God damnit, I missed the game

Sometimes it pays to have the lergy. My head is full of snot and I did not want to get properly sick and miss some quite important stuff this week, so I gave the Oulu game a miss today. Extra time and penalties saw TamU go through after a 0-0 draw.

They now face GBK in the semi final on Saturday. The Kokkola club apparently turned down a merger with KPV recently, despite their drop into Kakkonen, but I think they will find it tough to get past TamU (bold prediction there). It’s funny how a small town can sustain two clubs at that level, and I’m sure it has to do with the local personalities and traditions as well as the linguistic issue (Gamlakarleby Boll Klubb are not as big or successful as Kokkolan Pallo Veikot these days), but maybe this will happen in a few years anyway. Maybe GBK will drop even further and KPV will become the only professional side in Kokkola on a more permanent basis, as i find it hard to believe that GBK will be able to pay their players in Kakkonen.

Whatever happens there will be a strong football presence in Kokkola. KPV were in the cup final last year and GBK made it to the semis this season, so it’s not like they have nothing at all. And football does seem to be much stronger in coastal areas.

EDIT-looks like I wasn’t the only one to have given it a miss, the crowd tonight was a whopping 680. Other TamU news is that they have signed a third Savolainen, this one called Vili, and Henri Scheweleff returns from Vaasa. He had the option this season but chose to go to his home town, and I bet he regrets that now.

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HIFK Soccer

HIFK are kind of unique in Finland. A lot of Finnish sports organisations were originally established as multi-sport clubs, but many of them have over the years narrowed their focus and ended up specialising in one or two sports. HJK split from their hockey division in1972, for instance, and now Helsingin Jääkiekkoklubi play hockey and bandy as a separate entity.

HIFK, on the other hand, play everything from handball to bandy to football to hockey to salibandy. They are very much in the tradition of the European athletics associations, and remind me of the turn vereins that established organised sport in late 19th century Germany.

HIFK’s football division have had a bit of a time of it since they finished second in the championship and lost to Rosenborg in the UEFA Cup. They’ve won seven championships, just two fewer than FC Haka, who come close to qualifying for ‘powerhouse’ status.

Unfortunately, their strong tradition did not prevent them from succumbing to bankruptcy in 2003. They started again (changing names from FC HIFK to HIFK Soccer), and began to work their way up from the fourth division. They got promotion in 2005, and again this year, so next season they will play in Kakkonen, just two promotions from the top flight.

They have big financial backers, and chairman Gary Sundberg says that ‘2-3 years is the absolute maximum time we can spend in Kakkonen’.

This is great news, as Finnish football needs excitement and HIFK are a big club with very passionate fans. The Stadin Kingit group do tifos for hockey, bandy, handboll and even fourth divison football. That’s the fifth tier, and a lot closer to pub teams than the top flight – nobody has fans at that level.

Here’s a picture of their trip to Tornio to support the HIFK bandy team:

Again, I think fan groups are a rarity at bandy matches. It’s quite likely fans of any description are a rarity at bandy matches – I checked the bandy league’s website for fixtures in the upcoming season (usually starting in late November), and it promises that ‘fixtures will be available before the start of the season’. Which is reassuring, it’d be a bit confusing if teams just picked random clubs to play against.

The football club had a tremendous season, which included a cup run in which they fought valiantly but went out to Inter in the 7th round. Here’s a youtube video of the HIFK fans who made the trip to Turku, a taster of what they would bring to Veikkausliiga. For non-Finns: this is really quite rare in Finland.


Here’s a picture of the HIFK fans at a normal league game, away at Futara of Porvoo. Best of luck to HIFK for next season, we could do with a lot more of this kind of thing in Ykkönen and Veikkausliiga.

Partytime in Tampere!

Tampere United have planned a big celebration tonight in Keskustori. If you’re at a loose end after the Honka game why not buy a six pack and head on down to celebrate the championship? It starts at 7pm, and Tesoma’s finest Pate Mustajärvi will be playing. I cannot wait. Toni Lähteenmäki and Sami Hintsanen will also be there, but they are not on youtube and I do not know who they are.

Football on the television

Just a quick word in praise of YLE’s coverage, as I’ve been pretty darn negative about it for the matches I’ve actually been to. It’s a pretty good programme, and the MIFK win in Valkeakoski was covered very well. Good crowd shots, good interviews, good segments (Popovits’s kids need a new backyard, and the man himself needs to sort out his tracksuit top collection) and an interesting match. All in all, I’m glad I stayed home rather than ventured to the ground. Not sure that’s what Veikkausliiga should be pleased with or aiming for, but anyway – it’s not YLE’s fault.

On Saturday they’re showing HJK v TPS on TV2 at 4pm, which should be a decent game. TPS need to win to guarantee UEFA cup football next year, and HJK want to build some form ahead of the Cup games next week. Should be worth watching.

