Money is extremely tight at Wisła Kraków. With ex-players still owed money, incoming transfers this season will be at a minimum – instead, returning coach Franciszek Smuda will be forced to rely on free transfers to bolster his small squad. Having held German nationality for a number of years, and lived in the country for even longer, Smuda’s knowledge of the German game appears stronger than that of the Polish game. But even so, the acquisition of Fabian Burdeński from fourth league outfit 1.FC Magdeburg did little to whet fans’ appetite ahead of the new season. However when it was announced that young Romanian midfielder Sorin Oproiescu , whose previous clubs include Politehnica Timisoara and Saudi Arabian side Hajer FC , was asked to join the Biała Gwiazda’s pre-season preparations in Grodzisk Wielkopolski, it seemed that the benefits of Smuda’s scouting knowledge were finally beginning to show. Or were they?
25 year-old Oproiescu had been recommended to Smuda’s staff by a third party, and with YouTube videos showing a marauding midfielder with a keen eye for goal, it’s understandable that Wisła – a big club with financial problems – would be keen to trial such a player. Having not renewed the contracts of experience midfielders Radosław Sobolewski and Kamil Kosowski, it is a key area for the White Star to strengthen before their big kick off against Górnik Zabrze on July 19th, and to do so cheaply would be of great benefit to the club.
But as the team began to settle at their Grodzisk training camp, murmurs began the something was afoot. A Wisła supporter and member of the unofficial website’s forum began a scouting assignment of his own – trying to find out more on his club’s potential new signings. What he unearthed about their new Romanian recruit almost defied belief. After much research, the supporter concluded that Oproiescu was not the player which he had claimed to be. In fact, it turned out he wasn’t even a player at all!
For starters, no-one in Timisoara had ever heard of Oproiescu. The former student had never played for Timisoara – or for that matter any Romanian club at all. Whilst he had previously signed for Saudi side Hajer, that had proved to be as much of a con his trip to Kraków. Whilst he is alleged to have inked a deal in the Middle East, once the truth was established about his fraudulent past, the contract was hastily terminated.
“But what about his videos?” You may ask. “Surely he must have some talent…”
Yes, he does have talent. But unfortunately his talent is better put to use in front of a computer screen than on a football pitch. With the ability to upload a few photos of himself strategically around the internet, create fake profiles and Wikipedia pages, and most notably take video of a player from the Serbian league and pass it off as himself, Oproiescu was comfortably able to pass himself off as a pro.
Given the information provided, you would expect the Romanian to be out of the door at the first possible opportunity. But whether the coaching staff actually saw something in Oproiescu, or they wanted to avoid making a humiliating situation even worse, the player was kept in the group ahead of Wisła’s warm-up game against Ekstraklasa newcomers Zawisza Bydgoszcz.
“Do you know that we have a staffing situation?” former national team boss Smuda told the press. “I need to find someone. I’ll test anyone recommended to me… When I coached in Turkey [Konyaspor, 1992], I was offered Davor Suker. I did not want him, and I soon regretted it.
“I’ve heard about it all [Oproiescu’s fraudulent activites]. But he is a football player, not a bricklayer or baker” Smuda went on to argue, seemingly making excuses rather than admitting that he and his staff had been fooled.
However if there was any hope of Oproiescu turning out to be a hidden gem, that was extinguished as he took to the field as a second half substitute against Zawisza. Entering the field of play in the 50th minute replacing Michał Chrapek, Oproiescu’s introduction came minutes before Wisła striker Rafał Boguski levelled the score at one-apiece – although the Romanian was not involved in the build-up. In fact, he wasn’t involved in the game at all!
His unorthodox running style (described as “weird” by the unofficial Wisła Kraków site covering the game), and his erratic tacking (a late challenge almost breaking the leg of an opponent) were his only real involvements in the game. He was of course hampered by the fact that his team-mates clearly were trying not to pass him the ball – Wisła probably would have even been better off with just ten players on the pitch. In fact, it is a struggle to think of more than a single occasion where he actually even touched the ball. Despite that, numerous Wisła fans still were able to half-joke that he was better than some of the players who turned out for the club during last season’s autumn round.
Following the conclusion of the game, it was unsurprising to see Smuda declare that Oproiescu was no longer needed, and that his trial would come to an end after just five days. But with just under three weeks until the season gets underway, Smuda doesn’t have long to expand his squad, which currently includes just nineteen players – one of the smallest in the Ekstraklasa.
As for Oproiescu, it is difficult to see another opportunity to pull a similar stunt again. With the media attention that his trip to Poland has generated, it will be almost impossible for him to take advantage of another club. But the fact remains that the Romanian student still managed to pull on the shirt of one of the country’s oldest and most successful clubs – even if it was just for a short, unsuccessful period. And that is something more than many of us will ever achieve.