JJK – KuPS 4-0

Ykkönen’s top clash, what was supposed to be a tight Lake District derby, turned out an absolute hammering. The main purpose of my visit to the home region was a stag party on Saturday – which also turned out a hammering, yet of different sort – so my ability to perceive moving objects, such as footballers, and comprehend signals from surrounding environments was thus significantly undermined on Sunday, but that little I did comprehend was most enjoyable. KuPS’s usually solid defence, that had let only eight goals in twelve matches before today, was in trouble from kick-off till the final whistle and with better finishing JJK should have easily scored a few goals more. KuPS had a couple of decent chances, but only after the game was practically over.

Of JJK’s 27 goals of the season, Babatunde Wusu (12) and Tommi Kari (7) have scored nineteen, and not by accident – it’s an excellent attack duo. Wusu maybe isn’t your most reliable finisher, but he does have a talent of causing certain entropy within the penalty area. And as it happens, when he came from Lagos to Finland, in 2001, he didn’t come to play football but to do a voluntary exchange in Konnevesi, a hamlet between Jyväskylä and Kuopio. So he’s not only a good striker but, like most of his team mates, a man of the region too, and I really hope he’ll stay with JJK for long enough to help them getting promoted to Veikkausliiga.

The man of the match was Janne Järvinen, a midfielder who scored the first two goals. JJK’s playmaker, Matti Lähitie, deserves a special mention as well – also because as a JJK player he’s an example of rare synergy between sports and academia. Pori’s gift to Central Finnish football, he played for VPS last season and arrived in Jyväskylä when he started to study in the local university. The uni of Jyväskylä is the only one in Finland with a Faculty of Sport, and from time to time this factor has brought local clubs some players (and coaches) who probably wouldn’t have joined them otherwise. I’m only guessing, but it’d be interesting to check how many student players JJK, Jyp (ice hockey), BC Jyväskylä (basketball) and Kiri (Finnish baseball) actually have among their ranks.

It was a full house today: 3548 is the new record attendance of the Harju ground. The atmosphere was great, the audience was more active than in any TamU game – which without Sinikaarti would deceitfully remind of church services as regards noise – I’ve seen in Ratina and the away stand’s Banzai boys put good effort too. It’s sunny summer Sundays such as this that allow Finnish football matches sometimes to punch well above its qualitative weight as sport events. It makes a superb holiday pastime.

Myself I’ll expatriate to the UK in the end of August, and feel pity that I won’t have a chance to witness how Ykkönen’s promotion fight will turn out after the summer. It looks damn exciting now. The winner will gain a straight promotion and the runner-up will go to playoffs with the second last of Veikkausliiga. JJK are strong now but are a young team, based mostly on the fruits of their youth teams, and I’ve to admit that I’ll be surprised if they’ll manage to keep the same pace when the autumn comes.

And if the promotion will become reality, then I’ll be equally interested to observe how the organisation and the city administration will anwer to the challenge. The Harju stadium has a lovely location – being built on a hill that dominates the town’s scenery, surrounded by pine trees – but it doesn’t meet Veikkausliiga standards, no matter how compromised those tend to be in practice. To my (admittedly not deep) understanding there exists some long term plan either to improve it or to build a new ground next to the hockey stadium, but that’s indeed a long term plan. The city invested pretty heavily some ten years ago, accumulating well enough debt, and as the Finnish municipalities in general have more important matters to worry about than sponsoring new sport venues, their moment of reflection may last for quite a while. Jyp are playing in what is possibly the most out-of-date ice hall of the hockey league and the prospects of getting a better one in the near future aren’t exactly great either.

Nevertheless, now there’s a football boom in Jyväskylä and I hope JJK will make something good out of it. Central Finland has has never had a team in the highest league and a few years ago, when JJK were still struggling to make it to the upper half of Kakkonen (and being busy amusing the public with various, rather odd intraorganisational soap opera episodes – my favourite was the one between the then head coach and Sükrü Uzuner; Sükrü was complaining that the former tried to smoke him out of the team and didn’t even call back if he had attempted to reach him, on which the coach commented that his cellphone receives many phone calls and is so old that it only lists the ten last ones) it even seemed that if the region is to have a football club in Ykkönen it’d be Huima of Äänekoski. So considering the background, this summer has been a real Big Bang. Let’s see what autumn brings.

