Romanian football legend, tragic end: Did Dan Coe commit suicide or was he murdered, far from Romania, for speaking out?

Dan Coe was born on September 8, 1941, in Bucharest and was a Romanian footballer who was part of the Romanian national football team at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. He followed in his career his father, Duce Coe who, before the war, was a member of the Sportul Studențesc team, the team that achieved the first promotion to Division A in 1937, with Coloman Braun-Bogdan as coach.

“Dan Coe was an exceptional quarterback. Massive, robust, a mountain of a man. He had all the qualities he needed to be a complete footballer. But he was also a man you could always count on! Once, at the end of a championship, the FRF ordered a training camp, in which several Rapidi players were to take part. He was on holiday, we didn’t like it and decided not to attend. In the end, the only one who didn’t go was Dan Coe. When he said something, well, he did!” said Viorel Kraus, a striker for Rapid between 1961 and 1967, about Dan Coe.

He started playing football in 1951, when he was only ten years old, choosing to serve Giulești, to which he remained faithful all his life. In 1956, Dan Coe made his debut for Rapid București’s junior team and in 1960 for the youth team. The position he played was that of central defender (stoper). He made his debut in Division A on 18 March 1962, in the Minerul Lupeni-Rapid București match.

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Dan Coe denies a ball from Eusebio in a Romania v Portugal match in 1969.

In Division A, Dan Coe played 214 games and scored 12 goals. He played for 11 seasons with the railway team, captaining the team. He won the Romanian football championship with this team in 1967. With the Rapid București team, he played in the European Champions Cup in the 1967-1968 season and then in the Fair Cities Cup.

Dan Coe was a fierce critic of the political system in Ceausescu Romania. In 1980, Dan Coe was granted a travel request to Belgium. He arrived in this country, from where he crossed to Germany, settling in the city of Cologne, where he applied for political asylum. Although he was awarded the title of Master Emeritus of Sport by President Nicolae Ceausescu, this was no reason for the Romanian football legend to stop criticising the country’s political system.

Between 1971 and 1973, he played for two seasons in Belgium, with the Royal Antwerpen F.C. In 1973, he returned to Romania, but was rejected, at the gates of Giulești.

Dan Coe with Pele
Dan Coe with Pele

Dan Coe, noted since his youth for his complex ball control technique

His life was not easy. After moving away from home, from the idol of Giulesti, he became a simple worker, a dishwasher in a Romanian restaurant in Cologne. In autumn, on 8 September 1981, Dan Coe celebrated his 40th birthday. A few weeks later, he died.

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The death of the Romanian football legend still raises many questions today. Some say the footballer committed suicide, others say he was killed by the Securitate because he did not refrain from speaking freely. Dan Coe met a tragic end. On 19 October 1981, the manager of his apartment building found Dan Coe hanging outside the door of his Cologne flat. Doctors performed emergency surgery and resuscitated him directly, open-heart surgery.

“He didn’t strangle himself, those guys did, because he talked some other shit on the radio. I don’t think he was taking his days off, he loved life too much”, said Rică Răducanu about the death of his colleague.

Coe lived in Germany as a political refugee. German police did not investigate the case. The case was directly closed. This tragedy happened shortly after an interview Dan Coe gave to Radio Free Europe.

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