Aapo Kiljunen to leave all this behind, and Stanley Festus’s efforts to make a career in Finland

busy day for TPV

21 year old TPV keeper Aapo Kiljunen is on trial with Landskrona BOIS this week, with the Skåne club looking for a new keeper after Stuart’s lad retired. Another day, another player goes to try his luck in a bigger league. He’s a decent player but the leap in standards is quite big: Superettan sides sometimes play in front of big crowds, TPV play in front of the people in the picture and not many more.

Another player to leave these miserable, grey, shores is Iiro Aalto, a 30 year old defender who’d never played abroad before he signed for Olympiacos Nicosia. His Wikipedia page is tremendously confusing (4 years at HJK and only one game?), but if I have it right he had signed for TPS for 2008. He had a ‘foreign interest’ clause in that contract, Nicosia offered him terms, and he will play the rest of the season in Cyprus. Very nice for him as he will most likely be back here for the bulk of the Finnish season, and he gets to spend his entire pre-season eating olives on the beach, drinking ouzo and barbecuing halloumi rather than running up sand dunes in Ostrobothnia, or skiing 100km a day or something.

RoPs have celebrated the granting of their licence by signing, erm, Mika Nurmela. I’m not exactly what you’d call a Nure fan, but if he plays in a withdrawn, sweeper-style role he could be good. I very much doubt he has anything like the mobility or fitness levels of his fellow RoPs veteran Zeddy Sailetti, and if he tries to do his HJK thing he might get shown up. His experience and reading of the game are great though, and if he can deploy these in a more defensive role he could help the Laplanders avoid relegation. Which would probably be a good achievement for them.

There is an interesting article in this month’s 6 degrees. It’s about Stanley Festus, a Nigerian striker who came to Finland in May 2005 with a sports visa and ‘thought he would find a good league with players such as Jari Litmanen and the high salaries he had been used to after playing in various countries around the world.’

Stanley clearly could have done with some advice back then, or even (who knows?) done a bit of research himself. He is now in kakkonen playing for Oulun Pallo Seura, so you can guess the tone of the article. If anyone knows anything about the guy, feel free to post a comment. Is he any good? From a brief bit of googling he seems not to lack confidence, but he could probably do with checking his birth certificate.

What interests me about this story is how the guy ended up in Finland. He had been playing in Bangladesh and India, earning 3 times as much as he gets from OPS now, and according to the article came to Finland with a ‘sports visa’. I can’t find any information on what this is, how he got it or why he was suddenly landed with the infamous ‘B-permit’ (which does not allow a foreigner to work) instead. My knowledge of the Finnish immigration system is admittedly sketchy, but if you turn up without a work permit, obtained from a Finnish embassy by showing an offer of employment, you can probably expect to get a B permit unless you’re a Nordic or EU citizen.

This is obviously a shitty situation for everyone, but I do rather object to the tone of the comments. ‘I don’t understand why they give B permits to professional athletes’, says Festus, as if they should somehow be subject to different rules.

Players outside Veikkausliiga (and some within it) earn very little money. Ville Lehtinen’s entertaining forays onto internet messageboards have included tales of club nights out where the lower paid squad members of his Ykkönen team would collect the bottles at the end of the night, in order to get the deposits back. This poverty is shocking and ‘something should be done’, but I am not sure what and the article does not offer solutions either. It conflates two issues (B permits and low paid pro footballers) and comes out with a confused argument solving neither but pleading that Festus should be treated a bit better.

I’ll leave B permits aside for a moment (for the record: I’m opposed to them), but the issue of pay for footballers is more interesting. If you play in Kakkonen and have another job, it is a massive stretch to claim that you are a ‘professional footballer’. No Finn would describe themselves like that. Indeed I’ve spoken to coaches who argue that outside veikkausliiga, if a player doesn’t have a proper job or look like he is going to move abroad by 21 or 22, teams should be wary of offering them terms. The point being that a young, single guy earning €5-10,000 a year and spending 6 months idle is quite likely to mess up their life and their head by confusing their football with their career.

This means that footballers are forced to move abroad if they want a career in the game, and a little bit of research would have made Stanley wiser to that. On the other hand, Finland is a great place to live and is really set up for a happy family life, and Stanley lives with his wife in Vantaa.

Festus claims to be an ‘agent free player’, and it certainly seems to me that he is in desperate need of one. They are not all bad people, and they will do their best to find a decent club for their charges. His story seems to be either one of a player who has been very badly advised and is now paying the price, or of a chancer who got found out. I’d love to know more about his story…..

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6 Responses

  1. “…came to Finland in May 2005 with a sports visa”. With the sports visa the writer of the article (and the player himself) is referring to the following 3 month rule i.e. sports visa:

    Right to work without a residence permit

    In certain cases, an alien can engage in remunerated employment in Finland without a residence permit. However, he or she must have a valid visa if he or she is required to have a visa (see Entry documents required of foreign nationals).

    Persons who do not need a residence permit for an employed person include…
    …professional artists or athletes or assistants to them who, upon invitation or under contract, work for no more than three months in Finland.

    http://www.migri.fi/netcomm/content.asp?path=8,2473,2500&language=EN

  2. Fair enough. If you have any helpful tips for Africans coming to Finland, please look here:

    https://footballinfinland.wordpress.com/national-team/

  3. […] posted before about Stanley Festus. I was a bit sceptical then, mainly because the tone of the article fitted Six […]

  4. Wow, for some reason you seem very interested in the person. I would be glad to straighten out some invalid information that has given to you. So please feel free to contact.

  5. […] TamU messed things up a bit at the end there. They had looked a lot more stable with newly signed Iiro Aalto back from Cyprus, a left footed player playing on the left making the team much more balanced than they have been. […]

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