As a concluding reminder, I’d like to plug you to this site. A former JJK player, who quit football after lifting the Veikkausliiga trophy last year, is building a second career. You can listen his songs here.

PP-70 0 KPV 1

Big relegation six pointer, this one. KPV seem to have a bit of a hangover from last season’s epic cup run, and despite being neat and tidy and occasionally incisive, they find themselves down the bottom of the table. Just like RoPs they have a gaggle of African players, although in Kokkola they prefer Gambians to Zambians. They recently loaned Dawda Bah to HJK, and are left with the wonderfully names Demba Savage up front and Abdoulie Corr at the back.

Both are impressive. Savage with his pace, skill and awareness; and Corr for his good distribution and organisational skills. He’s a little bit small though, and in the second half PP70 came into the game a bit more using their, erm, physical presence. PP’s forwards are a bit on the hefty side.

Joining PP for the first time was Daniel Nwoke, who has found it tough to break into the TamU side since he signed in May. He didn’t look great in Ykkönen either, but I suppose it’s a long time since he’s played regular games. Jonne Hjelm also played, in midfield this time. He’s a little bit lightweight for that job, but he fought gamely and I’m sure it’ll be good for his development.

A word for the officials at this point. The number of offside decisions was quite ridiculous, given the brilliant passing KPV displayed in the first half. I’ve seen some awful decisions in my time, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that maybe 30% of the offsides were actually correct. It seemed like the guy just didn’t want to run, so he’d stop, yawn a bit, then raise his flag wherever he happened to be at that point. Very frustrating.

KPV did well to win, with Savage robbing the defender and crossing for the diminutive Petteri Forsell to slam the ball home. There was still time for drama, with Corr performing a miraculous goal-line clearance in the final minutes. A deserved win for the many KPV fans at Tammela today – it’s a long way to Kokkola. Good to see so many players from other clubs at the game, and I reckon the happiest was Henri Myynti who used to play for KPV. He was sitting with the KPV fans rather than the TamU players and their wags, and he celebrated good and proper when the winner went in.

I think Aapo will post something about his beloved JJK, the new leaders of Ykkonen. He went to the game today and I think he may have enjoyed it.

Veikkausliiga results:

FC Viikingit IFK Mariehamn 2 – 2
FC Inter FC Lahti 0 – 1
FC KooTeePee FF Jaro 2 – 1

And highlights. (this is the link for HJK-MyPa, but the other games will appear in the sidebar at some point tonight or tomorrow)

Congratulations to Juho Mäkela, the first Finn to score against Barcelona, and to Iraq, whose supporters were out in (relative) force in Tampere this evening.

Etiquette and practicalities in the early rounds of the Champions league

TamU did the job then, and will now play Levski Sofia next Tuesday. You can see highlights of the 2-0 win here. Well done to TamU for having special offers which nudged the crowd up to 5,600-odd. Haka beat Honka 2-0, highlights of which you can see here.

Now for a look at the practicalities of European football in the qualifying stages.This is the extended version of the programme notes from tonight’s game, reproduced with Tim’s permission:

It’s again that time of year. European football has descended on Tampere United!

Why do we bother to play domestic football? People answer that question in many different ways. Of course we all like to play and watch regular games week in week out; the excitement that goes with winning big games, being domestic champions is huge. But increasingly, for the more successful clubs, domestic leagues are just a means of getting to play in Europe. Every player, official and fan of most teams will dream of drawing a Liverpool or Real Madrid in Europe; of having a great run in a European cup.

We’ve been rather fortunate in our short history. Our game last week against SS Murata of San Marino represented our 25th UEFA tie in just 6 seasons. Not many people know, but Tampere United is already in the top 20 of all time club appearances for the UEFA Intertoto cup. We’ve almost started to take it for granted that we will be competing in Europe each summer. But there are many clubs around Europe who are larger in most respects than us, that rarely get the chance. Let’s make sure we savour the opportunity each and every time.

It is quite surprising that we have never played in a country twice in Europe (if you count Serbia and Montenegro as the two separate nations they are today). And by playing so many different teams with their different styles, we have learned how to play European football. Some of our older fans will remember well the disaster of our first UEFA appearances against Pyunik Yerevan of Armenia. A 6-0 aggregate loss, and lets be honest, we didn’t have a clue what we were doing. Since then, only FF Kalmar of Sweden has succeeded in beating us home and away (and that was pretty fortunate as well). It is a different ball game when you play in Europe, and these days we have no reason to fear opponents. Even the so called mighty Lazio couldn’t win in Tampere. Charleroi of Belgium thought they only had to turn up to win, and we have secured tremendous away wins in places like Croatia and Montenegro. Learning how to win in Europe takes time.

I heard a few comments in the last week along the lines of “not very good result, only winning 2-1 in San Marino”. It was not a bad result at all. Away wins are hard to get anywhere in Europe, especially in the Champions League qualifiers. We had the professionalism and experience to do what was needed, and SS Murata are no mugs. It was a satisfactory performance. I noticed that Drogheda of Ireland (who incidentally stayed in the same hotel as Tampere United) did not beat Libertas of San Marino two nights later, yet they beat HJK of Finland last season in the same competition. No UEFA win is easy.

The summer time is an exceptionally busy time at Tampere United. The league is in full swing and the UEFA games require an extraordinary amount of behind the scenes work. If you are successful, the games come every week. UEFA have finally regionalized the Intertoto cup, but in the Champions league qualifiers you can be traveling over very large distances. It’s not easy organizing trips to Baku or Belgrade with a few days notice! In practice, the people at the clubs who organize the games need to be considering 4 fixtures in parallel.

For away games, one of the first things to consider is entry visas. Not much of a problem for Western Europe, but even then, when you have non-European players, Daniel for example, we need to be careful to avoid a fiasco at the airport. And when we play in the Balkans or further east, where do you go for (e.g.) Armenian visas? Can you tell me where the nearest Armenian embassy is to Tampere? Apparently it’s a cash-only back-street alley in Tallinn. I know because I went there with 25 passports in my pocket back in 2002.

OK, so you got the visas. How are you going to get there? Basically there are two alternatives; private charter or scheduled flight. For the Manchester United’s of this world, there is no problem. Roll out the private jet. But for Tampere United, organizing the travel is far from easy. In the summer time, there are rarely 25 empty seats on planes with one or two weeks notice. And anyway, do the schedules meet the needs of professional athletes? We’re not a bunch of tourists; we need to consider the game and practice schedules and the tiredness factor of early starts, late arrivals and multiple transit stops. It is very exhausting to arrive in Azerbaijan having traveled for 24 hours by bus from Tampere to St Petersburg, flight to Moscow, flight to Baku. In Romania, it was bus to Helsinki, flight to Budapest, flight to Cluj and then a 7 hour bus ride to Pietra Niemt. And checking in to busy airports with all the team baggage tests the patience to the maximum, not to mention the worry about whether all the team kit will get transferred to connecting flights. You’ll look rather silly turning up to an away game with no boots or shirts! (This happened to one team visiting Tampere, but luckily their luggage arrived just in time on another flight).

So is the answer a charter flight? Well problem number one is that they are very expensive. You will pay over €50,000 for a longer away game. For Intertoto games, that’s pretty much your match fees gone just getting there! Having found a company willing to charter for you, the problems are not over. How many people will be carried, what baggage weight is allowed? This is important, because it determines how many fuel stops are required, and charter fuel stops need a lot of negotiating. When we went to Armenia, we needed two stops each way in deserted airfields in Belarus and the Ukraine. On the return journey, at 3am, we were denied a stop in Simferapol and were flying around the Black Sea looking for fuel like a taxi driver looking for an all night gas station! Eventually we landed in Odessa. Not all airports are very well geared up for charter flights. Again, in Armenia, it required patience, money and negotiating skills to get us back on our plane. Q: “where are your boarding passes” A: “it’s our own plane, we don’t need them”, or “it’s now 1am and our border guards go home at midnight. Please wait another hour while we wake them and call them back”. You get the picture?

