I’m off to stare at women now

Finland v Scotland at the Olympic Stadium. This blog has been shamefully dominated by the hegemonic patriarchy, and I’m going to rectify that today. Or maybe tomorrow, Wednesday are on the telly at 7:15 and I really want to watch that. Incidentally, if anybody knows somewhere that will be showing the Wednesday v Norwich game (it’s on Viasat) tonight in central Helsinki, I’d love to receive an email about that pub.

Anyway, this is a bit of a bridesmaid’s match, what with the festival going on over in China at the moment. Neither Scotland nor Finland made it, unfortunately, and this is the first game Finland have played at home this year – all the qualifiers wanted to play at home or against teams they’d face in the World Cup. So I’ll be interested to see how it goes. The last time I saw a women’s international, it was Sweden vs North Korea in Östersund and a black suited shades wearing Korean man (it was 30 degrees and everyone else was wearing shorts) gave me his address and said that Pyongyang in the springtime is a brilliant place for a holiday. Unfortunately I lost his address, but it was a good experience. Sweden won 2-0, lets hope for a similar home win today!

TamU wrap it up

Tampere United pretty much ensured they will win the title tonight with a comprehensive win against Haka. They never looked in trouble and looked a much, much classier outfit than Haka, who really struggled to create anything of note.

It may be the European success, the habit of winning or just the fact that the players really believe in themselves now, but TamU are a really great side at the moment. Niemi was excellent, Pohja was full of energy and drive, Savolainen and Wiss dominated the midfield – it was a much better performance than a 2-1 win indicates.

Highlights are here.

Further to my previous comments, I hope TamU’s officials look at the crowd today (8,828) and kick themselves quite hard for messing up the marketing of the Bordeaux game. Lessons learned and all that.

Ykkonen Wrap

Sorry this is late everyone. You’ll have to excuse me as I’ve had nothing to do except for training the last few days and for some reason I’ve been lazy. But better late then never, so here goes…

I’ll start at the bottom of the table where a few teams earned some much needed points. Probably the match with the most importance took place in Joensuu as relegation battlers JIPPO and PP-70 squared off. Just a single point seperated the two as the Tampere side rolled into Joensuu. JIPPO came out winners 2-1 thansk to a tying goal by yours truly, reminiscient of Petrescu’s goal against Lahti. You can read a full report here and highlights are available here (check out the miss in the beginning of the game!!)

Other winners at the bottom of the table were KPV (1-0 over TPV thanks to fellow American Lawrence Smith) and VIFK (1-0 winners over TP-47). GBK meanwhile picked up a point at home to RoPS with a 0-0 draw. It’s the second draw in a row for RoPS and it has closed the gap at the top to just 4 points. The draw also keeps GBK’s hopes of avoiding relegation alive although they still trail JIPPO by two points.

At the top of the table, KuPS inched closer to league leaders RoPS with a 1-0 winner over Atlantis FC while JJK slipped up again to FC Hämeenlinna. JJK’s chances of sliding into a promotion spot are all but gone, however, they can still play a vital role in determining the Ykkonen champion as they still have both KuPS and RoPS to play.

The final game of the round was a 1-1 draw between PK-35 and Klubi 04.

So here’s how the table looks…

RoPS 22 48
KuPS 22 44
JJK 22 36
TP-47 22 35
FC Hämeenlinna 22 31
PK-35 21 29
VIFK 22 29
KPV 22 28
Atlantis 21 27
TPV 22 27
JIPPO 22 25
GBK 22 23
PP-70 22 21
Klubi-04 22 10

My prediction still hasn’t changed, however. RoPS will win the title and the three currently in relegation will stay in relegation. If RoPS slips up against JIPPO (and I will be doing everything possible to make sure that happens even though it would be slightly bittersweet for me) then the last 3 games of the season will definitely be interesting!!

