I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Tammela is the best stadium in Finland. On a dark night with the floodlights on and fans singing in the stands it feels as football should, and you can be sure that any kids who went to their first game last night are now football fans in a way they wouldn’t be if they’d gone to Ratina. We’ve previously covered Veikkausliiga’s strange aversion to getting new fans, but the build up to this game took it to new levels. I will go deeper into how TPS, TamU, Veikkausliiga and the Finnish FA managed to turn a game for which 8,000 tickets had been sold into a 1,900 attendance, but first I should talk about the football as it was actually really good.
You should probably watch the highlights first. The game was every bit as bad tempered as it looks, and I have to say that TPS seemed to be the culprits. They wanted to kick TamU into next week, and seemed to think they’d be scared of getting injured. It must be said that they tried this stuff in Turku and it didn’t work there either – maybe Mixu needs to get back to the drawing board. He certainly has some good players, but with Armand One coming back from injury and Paatelainen unproductive, they didn’t create much.
You’ll notice the big away following for TPS. They brought around 200 fans, and made the game a much better spectacle. Their tifo beforehand read ‘tusen takk rosenborg’, showing that at least some people in Turku were not 100% behind the attempts to help Finnish teams in Europe. On the video you can see some flags with weird NATO-like off centre crosses. No idea what they’re meant to be, maybe some of the sissi rhymä can enlighten me?
I missed a lot of action after halftime because we went to Finland’s oldest pub, which is about 20 metres from the Sinikaarti end at Tammela. I would have bought a beer at the ground but they didn’t have a licence and an opportunity to visit Sahlojankadun should never be passed up. Anyway, it meant we missed Lindstöm’s red card and a curious incident when a few TPS fans came down to the Sinikaarti end giving it wanker signs and generally acting like idiots. They were removed from the area without help from the stewards, and apparently were surprised when people were angry with them. I don’t understand this ‘hooligan’ attitude that doesn’t survive the slightest physical confrontation. If you can’t handle the reaction, don’t provoke people.
There were more than a few chants about TPS paying for their tickets, as TPS fans enjoy some subsidies from the club. I wouldn’t want to criticise them for it, I think it’s a great idea and everyone should do it – the atmosphere was fantastic yesterday. I couldn’t decipher any chants about TPS owner Seppo Sairanen’s time in prison for fraud, but there may have been some. It seems like too easy a target, like Armand One and Mikko Paatelainen’s mullet.
One is a true gent, btw. He is aware of this site and was fairly sanguine about the stick he takes for his size – I suppose he must be used to it, and I think he recognises he will be a better player when he gets into his best shape. I hope he does well in Finland, the league needs players and characters like him.
I went to the press conference after the game, my first Veikkausliiga media event. I úsually only go to things where people will be speaking in English or I will be able to meet foreign journos to ask them questions, but I was keen to speak to Mixu about Finnish football and his plans at TPS, and to Zico Hjelm about how brilliant Tammela is.
I asked Mixu first, and he said that he was very disappointed, that this wasn’t TPS, that he needs a bit more time to develop the younger players and build the team he wants to have in Turku, and took a sly dig at Veikkausliiga by moaning about ‘long holidays in the middle of the season’, more of which in a second. I was going to ask Zico about Tammela, but he got up and left while Mixu was still speaking, so never mind.
All in all, a very exciting game, a good advert for Veikkausliiga, an excellent atmosphere and a lot of smiling people. It should have been a massive success, but unfortunately that’s not how it happened.
The game was played yesterday because TamU requested a postponement as they didn’t want to play the game before the Rosenborg home leg. They already had Ojanpera suspended and another defensive injury would have been disastrous. It’s easy to say now that they should have played it then, the break did them no good and they maybe had too long to think about the game, but at the time everyone more or less accepted the footballing rationale for a postponement, and was publicly committed to doing what they could to help TamU in the Champions League.
Then there was a controversy with Ratina Stadium. They had a Toto concert on the 18th and the Finland-Kazakhstan game on the 22nd, and were committed to not having anything else on the pitch in between. The game was still announced for the 19th at ratina, but then Pekka Hämälainen, the SPL boss, mentioned that it might look like a ‘potato patch’ if the pitch had to bear so much stress in the lead up to the Kazakhstan game.
So there was a stalemate, and it seemed like the sensible thing would be to postpone the game again. After all, 7 players have international commitments this week: Jukka Lehtovaara, Tomi Petrescu and Kaspar Hämälainen in the Under 21s and Jarkko Wiss, Jari Niemi, Mikko Kavén and Mika Ääritalo in the full squad. Such a physical game three days before the internationals wasn’t a good idea, and I don’t think Hodgson was particularly happy about it.
But then TPS said that if this game wasn’t played on Sunday the 19th, they would go 5 weeks without a game in the middle of the season. This is of course the fault of Veikkausliiga, as the Finnish season started weeks after the Swedish season and the rate at which games were played was very slow. The Finnish Cup is on hold for now, it looks possible HJK and TamU will have European games into September and later, and the season looks like a race to get games played before winter sets in. Bit of a shambles, really.
Of course, the solution should have been to play the game last week, or once it was postponed to announce it at Tammela and market it properly. the problem was that 8,000 tickets had been sold. Around half of these had been sold to a Finnish burger chain for them to use as a promotion, and as they are a Turku firm they were insistent that the game should be TPS. As it was, TamU dillied and dallied too much and in the end announced the game as some kind of embarrassment, rather than the wonderful marketing opportunity it was. Announcements from the club indicated that you shouldn’t try to come without a ticket, that lots of people will miss out, that Tammela is a small ground and it cannot meet demand. They seemed to neglect the fact that people with free tickets often don’t use them, and their safeguards (come to the ticket office and change the ticket, once we’ve changed 6,000 there won’t be any more and you can have a refund or a ticket for a different game) were more than adequate to prevent overcrowding.
I think the problem here is that TamU had so many things to deal with and not enough people to do them. They’re playing Rosenborg next week. Rosenborg have a budget of €25m and an administrative staff of 63. TamU’s budget is €1.5m, and I think they have 3 full time admin people. To get games marketed, played and advertised properly needs more than that if you’re going to compete in Europe, and TamU will be expanding now to meet the needs of their business plan and the ‘problems’ of success.
One thing is absolutely, crystal clear though. Tammela is completely adequate and much more appropriate for most TamU games, even without extra capacity. Once they sell more than 6,000 tickets they should play at Ratina, but upto that point Tammela should be home, as the tifo in the picture at the top of this post says. The council basically forced TamU to move to Ratina after they renovated it, and now they’ve shown that they’d rather have some crappy band playing there than the club that bears the city’s name. If it isn’t a football stadium, it doesn’t deserve a football club.