Well, there was a bit of a kerfuffle yesterday in Sofia. Tampere turned up at the Levski Stadium to train, only to find a lake instead of a football pitch. The Levski officials, Tampere officials and UEFA delegates were involved in an on-pitch barney about whether or not you can play football in two inches of standing water – Tampere thought not, Levski felt it was easy and their generosity as hosts was being questioned, and the UEFA official’s opinions were not offered until he was sure people weren’t going to punch each other.
After lengthy discussions, it was decided to switch the game (and TamU’s training) to the National Stadium, a 45,000 capacity ground that usually accommodates the big games for Levski and CSKA. There were more police at the training session last night than there were at the game in Tampere last week, and more than 700 security officials will be ‘protecting’ the TamU team, fans (all 8 of them!) and players tonight. 600 of these are police and Army guys, with 100 leather jacketed ‘private security operatives’, as they are euphemistically known in certain former Eastern Bloc countries. Tim Rowe’s experience has come in very handy on this trip.
Still, the team is settled and ready, the hotel has been fine, the players are up for it and all that’s left now is to see how good they really are. Myynti is out, still injured from the weekend, but other than that the team is at full strength. All the Bulgarian papers said this morning that Tampere United are the favourites to go through (according to my contact in Sofia, I don’t speak Bulgarian), and it certainly seems like Levski are rattled. Zico Hjelm was asked whether his boys had come simply to defend, and he replied ‘no – we will try to score at least one goal.’ I hope they do.
Good game yesterday, with honours even in the Helsinki derby. Viikingit’s goalie has cut his hair and was easily man of the match. TPS also beat MyPa 1-0. Highlights here.