The Finnish League Cup is a pre-season tournament played largely indoors between February and April. The Veikkausliiga clubs are divided into two groups, this year one was roughly south eastern, the other roughly north western. The games are played indoors on full size pitches, often with a decent crowd. Pirkkahalli in Tampere is a good facility with several halls, and Botniahalli in Vaasa is a very impressive place. It has a running track and an outdoor pitch, as well as seating for spectators.

England has nothing like these facilities, despite the terrible condition of most British pitches in January and February. Sunday Leagues are bedevilled by the Sunday morning ring-round, when you find out that you won’t be playing again this week. Then in April you start playing 3 games a week to catch up. What indoor facilities there are belong to the professional clubs, and women, young players and kids teams don’t get a look in. This may have something to do with our extraordinary obesity problem.

The teams are organised into two groups and then go into the knockout phase. Tampere United were impressive in both games I saw, beating TPS 4-0 and controlling the game up at Vaasa despite lacking several key players. However, the tournament has little credibility and doesn’t even offer a European place, unlike its English equivalent. I now know that Jarkko Wiss can catch the ball after it hits the ceiling, but there was little of use in gauging Veikkausliiga strength.

Last years winners were KuPs, who were relegated. The year before it was Allianssi, who went bankrupt. So winning the League Cup is something of a poisoned chalice, and the final contested last night by FC Lahti and Inter Turku reflected the ambiguity of the honour. It finished 0-0 and Lahti won on penalties. On this basis I predict them to be relegated this year.

Anyway, I didn’t watch it. I did a bit of Friday night manwhoring instead. I went to the pub, found a punter (championship football this time, but I’m not picky) and had my wicked way.

The players on display included internationals from Jamaica, Scotland, Northern Ireland, USA, Denmark, Ireland, Hungary, Slovenia and Senegal. This was all in the second tier of English football, and freely available throughout the world-I know of Wednesday fans who watched it in New Zealand, Italy, Romania, Pakistan and Australia.

Now how can Veikkausliiga compete with that? Most obviously by avoiding the competition, and playing in the summer. But still, the first month and closing three months are overshadowed for many Finns by the action they can watch from the rest of Europe. If you make direct comparisons, it’s extremely unflattering to Finland, but I don’t think direct comparisons are particularly useful.

In the next few weeks I’ll be following Wednesday and hoping they keep up their incredible run, but nothing beats a day at the football. So next week it’s a trip to Vaasa and VPS-Tampere United, with text updates on Wednesday-Birmingham. I wish more Finns would enjoy the real lived football experience, as well as the televisual one.


10 Responses

  1. “Tampere United were impressive in both games I saw, beating Inter Turku 4-0”

    Actually it was the worse of the two Turku-based teams that lost 4-0 to TamU. TamU – Inter result: 1-1.

  2. So it was. Beer and wednesday victories make my head fuzzy, humblest apologies.

  3. Very interesting. In putting together this Finnish footy map I’ve designating the Liigacup winner, and I too had noticed that last year’s winner, KuPS, was relegated. Then again, making domestic cup finals doesn’t necessarily have to be an indicator of quality. Just look at Watford in the FA Cup semifinal and Millwall making the final a few seasons ago.

    I would be intrigued to see one of these indoor matches. My wife has family in Jyväskylä and I’ve been nagging her for years to get over to Finland. Maybe I could drag her to a match or two.

  4. Well if you do head on over, do get in touch. I wouldn’t recommend the indoor stuff, it’s not really football, and a bad representation of the Finnish game. Basically just something to warm the players up because they can’t afford to spend three months in La Manga.

    JJK just got promoted to Ykkönen, and who knows, may even go up again like Mariehamn did. Jyväskylä could do with a decent sporting entity-I sometimes follow their hockey team as I have a mate from there, and they are crap. And central Finland could do with a Veikkausliiga team, since KuPs went down the geographical spread of Veikkausliiga has become narrower.

  5. I will do.

    Once this map is up I would appreciate it if you could take a look and let me know if you see any glaring errors. Thanks to Google and my rudimentary knowledge of Finnish football terms, I’ve managed to figure most of it out (I think), but there are probably still a few details I got wrong. It will document Veikkausliiga through Kakkonen. We usually try to include the entire country in the map, but the sheer scale of Finland didn’t make that possible, so we cut it off above Rovaniemi. Surely there aren’t any clubs of substance further North than that?

    In any case, it should be up within the next week or so.

  6. The map’s fine:

    Thought I’d better check as the acronomised versions of Finnish club names don’t offer much to indicate location.

  7. Ah, thank you! That’s what I suspected.

  8. Hello Egan!
    provided that Ryanair come to their senses and allow us to travel from England to Tampere I’m looking forward to the live Finnish Football ERxperience in May. Two matches in a day will be good too! tele footy just isn’t the same!
    things don’t look good for Chesterfield with just four goals in 11 games we need to win 2 of the last 3 against northampton, Bradford City or Oldham! If not, it’s Dagenham here we come!

  9. Looks bad indeed for Chesterfield. Hope they make it clear somehow…

    Every time I fly Ryanair I vow it’s the last, but their routes and prices make it the most convenient option. There’s no other easy way to get from Tampere to the north of England. As I’m sure you’re finding out.

    It was twenty degrees today and I saw people swimming in the lake-I hope you get the decent weather when you’re here(crap airlines permitting…)

  10. Matt, further north than Rovaniemi there’s at least PS Kemi Kings that plays in Kakkonen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: