Ilie Balaci

Last updated
Ilie Balaci
Ilie Balaci echipa nationala.jpg
Personal information
Date of birth(1956-09-13)13 September 1956
Place of birth Bistreț, Romania
Date of death 21 October 2018(2018-10-21) (aged 62)
Place of death Craiova, Romania
Height 1.71 m (5 ft 7 in)
Position(s) Midfielder
Youth career
1965–1973 Universitatea Craiova
Senior career*
1973–1984 Universitatea Craiova 285 (76)
1985–1986 Olt Scornicești 30 (7)
1986–1988 Dinamo București 32 (1)
1988–1989 Pandurii Târgu Jiu 7 (0)
1989–1990 Drobeta Turnu-Severin 10 (5)
International career
1974–1986 Romania 65 (8)
Managerial career
1988–1989 Pandurii Târgu Jiu
1989–1991 Drobeta Turnu-Severin
1991–1992 Club Africain
1992–1994 Olympique Casablanca
1994–1996 Al-Shabab
1996–1997 Al-Nassr
1997–1998 Al-Hilal
1998 FC U Craiova
1998–2000 Al-Ain
2000–2001 Al-Hilal
2001 FC U Craiova
2001–2002 Al-Sadd
2002–2003 Al-Hilal
2003–2005 Al-Ahli
2005–2006 Al-Arabi
2006 Al-Shabab
2007–2009 FC U Craiova (general manager)
2009–2010 Kazma
2011 Raja Casablanca
2013 Al-Nahda
2016 Al-Hilal Omdurman
2017–2018 Al-Suwaiq
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

Ilie Balaci (Romanian pronunciation:  [iˈli.e ˈbalatʃʲ] ; 13 September 1956 – 21 October 2018) was a Romanian football midfielder and manager.


He spent 12 of his 15 years as a professional with Universitatea Craiova, appearing in more than 300 official games with the club and winning seven major titles. Nicknamed Minunea blondă ("the Blonde Wonder"), Balaci is considered one of the greatest Romanian footballers of all time. [1] [2]

Club career

Ilie Balaci, nicknamed Minunea blondă ("the Blonde Wonder"), was a product of Universitatea Craiova's youth system, where he started to play football at age 9. [3] [4] [5] He made his Divizia A debut on 12 August 1973, when Universitatea's coach Constantin Cernăianu used him as a starter in a 1–1 against Jiul Petroșani at the age of 16, and he managed to win the league title in his first season in which he contributed with 3 goals scored in 27 appearances. [3] [4] [5] [6] Balaci went on to play twelve seasons with Universitatea Craiova, being part of the "Craiova Maxima" generation, helping them win two consecutive league titles in 1980 and 1981, at the first he contributed with 29 appearances and 6 goals and at the second with 29 appearances and 12 goals. [3] [4] [5] He also won the Cupa României four times, in the years 1977 in which he opened the score in the final which ended 2–1 against Steaua București, 1978, 1981 in which he scored the first two goals in the 6–0 final against Politehnica Timișoara and 1983. [3] [7] [8] Ilie Balaci played 35 games and scored 7 goals for "U" Craiova in European competitions, being an integral part of the team that reached the 1982–83 UEFA Cup semi-finals, appearing in 7 matches in the campaign, scoring 3 goals against Shamrock Rovers, Fiorentina and one from a free kick in the second leg of the semi-final against Benfica, as the team got eliminated after 1–1 on aggregate on the away goal rule. [3] [4] [5] [9] [10] In December 1982, he signed a pre-contract with Italian side AC Milan, but the transfer did not materialize because Romania's communist regime did not allow it. [5] [11] On 21 February 1984 in a FC Baia Mare"U" Craiova Divizia A match, Baia Mare's defender Grigore Arezanov gave a hard tackle with both feet on Balaci's leg which caused him an injury from which he never completely recovered. [4] [5] [12]

Balaci (right) with Nicolae Dobrin in 1988 Nicolae Dobrin and Ilie Balaci.JPG
Balaci (right) with Nicolae Dobrin in 1988

In the middle of the 1984–85 season, Balaci transferred from Universitatea Craiova to Olt Scornicești and after one season and a half with 30 Divizia A appearances in which he scored 7 goals, he switched teams again going in the 1986–87 season at Dinamo București. [3] [13] [14] He spent two seasons at Dinamo, under the leadership of Mircea Lucescu, appearing in 32 Divizia A games in which he scored one goal, also making 3 appearances in European competitions. [3] [14] [15] However, Balaci did not win any major trophies whilst he was playing for Dinamo and he went as a player-coach for two years in the second league, after which he ended his playing career. [3] [16] [17] During his whole career, Balaci played 347 Divizia A matches in which he scored 84 goals and he was the Romanian Footballer of the Year in 1981 and 1982. [3] [5]

