Liigacup semi finals

The quarter finals were played last weekend. FC Inter beat TamU 5-3 on penalties, FC Honka beat FF Jaro 2-1, TPS, who won 3-2, avoided a Haka comeback after taking a comfortable 3-0 lead and FC Lahti went through against HJK as Tuomas Haapala scored an own goal in the 87th minute. In the semifinals FC Inter will play FC Honka while TPS are going to take on FC Lahti. The games are going to take place in Tali, an indoor football hall in Helsinki.

And that’s the problem. I mean, they already played the quarter finals in Tali. After the group stage, all games take place in Helsinki. Why? Liigacup is widely considered to be a set of pre-season friendlies and it is unlikely that teams from other cities should attract good crowds in Helsinki. Furthermore, I cannot understand why the teams should be happy with it. Reaching the knockout stages should be a sign of success, but I believe the likes of RoPS are quite happy they did not make it into the quarter finals since it would mean a 16-hour drive each time they have to go there and back.

There is just no sense to it. The team doing better in group stage should be the home team in the knockout stages. Not everything is about Helsinki. Besides, why should they play indoors as it is getting warmer all the time?

Anyway, TPS and FC Honka are favorites in my book but then again, both Inter and Lahti might cause surprises. After all, they both came out on top against Veikkausliiga title candidates in the semi finals. Even if I am being objective, I think the best option would be having the Turku derby as the final.

It would probably attract attention from the media and supporters. Besides, the teams would have to take the final seriously. The Liigacup title has usually been considered insignificant, but TPS and Inter would not want to lose a final to their local rivals. Other than that, if the Turku teams played in the final, someone would probably realize that playing the knockout stages in Helsinki is unreasonable.

Hodgson ‘blasts’ Litmanen

I’m not really sure what Roy Hodgson expected, given Litmanen’s injury record, but he’s very angry that ‘the king’ isn’t playing enough for Fulham:

Hodgson’s team go to rock-bottom Derby in a must-win game tomorrow.

But despite Litmanen’s penalty in the 2-1 defeat in Bulgaria, former Finland boss Hodgson said: “He won’t be in contention because I have 25 other players out there training Monday to Friday with the team every week.

“Jari has not completed more than 10 per cent of the training sessions we have done since I have been at the club. He has not played one game in the Fulham shirt yet has played twice for Finland.

Strangely, his fitness periods seem to coincide with the Finland matches.

Hodgson has every right to be shocked by this turn of events, given that his previous employment offered no insight whatsoever into Litmanen’s injuries and passion for playing for Finland.

Kevin Macdonald: ‘Finland, you are my bitch’

He didn’t really say that, but it’s difficult not to draw that conclusion after he 1) ensured Finland’s best midfielder was too scared to play and 2) scored the winning goal that gives Scotland a glimmer of hope when they should really be dead and buried. I missed large parts of the game, unfortunately, but the Finnish defence was sleeping for the winner, which came from a quickly taken free kick.

Kaspar Hämäläinen got a good write-up, with Koach Kanerva saying that he was ‘able to bring a lot of quality into our attacking play’. He got the goal as well, a nicely curled shot from just outside the area.

Kanerva was (rightly) peeved with the sloppy defending.

‘Both goals were a bit rubbish, coming from free kicks. We had agreed that we wouldn’t give away free kicks.’

Telegraph report

PA/Sportinglife report

Herald report

Group 6 standings:

Finland 6 5 0 1 9 5 15
Denmark 6 4 1 1 11 2 13
Scotland 5 3 1 1 11 4 10
Slovenia 6 1 1 4 3 10 4
Lithuania 7 0 1 6 2 15 1

The result means, I think, that Finland now need to win both their remaining games to be sure of qualification. If both Scotland and Finland finish on 19 points (only possible if Finland win and draw against Slovenia and Denmark), Scotland would probably come out on top due to their superior goal difference, goals scored and goals scored away from home. Denmark’s last two games are against Scotland and Finland, if they win both those games they will qualify. Scotland have games against Lithuania and Slovenia before their final tie away to Denmark on the 10th of September, the same day Finland travel to Slovenia.

Even if Finland don’t win the group, they could still go through to the play-offs as one of the 4 best runners-up. You can look at the permutations here. Croatia on 18 points seems to be the benchmark, so one more win could be enough, but would be more likely to lead to a thoroughly Finnish near-miss.

Regarding the senior team. they lost 2-1, played well in patches but went down under pressure.

‘We played well in the first half, but at the start of the second half Bulgaria got a goal that smelled offside, and built pressure after that,’ said Baxter.

On Roman Eremenko, Baxter was glad to have him in Sofia.

‘Roman was eager and wanted a lot of the ball. We were pleased with his game in this situation.’

Scotland v Finland Under 21 live feed link

You can watch Markku Kanerva’s men here.

Link edited, should work now

Sons of Ben

American football fans have been very busy recently. As there is no promotion or relegation between MLS and USL, the only way for a city to get a top class football team is to buy an MLS share, reputed to cost around $30m. To persuade the kind of cash-rich businessman who might fund such a venture to pick their city, lots of football fans in various cities have started fan groups before they even have a team to support. The most successful of these has been the Sons of Ben, a Philadelphia based group that has managed to bring football to the city of brotherly love.

Their method involved going to games and loudly shouting for their team. As their team did not exist yet, they also took to needling the opposition with a few chants directed at them. Here’s a Steven Wells article about them.

In June a convoy of cars carried some 30 SOB to a New York Red Bulls game. “We didn’t even have enough people to rent a bus,” says Dave Flagler.

This game saw the introduction of what’s probably the best SOB chant to date. Fans of Red Bull (formerly the New York/New Jersey MetroStars) were predictably outraged by “We’ve won as many cups as you, Metro, Metro. We’ve won as many cups as you, and we don’t have a team.”

They also went to the MLS final, and got on people’s nerves a lot.

In November the SOB took two busloads—about 100 people—to the MLS cup final between the New England Revolution and the Houston Dynamo in Washington, D.C.

Now imagine you’re a passionate New England fan attending the highlight game of the season, and smack dab in the middle of your section are 100 Philadelphians in Philly colors, banging a big Philly drum, singing Philly songs, chanting Philly chants, and generally being kinda up in your grill and, you know, Philadelphian.

This kind of thing has paid off big time for them, spawned numerous other clubless fan groups, and clearly plays a big role when crucial decisions are made. Of course, I am thinking of the possibilities in Finland here. Most people know that Tammela is the best stadium in Tampere, most people want Veikkausliiga football there, but it hasn’t happened yet. There are plenty of games in Ykkönen and Kakkonen for people to go to Tammela and demonstrate their feelings, and we saw that it doesn’t take many people to make a big impression on the atmosphere at Tammela, so how about a demonstration or two when the season starts?

Under 21s to face Scotland without Sparv

Tim Sparv is injured, and won’t play against Scotland this Wednesday in Aberdeen. With Perparim Hetemaj already out and his brother Mehmet injured, it leaves Markku Kanerva’s men a bit short in midfield. Mikko Knuutila has an interesting solution on the Ilta Sanomat blog, namely that Roman Eremenko drops down from the senior squad and joins up with the juniors.

It won’t happen, both Baxter and Kanerva have  said that Eremenko is now an established member of the full squad and might not like dropping down, but it raises an interesting question. The European Championships at Under 21 level are the best chance Finland have of qualifying for a major tournament in the near future (the women don’t have to qualify for 2009). They will take place in Sweden, and if Finland qualify they can be sure to take a lot of fans, at least compared to the other sides there. So why not pull out all the stops to get them there?

The Scotland squad has been depleted by the call-up of Steven Fletcher, one of the few Scots to play well in Vaasa last September and an integral part of the Under 21 team, to the full squad. This has caused consternation among Scottish fans, as he will now take part in a meaningless friendly against Croatia rather than what will be a competitive game that Scotland must win to retain any chance of qualification.

Finland will have Marco Matrone and Jonas Portin, who have both been involved with the B squad recently, and Nicholas Otaru, who looks much older than 22 and is included as an over-age player.

Here’s the table:

Finland 5 5 0 0 8 3 15
Denmark 6 4 1 1 11 2 13
Scotland 4 2 1 1 9 3 7
Slovenia 6 1 1 4 3 10 4
Lithuania 7 0 1 6 2 15 1

Finland’s next game is at home against Denmark in September, a game that will hopefully not be played at Finnair Stadium. The game will be live on FST5 at 19:30 Finnish time, and I think also on the internet somehow. I’ll definitely be watching, but I’m not sure whether I’ll make time for Finland-Bulgaria.

A present for Easter, Tamu’s 2003 season review

If anyone ever tells you Ratina is as good a stadium as Tammela, tell them to watch this video.

One day there’ll be top-flight football at Tammela again, it’s just too good a ground to be left in it’s current state.

http://jaatiedostosi.com/Benito/Tampere_United_-_Kausi_2003.zip

It’s quite big and takes a while to download.

Countdown to THE FOOTBALL!! (and please update your links)

This adequately sums up the earth shattering events we will be covering in the next few months, and I really hope you follow everything from Veikkausliiga to Kolmonen (and below) right here at Football in Finland!

If you have a link to the blog on a site you maintain, could you do us a favour and check it’s pointing here rather than at the old blogspot site? I’ve noticed a few are out of date recently.

