States will collapse, civilisations will end, but football remains!

And in Virrat, they’re well prepared – while you wait for the apocalypse, there is a kiosk (which probably doesn’t surprise anyone anymore).

I spent a nice four days in Central Finland, the first two in Keuruu and the second two in a cottage quite close to Virrat. Unfortunately I missed the KeuPa match on Wednesday and the FC VIP game advertised in the poster, but I did manage to steal the advert from the wall of KKK (that’s a supermarket in Finland).

On Saturday we went to Jyväskylä for some shopping. The stadium there is really not up to much, and if they get into Veikkausliiga because Rovaniemi doesn’t have a stadium good enough it will not look very good. Yes RoPs have had dispensations before and should have sorted it out, but if you’re saying dispensations have to stop, it makes little sense to promote JJK at this point. Unless they get firm plans for a new stadium, which isn’t completely out of the question.

Still, JJK’s good form this year has had an effect. There was a stall in the high street offering scarves and shirts from JJK, and selling tickets to Kiri’s matches too. Kiri are a Finnish baseball club, and traditionally they have been the sporting activity in Jyväskylä. The two young lads at the stall were both dressed in JJK shirts which look pretty good in the more restrained retail version, which only has the Peugoet sponsors logo. The knew nothing about Kiri either.

I suppose the biggest thing I notice in Central Finland is the lack of people. This isn’t just a city boy’s aversion to the countryside, it is really quite depopulated around there. In Haapamäki there are so many boarded up houses you start to think you’re in a ghost town, and the average age of the local population must be nudging 60. People have to leave to get good jobs and an education which wasn’t necessary 30 years ago, and as a result the small towns are facing a demographic collapse. In Virrat cemetary there is a military graveyard containing around 360 fallen soldiers who died during the Second World War, nowadays it looks as though they’d struggle to find 360 male Virratians of military age.

One of Aapo’s other projects explores how declining populations may effect world politics, global financial markets and so on, but we have weightier matters to consider here.

Jyväskylä is a growing municipality, and football is gaining a foothold there that it didn’t have before. There has never been a top flight team in Jyväskylä. A fairytale rise from Kakkonen to Veikkausliiga has the potential to pull in a lot of new football fans.

On the other hand, will they enjoy seeing their team getting spanked every week? Has football in Oulu greatly benefited from having AC in Veikkausliiga? Would it not be better to let football grow more slowly and organically?

Another point is that if you’re going to engineer the league like this, why stop with the ground regs? Why not just pick the nice stadia and have teams there? It’s a short step really, as Veikkausliiga will look a bit ridiculous demoting one team for having a substandard ground and promoting one in their place, despite having a substandard ground.

Pohjolan stadium is in Vantaa, a fast growing urban municipality without a top flight team. They have a lot of immigrants who like football more than other more traditional Finnish sports, and to save money the council is going to put an artificial plastic pitch on the ground, which I’ve heard is one of the best in Finland. So why not give Vantaa a team in Veikkausliiga? It’s a nice easy journey too, not like Rovaniemi….

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3 Responses

  1. On a similar basis to Tampere using “United”, they could call it Vantaa Dons…

  2. Uff, controversial there. TamU are basically FC Ilves under a new name, and still play in the same place. There are many dodgier things in the Finnish game, clubs being bought by the Chinese mafia, match fixing scandals, regular bankruptcies…

  3. Interesting; but you read more into that than I intended.

    I just thought that TamU started out as an attempt to merge two clubs, and adopted “United” as an appropriate soubriquet in English (then kept it for the new club when the proposed merger fell through).

    And the appropriate English language comparison for a team uprooted from its community and planted in a dormitory town in the hope of getting more support is of course the Dons…

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