By Daniel Nanu
In 1977, Romania was devastated by an earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale. More than 11,000 people were injured. Of the approximately 1,578 deaths, 1,424 occurred in Bucharest.
Former Romania international Mircea Lucescu was 32 years old at the time and playing for Dinamo Bucuresti. However, the winger's wife Nelly no longer felt safe in the capital city. She understandably feared for the safety of her 8-year-old son Razvan.
Consequently, the Lucescu family moved to Hunedoara – a very small town in the western part of Romania where Mircea took a job as a player-coach of Cornivul Hunedoara, a second-tier club.
“It was very rare at that time in Romania – to become a coach when you were so young,” Razvan tells Goal. “But my father was given the job halfway through the season when the club was already in a very difficult situation and, unfortunately, he could not save the team from relegation."
Relegation was the least of Mircea's worries, though.
At the last game of the season, irate Cornivul fans gathered outside the stadium to express their dissatisfaction with their team's performances.
“Police cars blocked the exits, where several thousand people were protesting against the players," Razvan recalls. "And an army car approached my dad to take him away. Remember: we were living in a country under a dictator president!”
Nicolae Ceausescu served as Romania's head of state from 1967 until his execution in 1989. The Communist leader controlled every aspect of society, including football. As a result, strange things often happened. Sides were suddenly promoted or demoted without any explanation. Therefore, players and coaches found themselves living in a constant state of uncertainty – and fear.
However, Mircea refused to get into that army car. “He walked toward to the crowd outside of the stadium,” says Razvan. "People started to shout my father’s name and asked him to stay and coach the team.”
Eventually, due to the resistance of the fans, the army officers backed down and Mircea was allowed to walk free and continue in his job. Over the next two seasons, he would lead Cornivul back into the top flight via back-to-back promotions. Within a couple of seasons, he had them playing in the UEFA Cup.
“Immediately after this success," Razvan explains, "my father was appointed as Romania national team coach and he succeeded in qualifying for Euro 84, after a historic victory over World Cup winners Italy, who were full of stars like Dino Zoff, Paolo Rossi, Claudio Gentile, Bruno Conti, Gaetano Scirea and Giancarlo Antognoni."
Seeing the joy his father brought to a people suffering under Ceausescu's ruthless dictatorship, Razvan couldn't help but be struck by the power of football and truly effective leadership.
“When he was asked by some of my friends what he wanted to be when he grew up, he used to say a footballer and the president of the country," Mircea tells Goal.
“Then, my friends would ask why. Razvan would say 'Because I want to hear the national anthem played especially for me!' It was a reflection of the passion he had for both football and becoming a leader.
“I used to take him with me to the games and training sessions of the teams I coached. Later on, when he became a goalkeeper in Liga I, the top tier in Romania, I realised he had the qualities required to become a good coach because of the ways in which he was thinking about match tactics.
“After he announced his retirement as a football player, he became vice-president at Rapid Bucharest and they won the league title. He had very good relations with players. He asked me whether he should become a coach or not. I gave him some advice and encouraged him to go for it. But the decision was his entirely.
"Winning the Asian Champions League last year and participating in the FIFA Club World Cup Championship proved that he took the right decision!”
As Mircea is keen to stress, his son's decision to take over Al Hilal in June was a bold one. After all, Razvan had just led PAOK Salonika to their first Greek title in 34 years – and done so undefeated with a record-breaking points haul.
However, he had inherited his father's love of adventure. Mircea certainly never shied away from a challenge during his own peripatetic coaching career.
“After five years with Romania, I went to Pisa and then to Brescia. I didn't start working for big teams like other coaches. So, it wasn't easy to prove that I was a good coach every time," the 74-year-old admits.
Indeed, Mircea had plenty of ups and downs during his time working in Italy, twice earning promotion to Serie A with Brescia, but also suffering relegation with three different clubs.
However, his obvious tactical prowess convinced former Inter president Massimo Moratti to bring him to San Siro in November 1998 as a replacement for Gigi Simoni. Mircea's stay at San Siro would be a short one, with the Romanian stepping down the following March after it emerged that Marcello Lippi had been lined up to take over at the end of the season.
Results had also been poor, partly due to the beginning of Ronaldo's chronic fitness problems, but Moratti admitted that Mircea's Inter had played some of the finest football of his reign.
As it was, though, Mircea would only truly prove himself one of the greatest tactical minds of his generation after parting company with the Nerazzurri in 1999.
The following year, he led Galatasaray to a famous UEFA Super Cup win over reigning European champions Real Madrid before later constructing arguably the finest side Ukraine has ever produced. While in charge of Shakhtar Donetsk, Mircea claimed eight league titles and also the 2008-09 UEFA Cup.
Having stood down as Turkey boss last year, Mircea insists that he is now done with his coaching, revealing that he is now driven by the joy of watching his son lift trophies.
“I was in Thessaloniki when Razvan won his first Greek championship with PAOK and then a second Greek Cup. Now, I watch the games of Al Hilal on the internet.
"I honestly think the emotions I feel now while watching Razvan's teams are stronger than those I experienced myself.
“I see Razvan’s evolution as a coach as an extension of my career.”
And the beautiful thing is that there are still more chapters to be written in the story of a true football dynasty...