Colin Burns

Players arrive in Finland from many different countries, for many different reasons and with many different backgrounds. We’ve covered the Zambians at RoPs, but this post is about a success story from last season.

Colin Burns was in a bit of a pickle when he left the University of Massachusetts. mid ranking and ‘developmental’ players in the US don’t earn much money, and of course they often yearn to play in Europe simply to test themselves, aside from the financial implications. So rather than trudging round the mid-west for a USL team in front of small crowds earning pitiful wages, Burns took a risk and went to Europe to try out for teams there.

It turned out to be quite a big risk. He spent about five months with Partick Thistle, waiting for a work permit while the club paid his living costs and rented a flat for him in Govan. Burns had thought that his Scottish ancestry would help in the work permit application, but unfortunately that wasn’t to be and he had to cut his losses just when he was getting acquainted with Scotland.

He tried out with teams in Denmark, Switzerland and France before eventually landing a contract with the wonderfully named Olimpia Balti of Moldova. The money wasn’t great, but he was playing for a side in a league people cared about, cared so much in fact that his first game came close to being abandoned because of fighting in the stands.

At the end of the season, he had acquitted himself well but wanted to move to a higher profile league. Hard to believe that Finland is the answer for anyone in that situation, but apparently it was, with Seinäjoki 78 of Kakkonen looking for a keeper. Burns signed on, impressed everyone, and quickly moved up to Ykkönen side KPV. Here he did well, again, and has ended up starting the 2008 season at Ljungskile SK, one of the smallest teams ever to play in Allsvenskan.

Once he got to Sweden, however, he was confronted with the problem of FIFA’s transfer rules. He had already played for Sepsi and KPV in 2007, which according to FIFA was part of the 2007-08 season. You can’t play for more than two clubs in a season, so Burns had to lobby for the sensible solution, which was to regard 2007 and 2008 as different seasons. He got his way in the end.

He will battle it out with Michal Slawuta (formerly of FC Lahti) for the number one jersey, and who would bet against him coming out on top? He’s had two years of near constant battles to get this far, and a contract with a top flight club in a good league is about as much as he’d dared hope for when he left the US. Good luck to him.

Bilingualism

As part of the global anglophonic hegemony, I don’t think too much about communicating with people in different languages, but a few things brought this home to me recently. It’s a big issue here (especially if you read Hufvudstadsbladet like I do), as Finland is officially bilingual and around 5% of the population are native Swedish speakers. The Jaro fans I spoke to in Valkeakoski last week spoke Swedish, and Gary from the excellent Blog Droed got in touch about a couple of things, which set me thinking a little.

Gary wants to increase traffic to his Welsh language football blog, and politely pointed out that I hadn’t yet put a link up to his site. I won’t pretend that I can read it, as despite two years living in Wales I couldn’t get much further than a smiley ‘diolch’ when the nice lady in the shop gave me my change. But it’s good to know that it’s there, should I ever feel the need to learn Welsh properly.

It shows a different attitude to language questions to that prevalent in Finland. Here Swedish lessons are compulsory in schools, as Welsh is in Wales, and there is a Swedish TV channel (FST5) and several radio stations (Radio Vega and Radio Extrem), along with a national newspaper (Hufvudstadsbladet) and several local ones (Vasa Bladet, Jakobstads Tidning, Åbo Tidning, there are probably more).

Public bodies in Finland, if they are national or located in a bilingual area, have to offer Swedish service before they can offer any other language. The Finnish FA is one of these bodies, and at present doesn’t have much in the way of Swedish content on their website. They should of course offer something.

But it seems as though Finland is heading slowly towards a monolingual future, or at least that the position of Swedish is being eroded as the ‘first second language’. Kids no longer have to pass a Swedish exam to graduate from high school, and this has resulted in a decline in the number of high school leavers that have competent Swedish skills.

Of the 14 Veikkausliiga clubs, only Jaro have regularly updated pages in both Finnish and Swedish. Most of the rest have a standard ‘info’ page in English or Swedish, or both, and VPS have a Swedish site that was last updated in November. IFK Mariehamn, of course, have their website in Swedish.

In Wales, the team I used to watch no longer have web pages in Welsh. Bangor, local rivals just up the coast, have welsh content. So do Porthmadog. I could go on with this, but the point is that people only have welsh content if people are willing to write it free of charge. I’m not willing to do that in English for clubs here, so I can only applaud those that do it in Wales.

The question is though, how much do Finnish-Swedish people rely on their ‘official’ status instead of doing something active to remedy the situation? I know that Gary busts his balls writing Blog Droed, on top of his full time job. I have the incentive of getting work through this blog, so I am not in the same altruistic mindframe as him, but where are the Finnish-Swedish football blogs? I’ve had a little look, but can’t find a thing.