So you’ve landed. Transportation can be a real headache in away games. We prefer to make reciprocal arrangements with our opponents, because they know the local companies better than we do, and vice versa. So far, we have had our team bus break down 4 times. In Romania the old bus provided for us conked out twice going and once on the way back. Marooned on the side of mountain roads with horses, carts and goats for company, is a fairly comical situation! Even last week in San Marino, the bus driver managed to run out of fuel as we were returning from training to the team hotel. And talking of hotels, so which one to stay at? They all look good in the brochures, but it takes many emails and phone calls to establish if they will be suitable. In 2003 we arrived at one destination at around midnight to be told “sorry, misunderstanding, no rooms available”. This was gamesmanship that needed firmly correcting. A traveling team needs a lot of rooms. The players have twin rooms, and officials’ single rooms. The kit manager, Timo Hakala, needs a larger room because he has all the kit to sort out and organize. Then the biggest headache to work out with the hotel management is the diet arrangements. I am afraid that local spicy curries or heavy starchy food is not ok! Players need meals that should be relatively high in carbohydrate, 55 – 70 % of total energy. They need approximately 1.5 times more energy than the others in the party, etc. And we often need to eat at times when the restaurant is not open. For example, as recently as last week, the kick off time was 9pm so it is after midnight before we need our dinner. Without negotiation and extra money, these things will not happen.

Practice facilities for the team need to be arranged. UEFA allow that visiting teams may use the match stadium 24 hours before kick off. We’ll need to be supplied with balls, colored bibs, cones to mark out a practice pitch, bottled still water, fruit, and so on. Again, this may sound obvious and easy, but you are reliant on the hosts. They often barely speak English, they never speak Finnish, and they are sometimes not that keen to help you; you’re the enemy. (It should also be said that many teams, including SS Murata, are exceptionally friendly and will do anything to make the stay a pleasant experience.)

Prior to any UEFA game, there are many non-playing matters that need attending too. One of these is the 10am UEFA meeting on game day. This meeting is mandatory and follows the same agenda whether it is Liverpool v Milan in the final or Grevenmacher v Tampere United in round 1 of Intertoto in Luxemborg. The facilities are examined, the goals are measured, security is discussed, and the kit sponsors are approved, and so on. I can recall a few classic moments in these meetings, but my favorite was in the Faroe Islands when Skala officials were asked by the UEFA delegate at what time they would be opening the stadium gates for fans? Answer: “We don’t have any gates”! Last season, FF Kalmar of Sweden managed to get them selves into trouble by forgetting to attend the meeting! We didn’t even know which Tampere hotel they were staying at. At 11am we tracked them down and I accompanied the delegate and an ad-hoc meeting took place in the hotel lobby. That was one pissed off UEFA official.

Another important event is the pre-game banquet. People either love or hate these formal occasions, but they serve a role in ensuring fair play and sportsmanship. Both clubs and the UEFA delegate are usually treated to a fantastic meal and the friendship can be made that will last a long time. I still keep in occasional touch with some officials of clubs we have played. These banquets need some arranging, protocol does not allow for a quick burger at MacDonald’s. Gifts are exchanged. Normally each club provides each other with a really nice memory such as silver plate or glass ware with inscriptions noting the occasion. But in addition, smaller tokens of gratitude are presented to all, and speeches are made. Inscribed silver plates do not grow on trees. In the big picture, this kind of attention to detail could easily be forgotten amongst all the other tasks that need arranging, but it would be a terrible insult to forget such things. Does everyone speak the same language at the banquet? Not normally. We’ve needed translators in various places in the past. I recall one amusing incident told to me by the Kalmar officials. We were chatting at a wonderful restaurant on the waterfront and their chairman told that the previous week they had brought the officials of Estonian club, FK Trans Narva, to the same place. The Swedish officials spoke either Swedish or English. The Trans Narva officials spoke either Estonian or Russian. The UEFA delegate was from Ireland if I recall right, and no translators had been arranged. The end result was a banquet where neither side said a single word to each other! These occasions are time consuming affairs, but normally well worth it. I’ve noticed over the years that the smaller the club, the friendlier they are. For the little fish in the pond, it is a great experience that rarely happens and is enjoyed to the full. For the bigger fish, it is a ritual that is performed so often that it has lost its feelings and is more of a nuisance than a pleasure. At Tampere United we pride ourselves on being a friendly little club that treats all opponents and their officials with total respect and courtesy.

