I’ve been reading a bit about a Granny in Porvoo. Halide Latifi is a 71 year old Kosovo Albanian woman who is being threatened with deportation. I don’t really want to get into the subject of immigration in Finland, politics is covered much better here and here. But obviously the granny should stay.
So I thought I’d look at some other, footballing immigrants in Finland. Everyone knows about the French team’s multi-cultural nature, and in the Nordic countries there is a long lineage from Martin Dahlin through Henke Larsson to John Carew. Finland is in a different situation, as there are simply not enough immigrants to produce your Zlatans and your Kennedys. Something like Bakircioglü’s first club is definitely a Swedish phenomenon rather than a Finnish one-you couldn’t imagine an emigre community in Finland having such a worldwide impact as Assyriska, whose Allsvenskan games were watched by many in the Assyrian diaspora.
It occured to me that the only other two kosovar-finns I know, apart from Latifi, are both footballers. Perpatim Hetamaj is one, and of course the greatest Finn ever to play for Sheffield Wednesday was born in Kosovo. Hetamaj has done well since his move to AEK Athens, representing them in the Champions League. he faced scepticism from some quarters
when he was on the verge of the national team, with Jyrki Heliskoski saying he was ‘nothing extraordinary’ when he played for the Under 21s and HJK.
It seemed as though he was reacting to the idea that Hetemaj should be capped to prevent him opting for a different country, but surely that is just normal practice for any national association? Owen Hargreaves once had a bacon sandwich in Bolton(or something equally tenuous), and once the FA found out he was straight into the team to stop him playing for Canada, Germany or Wales.
In any case Hetemaj played for Finland B against Scotland and broke his leg, so he’ll have to wait for his full Finland debut. It’s possible he could still opt out of the Finnish national team, a prospect that no doubt gives Heliskoski palpitations.
Then there’s Shefki. I love Shefki. He’s absolutely indefatiguable, built like a brick ‘warehouse‘ and scored some great goals for Wednesday. Never the easy chances, he’d have to think too hard for them, but his tireless running created more than you’d think. Terry Yorath once memorably complained that we failed to score because Shefki’s head was ‘shaped like a television‘. He’s played 46 times for Finland, and scored 5 goals-a solid squad member.
Some of the New Finns are the offspring of sportspeople, like Tampere United’s new striker Tomi Petrescu. His dad came to Finland from Romania to play football, is now a football coach and Tomi has represented Finland in the junior age groups. He spent some time at Leicester City, but came back to Finland still young enough to progress. He’ll be hoping for a big season, having earned a move to the champions.
The other big example is of course Alexei Eremenko jr. Arriving in Finland with his Dad, Alexei Eremenko Sr, he has become a tabloid staple as well as an international. His indiscreet comments may lie behind the Finnish reluctance to cap players just to keep them for Finland. Saying that you ‘feel Russian’ is not the best way to endear yourself to Finns, especially when you have a new passport. It doesn’t help that he is an inadequate replacement for Jari Litmanen, so suffers from negative comparisons when he plays for the national team.
Still, there seems to be a trend towards greater diversity in the Finnish team, and that should have positive effects for everyone.