International career

Ilie Balaci has a total of 65 games and 8 goals scored at international level for Romania making his debut on 23 March 1974 at the age of 17 under coach Valentin Stănescu in a friendly against France which ended with a 1–0 loss. [18] [19] [20] He played three games at the Euro 1976 qualifiers and scored his first goal for the national team at age 20 in a friendly which ended with a 3–2 loss against Czechoslovakia. [18] He played one game at the 1973–76 Balkan Cup, five games in which he scored one goal at the 1977–80 Balkan Cup, three games at the 1978 World Cup qualifiers, two at the Euro 1980 qualifiers and seven games with one goal scored at the 1982 World Cup qualifiers. [18] He also became captain of the national team during the successful Euro 1984 qualifiers where he played six games, including a praised performance in Romania's 1–0 victory against World Cup holders, Italy in which he gave the assist to László Bölöni's goal, exposed his dribbling abilities and had a good performance against his direct opponent Claudio Gentile. [9] [18] [21] [22] [23] However coach Mircea Lucescu could not select him in the squad for the final tournament due to the injury he got in a Divizia A match from Grigore Arezanov. [18] [4] [5] [24] He played one game at the 1986 World Cup qualifiers and made his last appearance for the national team on 10 September 1986 in a 4–0 victory against Austria at the Euro 1988 qualifiers. [18]

For helping his country qualify at Euro 1984, Balaci was decorated by President of Romania Traian Băsescu on 25 March 2008 with the Ordinul "Meritul Sportiv" – (The Medal "The Sportive Merit") class III. [25] [26]

International goals

Scores and results list Romania's goal tally first, score column indicates score after each Balaci goal. [18]
List of international goals scored by Ilie Balaci
16 October 1976 Letenský Stadion, Prague, Czechoslovakia11Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czechoslovakia 1–02–3 Friendly
23 May 1978 Stadionul 23 August, Bucharest, Romania22Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria 2–02–0 1977–80 Balkan Cup
321 March 1979 Stadionul Steaua, Bucharest, Romania24Flag of Greece.svg  Greece 2–03–0 Friendly
49 September 1981 Stadionul 23 August, Bucharest, Romania39Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria 1–01–2 Friendly
510 October 1981 Stadionul 23 August, Bucharest, Romania41Flag of Switzerland (Pantone).svg  Switzerland 1–01–2 1982 World Cup qualifiers
61 September 1982 Stadionul 23 August, Bucharest, Romania51Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark 1–01–0 Friendly
79 March 1983 Stadionul 23 August, Târgu Mureș, Romania56Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey 1–03–1 Friendly
89 March 1983 Stadionul 23 August, Târgu Mureș, Romania56Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey 2–03–1 Friendly

Managerial career

After retiring as a footballer, Balaci went on to coach lower league sides Pandurii Târgu Jiu and Drobeta-Turnu Severin. [17] In 1991, he coached clubs in North Africa and the Arab world, he became one of the most successful managers there having won over 22 major trophies domestic and international. [27] [28] [29]

He took charge of Tunisia's Club Africain and Moroccan club Olympique Casablanca in the early 1990s guiding them to their first African Champions League, the league title and the Tunis Cup. He then managed UAE, Qatari and Saudi Arabian clubs Al Shabab, Al Nassr, Al-Hilal, Al Ain and Al Sadd winning the championship and domestic cup with each side. [30] [31] At the beginning of the 1998–99 Divizia A season, Balaci was put in charge of FC U Craiova but after a 1–0 loss against Oțelul Galați in the 7th round, he lost his temper and threw a pair of football shoes in referees Aron Huzu's head for which he received a one year suspension, after which he decided to resign. [17] In the second half of the 2000–01 Divizia A season, Balaci returned to FC U Craiova but his second spell lasted only a month. [17] In June 2003, he was appointed manager of Al Ahli until January 2005, where he won the UAE President's Cup. [32] He then went on to join Qatari side Al-Arabi in the 2005–06 season, before moving to the United Arab Emirates club Al Shabab for a second spell, but without success. [33] In August 2007, Balaci was hired as general manager of Universitatea Craiova whom he also coached in two periods, and remained there for two seasons. On 22 July 2009, Balaci was named head coach of Kuwait club Kazma. He had an impressive start with the Kuwaiti side at the 2010 AFC Cup. [34]