The most important matter for UEFA football games is that Ari Hjelm gets our team properly prepared for winning the game! But this selection of background activities mentioned here are vital to that as well. The non playing matters like these banquets are important to the image of not only Tampere United, but also Finnish football. And then it needs to be remembered that our office staff have tremendous pressure to quickly organize all the match day stadium preparation and ticketing for all the home games, all done with very little prior notice. Then you multiply all the above out by four matches being arranged simultaneously at any one time, and it becomes clear just how much work is needed. Is it worth it? You bet it is.

All the best

Tim Rowe, Vice Chairman


I recently became a subscriber to a rather good Swedish publication called Offside. It has in depth articles on Swedish and world football, and I don’t think it really has an equivalent in English. I didn’t actually mean to be a subscriber, I filled in the form one night when drunk, but never paid the subs. Then last month my first copy came through the letter box and, feeling the creeping Nordic honesty that is slowly infecting my perfidious, Albionic outlook, I went to the bank and paid for a year’s supply.

It takes me a while to read in Swedish, so it’s good that there are only 7 issues a year. I just finished reading one article about Astrit Ajdarevic and I thought I’d share it with you, as it’s a good story and is at least tangentially related to Finland. I’ll come to that part later.

Ajdarevic is a Swedish 17 year old who helped Liverpool to win the FA Youth Cup last season. He is by all accounts quite a player – the front page header is ‘the next Zlatan’ – and has made an impression at the Liverpool Academy. He lives in the nice suburbs north of the city but would like to live a bit closer to town, as he is now ‘completely out in the bush’ (ie Formby). I can only assume he hasn’t spent much time in Bootle, Kensington, Anfield or Kirby outside the Academy fence. If he had, he’d be very happy with the horses he can see from his bedroom window.

His father is a Kosovo Albanian footballer called Agim, who came to Sweden on holiday in 1992 and stayed because a war broke out in Yugoslavia while he was away. He was playing for Subotica, a town that now has a substantial population of Serbian refugees and has always had a haughty, Catholic, Hungarian-speaking minority. He didn’t much fancy going back as he’d already felt discrimination while on trial at Partizan and Red Star because of his ethnic origin. If the country was at war, he reasoned this was pretty darn likely to get worse, and he wouldn’t mind staying in Sweden.

In Sweden he had trials with various clubs, and Örgryte wanted to sign him. Unfortunately his old team wanted an astronomical transfer fee and the deal fell through. He did odd jobs and played sunday league while waiting for his chance. After a while Falkenberg FF had beaten down the asking price and offered him a contract.

The family all moved to Falkenberg and Agim began banging in goals in the Swedish lower divisions. Having a father who played football for a living was obviously great for Astrit, who began training when he was four (playing with the six year olds and wiping the floor with them) and began his meteoric rise.

This is where his story gets interesting. You see, in Sweden they don’t believe in promoting people too quickly. At Falkenberg Astrit was the youngster, and when he began training with the senior team he had to pick up bibs and cones, carry water for the older guys and generally act the dogsbody. He was fine with this, he had to prove himself before he could be a player. But Astrit felt that he wasn’t getting a chance. He would come on in Superettan (Swedish second tier) games and dominate, but would still be on the bench for the next one.

This was frustrating for him, and eventually he and his father decided that they would have to do something about it. Liverpool had been showing interest and so they went to Kirby and chatted with Steve Heighway, eventually signing up and becoming a Scouse celebrity.

This caused consternation back home. The FFF chairman thought he wasn’t ready, and wasn’t afraid to say so. Swedish players don’t do that – not many have succeeded after moving abroad at that stage. Interestingly, Astrit cites Johan Elmander as an example. He had gone to Feyenoord at 16 and then come back ‘with his tail between his legs’, but was stronger for the experience and is now seeing the rewards. Basically, Astrit doesn’t see it as a risk – it’s an opportunity. Failure won’t destroy him as Swedish coaches sometimes fear, he believes he is strong enough to take it and the chance of playing for Liverpool is too good to miss.

