|FC Lahti||–||FC Viikingit||0||– 2|
Great performance from Tampere yesterday, making a mockery of my worries about their fragility. They got quite a battering in the first half as TPS are a big, strong, physical team, but they withstood the pressure. When Mikko Kaven saved a dubiously awarded penalty it seemed like TPS didn’t have much left after that, and Tampere showed why they are the champions.
The game was spoiled somewhat by a stupid red card on the hour mark. It looked like a 50-50 to me, and a possible yellow card, but instead the referee Tony Asuma showed a straight red. Great for Tampere United, the expanded space and holes in the TPS defence were well suited to their counter attacks, but it rather killed the match.
It was a big crowd, swelled by a fair few teams who are taking part in the Aura Cup, a youth tournament going on this week in Turku. But even allowing for that, 7,811 people in a proper football ground (even without the two end stands) makes for a good atmosphere and feels like a big match. I can’t help but point out that the same number of people at Ratina Stadium would be quite a miserable experience, leaving the stadium less than half full and the atmosphere flat. I don’t know who owns Veritas Stadium, but if it is Turku City Council they are doing a fine job and could teach Tampere a thing or two.
One of the Aura Cup teams present was the Hammarby 12 year olds. Football in these parts is a very egalitarian pursuit, and I have heard several Nordic youth coaches moan about the philosophy that says you always play for your local club, everyone plays for an equal amount of time, nobody is better than anyone else and so on. In Finland it’s called ‘kaikki pelaa’, ‘everyone plays’.
The Hammarby lads are an elite team, though. They had been selected as the best youngsters in the area and were hammering everyone out of sight at the Aura Cup. Their coaches were keen to play the big foreign clubs to see how good their boys really are, as there isn’t much to compete with locally.
They were sitting just to my right, and it was interesting on several levels to watch how they behaved. Firstly there was a Finnish girls team next to them, and throught the game there was some pre-adolescent flirting going on, getting more and more boisterous until the girls coaches decided enough was enough and took them back to their digs. Swedish footballers will surely have to deal with plenty of this kind of attention, and what better place to educate them than Finland?
After the game the Hammarby kids started shouting at the Tampere United fans, ‘United!’ and so on. Sinikaarti responded with ‘heja heja Hammarby’, and of course they knew to answer with ‘heja heja heja bajen’. One of the guys said that Tampere kids would have no idea how to support their team like that, and I agree.
The problem is that although they go to games and support Tampere United, they sit several kilometres away from the people who sing. Until Tampere get a smaller stadium, allow people to sit in the main stand for less than 15 euros, or start attracting 15,000 people to games, kids are never going to have the same affinity with the club as those that grow up going to Söderstadion. Simple as that.