On 11 July 2011, he returned to Morocco signing for Raja Casablanca but was sacked following a financial dispute with the club in September after just two months. Raja appointed Bertrand Marchand as his replacement. [35]

On 4 June 2013, Balaci signed a contract with newly promoted Saudi Premier League side Al-Nahda saving the club from relegation. [36] In September 2013, he was sacked as coach due to a poor start to the season with only one point from the first four matches. [37]

In April 2016, he took over the head coach position at Omdurman-based club Al-Hilal. [38] Balaci was sacked in September 2016 after the team clinched the title with three games left to play. Balaci thought that the club's owners did not want the title win associated with his name. [39]

In July 2017, Balaci was unveiled as the new manager of Omani side Al-Suwaiq. Although the team was assured of top of the championship with 38 points from 15 games Balaci decided to terminate his contract in March 2018 with 12 games left on the season. [40]

Managerial overview

SeasonClub [17] [41] Titles
1988–89 Pandurii Târgu Jiu
1989–90 Drobeta Turnu-Severin
1990–91 Drobeta Turnu-Severin
1991–92 Club Africain CAF Champions League, Afro-Asian Club Championship, Tunisian League, Tunisia Cup
1992–93 Olympique Casablanca Arab Cup Winners' Cup, Moroccan Cup
1993–94 Olympique Casablanca Arab Cup Winners' Cup, Moroccan League
1994–95 Al Shabab UAE Pro-League
1995–96 Al Shabab UAE President's Cup
1996–97 Al Nasr Gulf Club Champions Cup
1997–98 Al Hilal Gulf Club Champions Cup, Saudi Premier League
1998–99 Universitatea Craiova
1998–99 Al Ain UAE President's Cup
1999–00 Al Ain UAE Pro-League
2000–01 Al Hilal Arab Cup Winners' Cup, Asian Super Cup
2000–01 Universitatea Craiova
2001–02 Al Sadd Arab Champions League, Emir of Qatar Cup
2002–03 Al Hilal Saudi Crown Prince Cup
2003–04 Al Ahli UAE President's Cup
2004–05 Al Ahli
2005–06 Al Arabi
2006–07 Al Shabab
2009–10 Kazma
2011–12 Raja Casablanca
2013–14 Al-Nahda
2016 Al-Hilal Omdurman Sudan Premier League
2017–18 Al-Suwaiq Club

Personal life

Balaci said that he was born on 8 September 1956 but his birth date was declared by his relatives to the People's Council only on 13 September 1956. [4] [42] He had two daughters; the older one Lorena was married to footballer Eugen Trică and is divorced since 2015, [43] and the younger one, Liana Ungur is a professional tennis player and she is married to Adrian Ungur. [44]


Balaci died on 21 October 2018, aged 62, while at home in Craiova with his mother. The cause of death was myocardial infarction. [45] [46]



Universitatea Craiova



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  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Cum a ratat marele Ilie Balaci transferul la AC Milan și modul în care a fost amenințat de Securitate" [How the great Ilie Balaci missed the transfer to AC Milan and how he was threatened by the Securitate] (in Romanian). 27 December 2020. Retrieved 28 June 2022.
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  10. "EXCLUSIV. Dezvăluiri explozive despre cum "i-a luat" naționala calificarea Craiovei Maxima în finala Cupei UEFA : "S-au făcut multe greșeli după România-Italia"" [EXCLUSIVE. Explosive revelations about how the national team "took away" Craiova Maxima's qualification for the UEFA Cup final: "Many mistakes were made after Romania-Italy"] (in Romanian). 20 April 2021. Retrieved 14 September 2022.
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  13. "Viaţa lui Ilie Balaci la FC Scorniceşti: "A fost o umilinţă pentru el, un fel de "ce-am fost eu pentru Craiova şi ce-am ajuns""" [Ilie Balaci's life at FC Scorniceşti: "It was a humiliation for him, a kind of «what I was for Craiova and what I became»"] (in Romanian). 22 October 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2022.
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  43. Eugen Trică, sprijinul Lorenei, la înmormântarea lui Ilie Balaci. Cei doi au divorţat de trei ani!,, 23 October 2018
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