Romania to give Culio citizenship after Roma goals

September 17, 2008

BUCHAREST, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Romania plans to naturalise Argentine forward Juan Culio after he stunned Roma with two goals that earned unheralded CFR Cluj a 2-1 win in their Champions League group match.

"Culio played brilliantly," Romanian Soccer Federation head Mircea Sandu told reporters on Wednesday. "I've asked (the soccer authorities) to start getting the necessary documents."

Minutes after Tuesday's Group A match in Rome's Olympic Stadium, Culio said he would be "happy to play for Romania".

"Of course, I'll accept if the national team's coach (Victor Piturca) needs me," Culio said.

Piturca told Reuters on Wednesday: "Several foreigners from CFR Cluj might enter into my sights if they get Romanian citizenship, Culio among them of course."

Sandu said the paperwork needed for Culio's citizenship might take too long for the player to be able to help Romania's World Cup campaign after they lost 3-0 at home in their opening qualifier against Lithuania.

Culio's double for Champions League newcomers Cluj earned him praise in the local media.

"Coolio!" said the Pro Sport daily paper in a front-page headline. "It was the greatest surprise ever produced by a debutant team in the Champions League."

In Cluj city centre, some 1,000 fans celebrated until the early hours after the unexpected win by a team which was playing in the third division five years ago.

CFR Cluj executive president Iuliu Muresan praised his foreign players, saying they had brought a winning mentality to the side.

Last season, Cluj had 23 foreign players in the squad and only six locals.

"CFR Cluj players showed great character after they managed to fight back and beat Roma in front of an unfriendly crowd, which ended up cheering them," Muresan told Reuters.

Culio, who worked as a bricklayer in Argentina to support his family for six years from the age of 13, played for Independiente Buenos Aires in 2005-2006. The 24-year old player came to Cluj from Deportes La Serena of Chile in 2007.