Last night, at 10 pm, Prof. Ion V. Ionescu, the legendary soccer coach, has gone to the Lord. He turned 88 on May 2.

The funeral will take place on Wednesday at 3 p.m. at the cemetery in Calea Șagului.

God rest your soul, Professor.


Ion V. Ionescu was born on May 2, 1936, in Rudna (Timis County) (“V.”, to be distinguished from Ion Ionescu, the former striker of Rapid, champion in ’67).

He played soccer, without playing in the first division. He started with the children of Poli, when he was only 9 years old, in 1945, the year of the end of the Second World War. He stayed at Poli for a decade, going through all the stages of the youth center, playing right midfielder in the WM system, and even catching a game for the senior team in a friendly against Flamura Rosie UTA in 1954, when he scored the legendary Petschowski! As it was difficult for him to make his mark in the talented team that the Timisoara students had at the time, in 1955 he left for Progresul Sibiu, playing for two clubs in the capital, Știința (later Sportul Studențesc) and Victoria (no connection with the group of the same name in the 1980s). At the age of 24, in 1960, he retired due to injury.

As he had just graduated from the National Academy of Physical Education, specializing in Football, in Bucharest, he returned to Timisoara and became a coach. At Știința, the then name of Poli. Direct assistant to the seniors, in D1, with Eugen Mladin in charge! Only 24 years old! At the same time, he was also appointed assistant at the Faculty of Physical Education in Timișoara, specializing in Football, where he would work, with some interruptions, until 2006, when he retired with the title of university professor.

In 1961 he moved to the children’s and juniors’ center of Științei, and for short periods he was, in parallel and for the first time, also head coach of the senior team in Variaș and of Gloria Timișoara in the lower echelons. In 1964 he returned as assistant coach at Știința, and in 1966 he made his debut as head coach at Poli (the old name had reverted). He was only 30 years old, and the former great player Nicolae Reuter was his assistant. After 11 rounds, Ionescu became second assistant, and at the end of the season the team was relegated to B.

In 1967 he left Poli, playing for Progresul and CFR. He then became second assistant to the famous Nicolae Dumitrescu III in the senior team at UTA, at that time still a great team. That season, 1971/72, “Bătrâna Doamna” came second in Division A and qualified for the quarter-finals of the first edition of the C3, which was called the UEFA Cup.

In 1972 he returned to Poli, as head coach of the big team. He was 36 years old. Five years earlier, the Alb-violets had fallen out of the elite and had never managed to get promoted. They will succeed now, in the very first year of B with I. V. Ionescu in charge, after a famous 1-0 against FC Bihor, a match in which the great stadium of Timișoara was full. That was the beginning of the “Jackie legend”. After another season, in 1974, he reached the final of the Romanian Cup, but lost to Jiului. That same year he was a second team player for the Romanian student national team, which won the World University Championship in France. The following year he left Poli, after having built a team that would become emblematic for the history of football in Timișoara.

He stayed in the west, with Jiul Petroșani, CFR Timișoara, UTA, FCM Reșița. He coached for almost the entire season of sad memory that will lead, in 1979, to the first relegation to B in the history of UTA. He was replaced after the 30th round, at a time when the reds were in 12th place out of 18.

He returned to Poli in 1979 and a second peak period followed. He won the Romanian Cup that very season, after the final against Steaua. Then came the participation in the Cup Cup Cup and Celtic were eliminated. The following year they qualify for the Romanian Cup final again. He leaves Poli, but will return in 1982. He leaves again, after a short time, the team being relegated at the end of that season, which “Jackie” did not finish on the bench.

He coached Corvinul, at a time when the Hunedorenes were preserving some of the strength Mircea Lucescu had given them. In that season, 1985/86, Corvin’s famous “norm” of three goals per home game was imposed. In 1986 he returned to Poli, who had just fallen out of Serie A, and re-promoted them.

This was followed by the famous victory over Dinamo on November 8, 1987.

In 1989, the very year that would bring about the Revolution, he had his first experience as a coach outside the Carpathian region. Right in the capital, at Sportul Studențesc, which was no longer the fantastic team of Gheorghe Hagi and… Nicu Ceaușescu. He returns to Corvinul, but leaves after a monstrous scandal, refusing to concede the match against Universitatea Craiova. He returns again to Poli. He manages a 5th place in Divizia A, equal on points with the 3rd place, and qualifies the team again for the Romanian Cup final, losing on penalties to Stele. They take part in the UEFA Cup, where they face the biggest name in world inter-club football, Real Madrid: 1-1 in Timișoara, 0-4 at the Santiago Bernabeu. In practice, this will be the last performance in the club’s history.

So he has had no less than… six terms at the helm of Poli. And he’s the most successful coach in the history of the club!

In 2002 he was the coach of the UPT sponsored team CSU Politehnica. This club would merge that year with AEK Bucharest, giving birth to Politehnica AEK, where he would later be a member of the club’s board.

CSU Politehnica, division C, was the last team coached. Significantly, the team used to play on the Știința field in the courtyard of the Faculty of Mechanics, where 57 years ago, in the distant 1945, the Politek children had started their activity.

“As my entire career shows, my professional credo has been to play soccer, to profess, regardless of the level of competition. I basically coached at all competitive levels,” he told us several years ago.

He launched players such as Păltinișanu, Jivan, M. Giuchici, Coraș, Duckadam, Iosif Rotariu, Stoicov, S. Vlaicu, Hanganu, C. Liță and Luțu. But the list is much longer: around (according to his statistics) 150 players promoted to Divizia A!!!

Analytical, firm and demanding spirit with a sharp sense of humor. Around him, nothing can remain mediocre. Specialist in the discovery of players and the theorization of football. He is one of the greatest experts Romania has ever had in terms of football methodology and tactics. And he is a great opponent of military-ministerial football.

Author of numerous books on football (both specialized and essays), professor at faculties of physical education and sport, columnist for various publications, permanent guest on television and radio programs, a man of great charisma, intellectual breadth and cultural breath, “Jackie” has long since become “The Professor”.

“And the Flags will be raised, and the Anthems will be sung, at the 17th World Cup in Korea and Japan. And the bearded men of globalization, there in the coolness of their bunkers in the great deep, will turn down the International a little, turn on the TVs and see Zidane, Beckham, Okocha, Solari, Hierro, Inzaghi or Figo murmuring the sacred music of their country with their hand to their heart! Each one of them. Because the 2002 World Cup will be first and foremost a competition of nations and states! And Jaques Chirac, if France wins, and Juan Carlos, if Spain wins, will rejoice and dance for joy! Perhaps even Queen Elizabeth if England wins! Because that’s football, that’s life. Since the World and the Earth: each to his Mother!”. Words written by I. V. Ionescu, a consummate patriot, in the special magazine “Mondial 2002”, published by “King Football”.

The greatest sports journalist Romania has ever had, Ioan Chirilă, wrote about Ion V. Ionescu: “Jackie could never breathe away from Poli… He was like a fish, and Timisoara was his water”.

Excerpt from the book “Politehnica Timișoara – Football and Handball”, by Octavian Stăncioiu and Viorel Jurcuț, published by Politehnica Publishing House, on December 4, 2021, on the occasion of the Centenary of the Politehnica Timișoara Sports Society