The fall of Ceausescu

On the 11th May 1989, England Under 21s played its first ever fixture against Romania as a warm-up match prior to England’s full international against the national team and Mr Back scored a hat-trick. We travelled with the England Team to Romania and were given the same privileges as them. We stayed in the beautiful surroundings of Richmond upon Thames the night before we flew from Heathrow to Romania. This was the first time that I had visited a communist country and there could not have been more of a contrast between waking up in the Richmond Gate Hotel and arriving later in the day in Bucharest, the capital of Romania.

We were given a briefing the night before we left by Chris Thau, a Romanian who was a writer for The Times and Rugby World. I thought that this was going to be a very odd place to play rugby. It was more like entering a war zone than going on a rugby tour. Chris had detailed knowledge about what was happening in his country, but, because of his passion for rugby and the desperate need for us to visit Romania, he did not tell us the whole truth about the atrocities that were taking place in one of the most brutal communist regimes in Europe. If he had given us the full picture then I am sure that the rugby football union would not have let us travel there. In modern day terms it would be like an international side visiting Zimbabwe.


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