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'Racist, sexist' and an MP – meet Gigi Becali, the owner of Steaua Bucharest

Steaua Bucharest play Chelsea in the Europa League

Robin Scott-Elliot
Thursday 07 March 2013 00:00 GMT
Gigi Becali has called Lady Gaga ‘Satanic. I spit on the TV’
Gigi Becali has called Lady Gaga ‘Satanic. I spit on the TV’ (Getty Images)

He has been called misogynist, homophobic and racist. He sat in Brussels as a member of the European Parliament, is now a member of the Romanian parliament and has recently been handed a three-year suspended sentence for kidnapping. Meet Gigi Becali, owner of Steaua Bucharest.

He is one of Romania's richest men, acquiring his initial fortune in a land deal with the Romanian army shortly after the collapse of the Ceausescu regime. It is a deal that aroused suspicion, and little the 54-year-old former shepherd has done since has been without controversy.

Human rights groups have long accused Becali of widespread discrimination during his time in politics. Women, Roma, the gay community and other race groups have all allegedly been on the receiving end of Becali's extremist views. He has been fined by the country's football authorities and Romania's national anti-discrimination council, most recently for calling Baptists "satanic".

It is a description he also applied last year to Lady Gaga when the singer arrived in Bucharest to play a concert. "When she comes on the TV I switch channels and spit on the TV," he said. "When we see her we have to spit. Get back Satan."

His suspended sentence surrounded his treatment of three men who allegedly stole his car. Becali and four of his bodyguards were arrested after the men were threatened with guns and imprisoned in the boot of a car.

At Steaua he has overseen a brisk turnover in coaches, averaging nearly two a season since he took control of the club a decade ago. He once suggested one coach was dismissed for being "too Muslim". Even Gheorghe Hagi, Romania's greatest player, lasted less than four months as coach before he quit after numerous disagreements with Becali, including the owner insisting Hagi select players as directed by him.

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