Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Romanian soccer star Popescu denies being a secret police informant

By Alison Mutler – 11 hours ago

BUCHAREST, Romania — Gheorghe (Gica) Popescu, one of Romania's best-known sportsmen, denied newspaper claims Monday that he was an informer for the country's secret police during the 1980s.

The defender was part of a Romania side that qualified for three consecutive World Cups starting in 1990 and two European Championships. He also captained Barcelona to win the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1997 by defeating Paris Saint-Germain 1-0.

The 41-year-old Popescu said he once signed a document promising to "defend the national interests" during the regime of the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

"I signed a very general thing. My conscience isn't clear, it's very clear," he said at a news conference. "I didn't inform on anyone."

During Ceausescu's rule, the regime's security services kept tabs on Romania's athletes, and some players involved in international competitions were reportedly asked to share details of their conversations with foreigners.

Daily newspaper Adevarul reported that Popescu had been an informant from 1986 until the regime was toppled three years later.

Popescu called the report "a big lie," adding he was "very upset" and denied informing on anyone.

Popescu's 18-year playing career also included stints with Tottenham, Galatasaray and PSV Eindhoven. He played for Romania 115 times, scoring 16 goals.

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