Any one from three

Oulu hung on grimly, despite losing 1-0 at home to HJK. Jaro snatched a creditable draw away at TPS while Viikingit got a point away at VPS. The bottom of the table now looks like this:

FC KooTeePee 25 7 5 13 27 – 37 26
FF Jaro 25 6 7 12 27 – 41 25
<!––> <!––> <!––> <!––> <!––> <!––>
FC Viikingit 25 5 8 12 25 – 42 23
AC Oulu 25 5 7 13 26 – 46 22

The bottom team goes down automatically, the second bottom will play off against RoPs. The final day fixtures are as follows:

Viikingit-Haka
Jaro-Lahti
MyPa-Oulu

It really does look like Oulu are doomed, as the only club to have an away game on the day, and Jaro probably only need a point to stay safe unless Viikingit win by three against Haka.

There is still no clear answer about RoPs, as Veikkausliiga are waiting for assurances from the council and club that the facilities will be built. They can be given an extra year, but only if they see concrete plans and receive guarantees that things will get done this time.

Highlights are here, scroll up

Viikingit’s task is made harder by the fact that Haka still have work to do to secure the UEFA Cup spot. If they don’t win it could let in TPS, who are currently in the Intertoto position. The other UEFA spot goes to the Cup winners.

The Cup has been pushed to the end of the season, with TamU’s european games playing havoc with the fixtures earlier on. They will play GBK in their quarter final next Wednesday, then Oulu in the semi on the 3rd (presuming they beat GBK, who were relegated to Kakkonen this year).

In the other semi final Honka travel to HJK (it’s funny how they get to play their semi finals at home, this happened last year too), neither club is in Europe and HJK have no other route, so it should be a keenly fought game.

TamU win the title

Despite the best efforts of a very strange referee, who disallowed a perfectly good goal from Daniel on Saturday. Haka couldn’t beat Lahti on Sunday so the title remains in Tampere.

Highlights here

Congratulations also go to FC Honka, who clinched the women’s championship with a barnstorming 3-3 draw at home to HJK.

The bottom of Veikkausliiga gets interesting, with everyone up to KTP in the mix. The second relegation team goes into a playoff with RoPs, who may very well not be allowed to start the season because of their stadium. They don’t have undersoil heating or decent floodlights, and that’s a problem if you’re in Lapland. In Ykkönen they play 7 home games in a row in high summer and start and finish with a road trip. I guess Veikkausliiga won’t stand for that. Rumours abound that they might play in Tornio or Kemi, but that’s a huge financial hit for them.

Ykkonen Wrap- Literally!

It was always going to be a entertaining day of football in the Ykkonen this weekend. Two were fighting it out for the championship and two were fighting it out to avoid the drop. RoPS and KuPS entered the final fixture with the Rovaniemi squad sitting on a 2 point lead. I don’t think anyone thought it would come to this nearly 6 weeks ago, when RoPS was sitting with a very comfortable 8 point lead after disposing of KuPS in Kuopio. But a succession of draws allowed KuPS to force themselves back into the race and make for a mouthwatering end to the season.

RoPS traveled south to take on FC Hameenlinna who have ended the year very strong after struggling early. It was a see-saw affair between the two with Hameenlinna taking the early lead before Nchimunya Mweetwa equalized. Hameenlinna would take the lead again on the stroke of half-time. But once again as has been the case all year, Mweetwa came to RoPS rescue. But it was all for not as Hameenlinna would get an injury time winner to shock their northern counter-parts.

In Kuopio, KuPS took on JJK. KuPS struck first in the 11th minute and took that lead into half-time. JJK would respond as the half began with a goal of their own to tie the match at 1 a piece. But in a true heroes performance, Ilja Venalainen recorded a second half hat-trick to put the matter beyond doubt and bring home a championship trophy to Kuopio as well as direct promotion to the Veikkausliiga.

RoPS will now go into a play-off with the second from bottom club in the Veikkausliiga (yet to be determined), but will go into the fixture knowing they will be without 3 key players. Stephen Kunda, RoPS’ tower of steel in the back, was red carded in the Hameenlina match. Dejan Godar, the link-man for RoPS, picked up his 6th yellow card. Worst of all, RoPS will lose their leading goalscorer, Nchimunya Mweetwa who picked up his 3rd yellow card of the season. Things certainly look bleek in Lapland.

At the bottom of the table, things were just as interesting. GBK and TPV sat tied on points with TPV in the relegation zone with a worse goal differential. It would appear on paper that GBK would have the easier fixture as they traveled south to play bottom dwellers Klubi-04, while TPV would host PK-35. But the Klubi-04 team is very very far from untalented (in fact they may have the most talent in the league), and have suffered from a severe lack of experience in the squad as they have used a mix of youth the entire season.

And youth would prevail as Klubi would shock GBK with a 1-0 victory, only their second of the campaign. Meanwhile in Tampere, TPV would come out 1-0 victors leaving the Ykkonen with a Tampere representative. And I think most people will welcome this result. The Ykkonen needs a Tampere presence.

In the other results, JIPPO ended the season with a 2-2 draw going 5-2-1 in the seasons last 8 games. TP-47 and Atlantis tied 2-2, and KPV lost a 1-2 decision to relegated PP-70. Here’s your final table.

KuPS 56
RoPS 55
JJK 41
Hameenlinna 41
TP-47 37
VIFK 36
Atlantis 34
PK-35 33
JIPPO 32
KPV 31
TPV 30
GBK 27
PP-70 25
Klubi-04 15

So that’s all from the Ykkonen for this year. Thanks for playing!