By the way, I’m not sure I’ve ever introduced myself on this blog. I’m Jonathan Burklo, right midfielder for JIPPO formerly of RoPS up until the end of August. I’m an American (yes that’s right an American- there’s 5 of us in the Ykkonen you know!!) playing my first year in Finland and in my spare time contributing to this blog, running my own blog, and free-lance writing for AmericanSoccerDaily.com.

Cursing teams is fun

So, since I started rambling on about how Viikingit are well organised and solid, they’ve conceded nine goals and slumped to the bottom of the table. What the fuck? They played very well at Haka, I don’t know what’s wrong with them. It can only be the curse of FiF, previously deployed against Jonas Emet and now ensuring that the relegation battle is not much of a battle.

I went to Lahti on Monday for Tampere United’s 2-0 win. It was my first visit to that fine city, and I have to say the stadium is really quite spectacular. In terms of facilities it wouldn’t be out of place in the Polish 5th division, but it has some natural advantages that many stadia don’t.

Firstly, it seems to be blasted out of a hill with dynamite, so the stand on the far side is only about one third the height of the steep bank that runs alongside the pitch. Secondly, it has a fucking ski jumping stadium at one end.
This is taken from behind one goal at the football stadium, in snowier times. I kept staring at it and missed quite a lot of the game, but the game was actually pretty dull so never mind. The grand sporting facilities of Lahti required close attention, and a couple of people told me a story about Lahti’s city council which confirm a few stereotypes. Not sure if it’s true, but I’ll repeat it anyway.

The stadium is, as you may have guessed, in the municipal ‘sport facilities district’ of Lahti. Alongside the stadium and the Ski jumping, there is an indoor football arena and the ISKU Areena, the ice hall where Pelicans play. In addition to that there are loads of cross country skiing tracks in the vicinity (they looked quite tough too, lots of steep hills).

They host a lot of international events, and that probably explains the huge number of flagpoles dotted around the place, from the junction where you turn off the main road, behind the goals, all around the car park, even a few up in the forest above the ‘sunnyside stand’. They look a bit sad and bedraggled really, only adding to the ‘Tirana Olympic Stadium’ feel of the place.

Anyway, it is clear what the local council has put their money into. Lahti has the reputation of a hard place, a spit and sawdust no nonsense type of town and the inhabitants are quite proud of that. i guess that’s why they built a ski jumping stadium, because they are hard enough to ascend hundreds of metres and then ski down in a straight line trying to jump as far as they can.

They did have another option though, according to my sources. Back in the 60s, the Finnish government wanted to more effectively harness the white heat of technology and decided the best way to do this would be to build a Technical University. They offered the university to Lahti City Council, who apparently said “no, we are a working man’s city, we have no need of your high-falutin’ educashun”.

And so it went to Tampere. It’s one of the top ranking Finnish universities, and is one of the reasons Nokia retains a large presence in Tampere and only a token Lahti presence. Great decision by the good burghers of Lahti.

TamU’s two goals both came from Tomi Petrescu, who will almost certainly be on his way in October. He’s young (21), he’s in form and he has lots of potential, let’s hope he goes to the right club. He could play a lot of games for the national team if he develops correctly, so this move is pretty important for him. He’s already played at Leicester, but I have a sneaking feeling he would do better in Germany or Italy. At least, football in those countries is closer to what he has played at TamU so far.

Highlights here

The man from HBL wasn’t impressed with HJK’s attendance, btw. He said that they announced 3342 but there weren’t more than 2000 at Töölö. In England that kind of thing gets stamped on quite hard by litigious clubs, but I guess Finland has better protection for freedom of speech.

Jaro and Oulu both draw

Highlights here

Shocking defending from Oulu, and my prediction still stands. Viikingit to stay up.

Tomi Petrescu’s goal against Bordeaux

For all those who missed it

Teemu Pukki

Got a good close up look at him last night at KTP’s 3-0 defeat at Haka. KTP normally play a long ball game based around 7-goal Kim Liljequist, but he was injured yesterday and so ‘the kids’ were given the freedom to play passing, attacking football. It’s really good to watch and made for an exciting game, but they just lacked the cutting edge and precision around the area that a team with more confidence and experience sometimes has.