He doesn’t like the Swedish system, and he regards his age group’s national team as better than the two immediately above them. He’s pissed off that he won’t be promoted because of this, and makes the point that ‘Rooney would never have got a chance at 17 in Sweden’.

Now there are two aspects to this conflict. One is the Nordic, co-operative model of football which in Finland is known as ‘kaikki pelaa’, everyone plays. It holds that you have to give equal treatment to everyone and playing time should be evenly distributed, along with coaching time. Don’t concentrate on the stars, make everyone feel part of the group.

This is a valuable and useful philosophy, but there are a growing number of coaches who claim that it doesn’t produce enough elite players. They believe that players in this system don’t have the same desire and competitive edge that those in other, more elite-oriented countries possess.

The other aspect is that Astrit is an immigrant. On of the more heart wrenching parts of the article is where Agim explains what the mayor of Falkenberg said to congratulate Astrit on his success in the Youth Cup – she called him a ‘son of Falkenberg’. Agim wells up at that. He explains that he himself will always feel a Kosovo Albanian, but he is so proud that his children are accepted as Swedish and regards that as his biggest achievement.

That’s as maybe, but Astrit and Agim have a very unSwedish way of looking at things. When Astrit’s teacher’s express concern about him going to Liverpool at 16, Agim tells his son ‘don’t worry. You have football as your profession now, and you can leave home at 16 just like I did.’

Obviously, immigrants are more amenable to this kind of upheaval. They have already moved once (albeit when he was 2 years old in Astrit’s case) so pursuing opportunities comes more naturally to them. So how will Finnish football look if the country accepts more immigrants? I am, obviously, more amenable to immigration. I am an immigrant myself. It adds to the country and immigrants do the jobs other people don’t want to. And some of the good prospects in Finnish football are immigrants, probably a higher percentage than exists in the general population.

Astrid Thors was talking last week about increasing ‘work-based’ immigration, which I think is completely wrong headed. People (like the Ajderevices) move for many reasons, and you cannot perform an economic cost benefit analysis on every individual that arrives. For instance, I came here because of my girlfriend. I stayed because I got a job, but this job could just as easily have been done in the UK or the USA. The company that employs me needed a native English speaker, otherwise they couldn’t have done the work. If the work had gone abroad, Finns would have lost their jobs and the government would have lost tax revenue, but if you have foreigners here they add value in unexpected ways, and sometimes cost in unexpected ways. Finland is a little too hung up on this question, in my opinion. If they relax we might have more Hetemajes and Kuqis, which is the only really important thing to consider here.

Aldair and Finnish journalists

Well, the press conference was an interesting affair. Being a typical lazy Brit, I turned up expecting that a San Marinese team playing in Finland would do the decent, European thing, and speak in English.

Not so. Tim Rowe is a very efficient organiser of these things, and he had unearthed a Finnish-Italian translator, thus rendering the SS Murata press officer’s well enunciated English redundant. She was a little put out, and the translator misdirected a couple of questions (I think he liked Agostini), but all in all things went quite well.

Things going well in this context meant that Aldair was quizzed on everything from the 1994 world cup final (‘why were some brazilian players crying after that game?’ apparently because they knew the team would be broken up after the tournament) through Ronaldo’s non-appearance at the 1998 final (he was sick. next question) to his future career plans (a job with Roma’s primavera team is in the offing, and hopefully he’ll be moving to Italy next year).

The Murata guys were a little miffed to not even be asked about their team for the first ten minutes, but I don’t suppose many World Cup winners have been to Tampere. Aldair’s been twice – once with AS Roma – although he doesn’t remember anything from his previous visit.

Murata will be without their goalscorer from last week, Protti, and Marani. Protti is injured and Marani is with the national team. The Murata guys think they will get hammered, and that the cool weather (last week it was 38 degrees in San Marino) will widen the gap between the teams. I would have liked to ask them something about how special it is to represent San Marino in the Champions League, and to discover what Agostini thinks of Forli’s current position, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.

It’s Honka-Haka tomorrow, and HJK-MyPa on Thursday. TamU must be very pleased to see all their rivals taking points from each other while they have a nice little European adventure. Vikkausliiga looks uninteresting as a competition to some people, but for me it is improving-beating TamU is getting to be a bit like winning a cup for other teams.

