Steaua are by far and away the best supported club in Romania and also the most successful. They have 23 championships and 20 cups, both more than anyone else, and of course they have the golden star of the 1986 European Cup triumph. That success, when they became the first Eastern bloc country to lift the big prize, cannot be underestimated. They defeated a Barcelona side, desperate for their first European Cup, in Spain and added a minor European trophy when they saw off a famous Dynamo Kiev side, coached by the great Valeri Lobanovsky, in the Super Cup. Their European glory was no fluke though and they proved this with another appearance in the final in 1989 although on this occasion they were swept aside by a rampant AC Milan.
However, while we should definitely respect these achievements there is no reason to be overawed by them. Sigma Olomuc will not turn up at Pittodrie shaking in fear of Aberdeen because they won the Cup Winners Cup two generations ago and arguably Steaua's circumstances have changed even more since then than the Dons.
Steaua were originally formed as the army team and in their early years included the common Central Sports Club of the Army abbreviation which is still seen in cities such as Sofia and Moscow. This position naturally brought favours in a communist dictatorship although it can be argued to what extent. Certainly it seems unlikely that they boosted to the same extent as Erich Mielke's beloved Dynamo Berlin but it seems equally undeniable favours were done. Players did not always seem to have the right to choose if they wanted to play for Steaua and if they went voluntarily after being offered a way round military service that hardly seems a level playing field either.
A run of five consecutive titles ended with the revolution of 1989 as a number of players headed west but it only took a few years to regroup and another run of championships was put together in the mid-1990s. At this point the club began to feature in the Champions League but its European pedigree has never quite recovered to the level of the glory days, even if they did reach a UEFA Cup semi final in 2006. Presently Steaua, not aided by a maniacal owner, are going through a relatively dry spell and have not won anything for a few years. Nonetheless they remain one of the strongest sides in Romania, a country with a co-efficient much higher than Scotland, and they will be very confident of progressing to the group stage of the Europa League.