Led by “the Maradona of the Carpathians”, the iconic Georghe Hagi, Romania qualified for the last 16 where they faced Croatia and the tournament’s top scorer Davor Suker.
Boasting a squad with the likes of Chelsea’s Dan Petrescu and Galatasaray’s Gheorghe Popescu alongside Hagi, the Romanians defeated Colombia and England in the group stages and with one game to go against Tunisia the entire squad decided to bleach their hair.
Prior to their opening game at the finals, the players had asked coach Anghel Iordănescu if he’d be willing to shave his head if they qualified after two matches. In return they would dye their hair and when it came to pass, both parties obliged. Two local hairdressers were invited to the team hotel after the final training session before Tunisia and not even the players’ families knew what was happening until they took to the pitch at the Stade de France.
Striker Gheorghe Craioveanu later recalled the bleach burned his scalp leaving bald patches on his head. “They butchered us,” he said. “It was so painful, I could only sleep on one side of my body for about three days.
But instead of inspiring Romania, sadly the exercise had the opposite effect. “We have angered God,” Iordănescu told a press conference after his team drew the last group game 1-1. Five days later, their World Cup was over with a 1-0 defeat to Croatia.
“In terms of motivation, it was a bad idea that was badly executed,” Iordănescu later told Vice. “The players had slipped into this relaxed, holiday-like mood. We were lucky to draw against Tunisia – that’s how badly we played. Then we embarrassed ourselves against Croatia.”
Romania did go one better at Euro 2000, however, reaching the quarter-finals, this time keeping their hair on before going out to eventual finalists Italy.
Illustration by Instruct, a Manchester-based studio that works closely with the National Football Museum. instruct.studio
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