In my view this is good for the league, as a pre-eminent team to beat makes everyone else raise their game. It’s not like they are battering everyone with their budget, it’s just that other teams aren’t as well managed.

Continental keeper looks a bit suspect

Lahti people enliven their games in many ways.

Awful goalkeeping at the weekend. You’d think people might have learned after previous scandals, but the MIFK goalkeeper will surely be facing some scrutiny tomorrow. Along with the AC Oulu guy he made this a weekend of comedy errors, and a bit of a goalfest.

Highlights here.

TamU 13 29
TPS 14 23
MyPa 13 22
FC Haka 12 21
FC Honka 12 20
FF Jaro 13 18
VPS 15 18
FC Lahti 13 17
FC KooTeePee 13 17
HJK 13 17
FC Inter 13 13
FC Viikingit 12 11
AC Oulu 13 11
IFK Mariehamn 13 9

Ykkönen’s looking good going into the big match on Sunday. JJK play KuPs in Jyväskylä, while RoPs face Hämeenlinna in Lapland. Hämeenlinna were awful against TPV but did have a couple of loud fans with a drum – I do hope they make the trip north.

RoPs beat Atlantis 2-0 on Sunday, and you can read a report of the game here. The Ykkönen table looks like this:

KuPS 12 7 5 0 24 – 8 26
JJK 12 7 3 2 23 – 10 24
RoPS 12 7 3 2 21 – 14 24
PK-35 12 7 2 3 22 – 13 23
TPV 12 6 4 2 18 – 13 22
TP-47 12 4 4 4 16 – 13 16
Atlantis 12 4 3 5 13 – 16 15
PP-70 12 4 3 5 16 – 20 15
VIFK 12 3 4 5 9 – 17 13
FC Hämeenlinna 12 3 3 6 15 – 16 12
KPV 12 2 6 4 9 – 19 12
JIPPO 12 2 4 6 13 – 20 10
GBK 12 3 1 8 12 – 24 10
Klubi-04 12 1 3 8 11 – 19 6

I’m hoping to meet Aldair tomorrow, but nobody was sure whether he’d travel with the SS Murata squad or not. If anyone has any questions for him or Agostini, post them in a comment and I will endeavour to satisfy your curiosity.

This is Finnish football, someone always messes things up

And this time it was Haka. They went down 3-1 in Sunny Rhyl after going ahead through Tony Lehtinen. So much for my predictions about the semi pros tiring towards the end. FiF’s Welsh correspondent succinctly assessed the game like this: ‘Rhyl thoroughly deserve this … they have been the better team by far. Lots of play acting as well from the gangly shit-stirring South African’.

Cheyne Fowler isn’t too popular in Denbighshire, then. Varno Matila was sent off in the 89th minute and Haka generally played like shit. As I said before, it’s a shame nobody televised this game, but I suppose everyone’s on holiday right now. Maybe this is one reason Finnish football doesn’t have a higher profile? If the crunch games are played when media people are in their cottages, not many people are going to hear about them.

Anyway, I digress. The return leg is going to be a cracker and I’m glad I’m going. You should too. I can’t find any highlights anywhere, so if anybody finds some please post the link in a comment.

Hermanni Vuorinen managed to deck a Luxembourger and only get booked, Dawda Bah scored one of the slowest, loopiest headers I’ve ever seen, and HJK won 2-0. MyPa won 1-0 at home against Streymur and might find it hard if there’s a storm in the faroes for the return leg.

I missed one Veikkausliiga game from the last round up, apologies to all the Inter and Jaro fans out there. Looked like a good game from the highlights.

What does the elephant think about me?

There’s been an upswing in traffic recently, thanks to Ilta Sanomat’s futis blogi. They told a nice little joke which I thought I’d share with my fellow ulkomaalainen, as Finns are quite funny when taking the piss out of themselves. Excuse the poor translation.

In the zoo there are many nationalities represented among the visitors, and they all see the animals in a different way. In front of the elephant cage the German is thinking ‘how much does the animal weigh?’. The American wonders how much money it is worth. The Italian wants to know how to cook it, and the Frenchman is curious about how it makes love. The Finn walks past the cage and thinks tentatively, politely, ‘what does the elephant think about me?’.