Pukki partnered Niko Ikävalko up front, and they often seemed to be too far apart. They lack an understanding, but each has his own qualities. Ikävalko is a good dribbler and linked up well with the midfield, but he has an annoying habit of swinging his arms and letting his head drop when something goes wrong. Not sure whether it signifies an ‘attitude’, but KTP fans seem to think so.

Pukki, on the other hand, is calm and collected most of the time and never shows his displeasure with team mates (or at least he didn’t yesterday). He is clearly a class act, and has the knack of creating time and space where none seemed to exist. He could do with bulking out a bit, learning to hold defenders off and to go down when necessary, but I’m sure he’ll pick all that up.

I mentioned the rumours about hom going to KTP, and it seems like they are accepted as fact by the KTP support. His mother is supposed to have taken a year off work, the club badly needs money and his desire to finish high school before leaving Kotka looks forlorn, to say the least.

How will he do at Sevilla? Who knows. I spoke before about the reaction of Falkenberg to Astrit Ajdarevic‘s move to Liverpool, here it seems to be the other way around: the player wants to stay but is being pushed out the door. I certainly think he will benefit from being around better players, and from not being the main man who has to produce for a struggling team, but…… Kotka and Seville are very different places. If his mother goes with him she will hopefully mitigate the homesickness, but you never can tell.

Whatever happens, I don’t think he will suffer as a player. Lots of players go abroad from the Nordic countries when they are young, and they all learn something. Some come back, some stay and make a success of themselves, but they improve and expand their horizons and even if they come back they are better players for the experience. Juska Savolainen and Jussi Kujala both had spells in Holland in their youth, and are both integral parts of TamU’s team now. I wouldn’t be surprised if either or both of them go abroad again before they retire.

A word for KTP’s support: they were great. To bring decent numbers and volume to a Friday game 4 hours away is quite impressive, especially for a team in lower-mid table like KTP, and I was disappointed when the KTP players didn’t go over to acknowledge them immediately at the end. So were the KTP fans, and after some angry shouting Pukki led a few of the players over to give them a clap. I’ve travelled hundreds of miles to see my team lose 8-0, 7-1, 7-2 in the past, and this kind of thing is important.

A word for the referee: I thought Heikki Vehviläinen was excellent, letting the game flow when possible, stopping it when not, and all his bookings seemed fair enough.

Highlights will be here when Iltalehti put them up, you’ll have to scroll up. I didn’t mention the other results from Thursday, so here is everything since KTP-Lahti:

FC Haka FC KooTeePee 3 – 0
FF Jaro MyPa 0 – 3
FC Inter IFK Mariehamn 0 – 2
FC Viikingit FC Lahti 0 – 4
VPS HJK 2 – 1
FC Honka AC Oulu 2 – 0

Here’s the table:

TamU 19 41
FC Haka 20 40
FC Honka 20 35
TPS 20 32
FC Lahti 20 29
IFK Mariehamn 20 26
MyPa 20 26
VPS 21 26
FC KooTeePee 22 25
FC Inter 21 24
HJK 20 24
FF Jaro 21 22
FC Viikingit 20 18
AC Oulu 20 17

It would be absolutely hilarious if HJK went down, but it looks like the bottom three are doing their best to avoid that eventuality. I wouldn’t be that surprised if Jaro, Oulu and Viikingit didn’t win another game all season. Viikingit are my tip to stay up though, they seem to have the organisation and defensive fortitude (not sure what happened v Lahti) that usually triumphs in relegation battles.

Tampere United 2 Bordeaux 3

What a horrible game. The build up was full of little hints that the French team weren’t going to take it seriously, that they had bigger fish to fry, that they thought their reserves would be enough. And when I realised that their away kit was almost exactly the same as Levski Sofia’s, I started to smile a little bit.

Maybe I shouldn’t have bigged up Henri Mynnti and mocked Cavenaghi when a Bordeaux website asked some questions. It was probably always going to come back to haunt me.

