home – July 31) and Dinamo Bucuresti (Away – August 4).
Thereafter Viitorul Constanța’s reassuring 5-0 victory against Academica Clinceni at the Stadionul Viitorul in Ovidiu, FOX Sports Radio 96.9FM/1340AM’s Dean Perretta briefly caught up with Viitorul Constanța star, Rivaldinho, to discuss his stellar performances and form with Viitorul Constanța in the current campaign, the relationship with his legendary FIFA World Cup-winning father, Rivaldo, playing and learning under Romanian icon, Gheorghe Hagi, as well as the professional benefactors and advantages of InStat.
Dean Perretta: Rivaldinho, with regards to data and analytics as it relates to performance, can you touch on the many technical features of InStat and how it’s improved your technical intelligence and reading of the game?
Rivaldinho: InStat helps all players a lot because in a few hours after a game you receive the analysis and you know what you did good, or not so good, and you know where you need to improve (as a player) to don’t do it again.
Dean Perretta: As it pertains to Viitorul Constanța’s season, what have been the biggest highlights so far this term, particularly in your estimation?
Rivaldinho: Viitorul made me different (as a player since joining). I have improved a lot in my game since I’ve been here (in Romania), especially because I have a very good coach (Gheorghe Hagi), which is a legend. So every day, I have something to learn and improve.
Dean Perretta: How would you describe Romania’s Casa Liga 1, especially in relation to the fan culture and atmosphere of the matches?
Rivaldinho: It’s a very good and competitive league. Many good clubs and almost all have big fans that make a good atmosphere in the stadium when people are allowed to go.
Dean Perretta: Can you describe Gheorghe Hagi’s philosophy at Viitoral Constanța and, of course, his influence at the club, especially as the team owner also?
Rivaldinho: His mentality is to be the best. Every day he pushes to make us better and better. I mean, it’s a winner mentality. So as you said, he is also the owner, so also the kids from the academy grow with the mentality to win and are the best they can.
Dean Perretta: Lastly, and most certainly not least, can you talk about your legendary father, FIFA World Cup winner, Rivaldo, and his support throughout not just your career but your life also?
Rivaldinho: My father is amazing. If you liked him as a player, you will like him thousand times more as a person. When he has time, he tries to watch my matches and give his opinion of how I played. He helps me a lot in this part. But, the best thing and I always want to make it very clear, is that he never had to help me (get ahead in the game based on his great reputation) in football. (When people) ask (us for) a favor to a friend or something like that, he and I don’t like this kind of thing.
Dean Perretta
Dean Perretta is a 2x SEA Award-winning creative, Broadcast Journalist, Reporter, Courtside Analyst for BBC televised London Lions and Executive Producer who currently contributes to FOX Sports Radio, FourFourTwo Magazine and Muscle & Fitness Magazine.