It’s an old variation on a joke I think I first read in a book about the Spanish civil war – Salvador de Madariaga included a line about British elephant hunting in Somaliland, I seem to remember, although he omitted the Finnish bit.

This is the week when Finnish football finds out what the European elephant thinks of it. The first qualifying round is when Finns compete on at least level terms with their opponents, while the next round is when they get trampled underfoot by the rampaging elephants with a slightly higher coefficient.

Olli Huttunen was giving out some not-at-all stereoptypical views about Haka’s first round opponents Rhyl, when he told Iltalehti that Rhyl are ‘an aggressive team that plays typical British football. They don’t build from the back, they start with a long ball and fight for the second ball.’ We’re proper neanderthals, us Brits.

Saying that, he’s probably right. If I can indulge in knee jerk stereotypes for a moment, I expect Rhyl to be physical, and most of their players to be scousers. Could be an interesting game, and it’s a shame nobody is televising it.

TamU had a bit of a scare on Tuesday, going behind to the old men on the mountain before Niemi grabbed two goals to get the win. TamU didn’t look too comfortable to be honest, but I expect them to do better against Levski Sofia. Or at least to look better – they’ve always played better when teams have attacked them.

Tampere United in San Marino, live on San marinese TV

I think you can watch the game via this link. I don’t speak Italian though, so don’t blame me if not.

Kick off is 10pm Finnish time, 9pm CET and 8 O’Clock for the island monkeys.

They’re all going on a European tour

Ah, the beauty of Finnish football. Make some snide comments about Veikkausliiga games being boring, and you get bitten right on the arse. Cracking game down at Veritas Stadium tonight, with former Aston Villa prodigy Mika Ääritalo scoring two to ensure that the unfortunately named Antonio Inutile’s 87th minute strike for KTP went unrewarded. It was hard luck for KTP, they fought gamely and as I keep pointing out they have a young team. They should have enough in the tank to steer clear of relegation, but you just wonder how long they’ll keep hold of players like Pukki and Ikävalko.

Highlights: TPS 3 KTP 2

The european games start this week. First up, there is SS Murata vs Tampere United tomorrow. It’s a big, big game for TamU, as progression will give them an extra €500,000 from sponsorship money, gate receipts, the prize fund and TV fees. Murata are the first team from San Marino to play in the competition and will surely want to make an impression. Their best player last season was Massimo Agostini, who used to play in Forli and for AS Roma.

The Finns will obviously find the weather hot in Italy, but even with new signing Aldair I don’t think Murata will trouble TamU. It’d be an almighty cock up if they did, and even then TamU have the second leg in Finland to sort things out. Their best players are over 40 for crying out loud. has to be a TamU win, and a resounding one at that.

Then there is Haka vs Rhyl. Haka should progress here, but it might prove difficult for them. I used to follow Aberystwyth in the Welsh league, and the economics are rather strange. Aber consistently got the biggest crowds in the league, largely thanks to the student population of the town. The problem was that they played so far away from England that they just couldn’t attract decent semi pro players and as a result had to pay a premium or rely on local talent like the legendary Bari Morgan.

Rhyl, on the other hand, are pretty close to Merseyside and the northwest, and have access to better players from England. Not that Welsh players are rubbish, you understand, just that the northwest contains more than double the entire population of Wales, whose population is in any case concentrated in the south.

Haka should beat them, so long as they stay professional and don’t let themselves get kicked out of it. They’ll need to stay calm under pressure if Rhyl try to get physical, but that would be the only problem I can foresee. Carmarthen gave a good account of themselves in Tampere last season ‘except for the goals and the last half hour’, according to one of their fans I spoke to afterwards. Fitness and organisation are the problems for semi pro teams, Haka should try to exploit them.

MyPa will hammer Streymur, I’m quite confident of that, and HJk will have to be monumentally incompetent to mess up against Etzella, from Luxembourg. It’s certainly possible they could achieve that though, they’ve been rubbish most of this season. Maybe a loss to the ‘bourgers will put a stop to Armstrong’s slow waltz to his contract’s end and the exit door? I hope not, Finland needs a good UEFA coefficient and they have every chance of getting all their clubs safely through. But this is Finnish football, someone usually messes things up.