But I think there are more appropriate scapegoats. First and foremost, the referee Ceri Richards. he went for every single dive from a Bordeaux player, frequently booking the TamU man who was ‘responsible’ for the foul. It only took an outraged French face to get him reaching for his yellow card on most occasions, but an incident near the end revealed his cowardice. All the other free kicks were well away from the danger zone and relatively easy to award, but when Kaven poleaxed Cavenaghi in the penalty area he bottled the decision and waved play on.

The last minute mayhem can probably be put down to Henri Mynnti allowing the ball(delivered from another of Ceri’s imaginary freekicks, I think) to bounce over his head in the area, allowing Cavenaghi to collect it and cross for Micoud to score. The winner was similarly poor defending, only Cavenaghi finished himself this time. The highlights will be on UEFA’s website sometime, watch for yourself.

Positives from the game are:

Petrescu’s goal. An absolute screamer, I’m reliably informed (I missed it).

Pohja’s performance. He was everywhere, and his energy ensured TamU didn’t miss the suspended Savolainen too badly.

Sinikaarti: Finally they managed to sing in English, and I’m sure Mr Richards will reflect on his self abuse.

Negatives:

Daniel. He lacks fitness, missed a wonderful chance in the first couple of minutes and generally looked a bit sluggish. TamU really missed Niemi, and if Daniel is to play a role he needs to get a lot fitter.

TamU’s ticketing policy. I hope somebody is currently having a very serious think about why the Bordeaux game only managed to attract 100 more fans than the SS Murata match. They need to get it through their heads: this is not a football country, and people will not pay silly money to sit out in the cold and watch a team they expect to lose. If you fill the ground you get better support, more revenue from merchandise and makkara, and maybe even a few extra fans. There is no point in wasting the opportunity of a game like last night’s by price gouging.

MyPa won 3-0 at Jaro, leaving the Jakobstadians in trouble-only 4 points clear of Viikingit, who have a game in hand. Highlights are here.

Alisher Usmanov vs Boris Johnson

You may remember I posted something about Alisher Usmanov a while back. Well, it was removed from the web under heavy pressure from Schillings, Usmanov’s lawyers. It detailed key facts about Usmanov, who is buying big tranches of Arsenal shares.

You can read Craig Murray’s piece here, anyway. His excellent site has been removed by his ISP, who buckled under the threats from Schillings which have been highly effective in shaping coverage of Usmanov. Also caught up in this somehow was floppy haired bumbling idiot Tory Boris Johnson, whose website has also been taken down. I will be going out to buy Murder in Samarkand in support of Craig Murray, and affecting posh stupidity for a couple of hours in support of Boris Johnson. I suggest you do something similar.

I will write something about TamU soon, but I’m still a little shellshocked to be honest.

Laurent Blanc cannot name any Tampere United players

He’s left 2 players behind to rest and recuperate too, just like Levski Sofia did. The Frenchmen arrived very late on Tuesday night, three hours later than planned, and most of them looked pretty tired today. The journalists explained that Blanc is under a bit of pressure and doesn’t really like talking to the press, and by crikey it showed. He tended to rock back and forth while speaking very quietly, shoulders hunched and hands between his knees. I wouldn’t like to say he was overconfident, but it was clear he knew nothing about TamU. ‘They are….one of the best teams in Finland’, he said when asked to give his view of United.

All of which is great news for TamU. Bordeaux have a game on Saturday and one on Wednesday, and I got the impression that this one isn’t the priority. Blanc has a reputation (at least from what I’ve seen in the English press) of a romantic coach, sending his teams out to entertain and ‘express themselves’. I hope they are as naive as that sounds, but the guys who watch them every week don’t think so. The journos from Bordeaux said that they can defend and counter attack as well, but from the prior knowledge Blanc displayed I don’t think that is the plan.

All of which is good for TamU, obviously. They’ll need to be at their best to take advantage and could really have done without Savolainen’s suspension, but with a bit of Levski-style luck they might just avoid the defeat everyone is expecting.