She played football until the age of 39. She was Romania's first great player. She played both under the dictatorship and in democracy, being one of the pioneers of women's football in Romania. She is still the only woman who graduated from the Coaching School of the Romanian Football Federation. She won many championships, led the first Romanian team in the women's Champions League, was the coach of the Romanian women's national football team for many years and played in Turkey after 1990.
She says that the qualification of women's national football team for the final tournament of EURO 2017 in the Netherlands, for the first time in history, would be a major achievement, crowning the efforts made over almost half a century!
Maria Delicoiu, or Mica, as friends and family call her, is a lady. A lady of Romanian football.

"I never liked being a substitute"

- What did football mean to you?
- Football was the best thing that could happen to me in life! Due to it, I've seen places that I couldn't have seen otherwise, I met people and it brought me huge satisfaction. It gave me everything I told you about.

- What was the hardest period?
- After 1989, when I was already old and the amount of work was double. That was because I need to keep up with the younger girls and I never liked being a substitute. I wanted to be there, in the field. I led a sporting life. This is why I never sustained any serious injury. I would end the game with a lot of bruises, but never with anything more than a sprain. No meniscus or ligament problems!

"A lot of people were into sports back in the day"

- You played for Romania's national team from the very beginning!
- That's true. I played the first matches in the history of the national team, in the late '70s. I still remember how many people would come to see us playing on "Republicii" Stadium. I wore the jersey of the national team in 66 matches, if I remember well. And I only counted the major ones!

- What was football like before 1989?
- The selection pool was very large. People would do sports in school, in the streets or in front of their apartment buildings. Almost every factory had a women's football team. There were a lot of teams in Bucharest. As a matter of fact, we would hardly play anywhere else.

"I trust the girls"

- How has women's football evolved?
- The selection pool is smaller nowadays. Girls have other interests and people are not that much into sports in Romania. There are a few teams that really play high-level football, but the rest of them... Considering this, the current players deserve even more respect. It's not easy and the sacrifices are huge.

- What would the qualification for the EURO mean?
- It would be the first qualification of our national team for a final tournament. It would be a major achievement for the girls. And it would be a great satisfaction for me and my generation, the crowning of almost five decades of work for women's football in Romania. I will be very happy if we go to the EURO.

The only female graduate of the Coaching School

- You know the girls very well.
- As I've already said, the girls made sacrifices to get here. I was their coach. Florentina Olar has grown from the age of 15 with us, the older ones. I am happy that she is where she is. I've heard she even started coaching!

- You are still the only woman who graduated from the Coaching School.
- I could have even taken my PRO license, but I thought that nobody would need a woman with such qualification!

"I had a special relationship with football. And I never betrayed football. I worked a lot and I made sacrifices. But, I don't regret anything."

"I know that the girls have trained and worked a lot. Both those who play for Olimpia Cluj and the ones playing abroad join the national team with great determination. I trust the girls, although it will be very hard."