Following on from the theme of the last few posts, this one is dedicated to the return of a prodigal son. Paulus Roiha left HJK in 2001 after scoring 22 goals in a season, signed for FC Utrecht and began a six year odyssey that took him to FC Zwolle, Cercle Brugge, ADO Den Haag and Üjpest FC. In that time he played a total of 106 games and scored 17 goals. Now he’s back with Muurinen at HJK, and doing interviews with Finnish journalists. Yes, dear readers, it’s that regular Football in Finland feature: What I Read In Hufvudstadsbladet Today (or WIRIHT for short).
His journey round Europe began with people telling him he should stay in Finland. “There were people who thought I went abroad too early, but my goals were always crystal clear to me,” said the Espoo-born striker. “It was my dream to be a professional abroad and when the chance came I didn’t hesitate.”
He greatly enjoyed his time in the Low Countries, but he does nothing to dispel the image of Finland as a country of crap food and dull beer.
“Holland is probably my favourite country. Although I lived in the Flemish part of Belgium, I should probably say that the mentality of people in the Netherlands suited me better.”
I suppose a certain resistance to eating chips and drinking beer is necessary to make it as a footballer, but still. Heineken v Leffe? Pancakes v Moules frites? You’ve got to be kidding me, Paulus. The mentality can’t be that much better.
He’s studying at the moment, but that’s on the back burner while he’s still a professional. First and foremost will be his attempt to get HJK back among the title contenders. Back in 2001 they were the undisputed top dogs, and things have certainly changed since then. Roiha’s bullish about TPS and TamU.
“It can only be good that things have changed (in Veikkausliiga). But I regard it as certain that HJK will be challenging for the championship this year. Our squad is so good that we can’t have any other goal.”
So who are the best players in the HJK squad, Paulus?
“I really don’t want to single anyone out, but Medo looks very good so far.”
Roiha’s injured at the moment, but if all goes according to plan he’ll be back doing ball work in a few weeks. He turned down AIK Solna and a couple of clubs in Norway to come to HJK, with whom he has a special relationship. Reuniting with Antti Muurinen is a big thing for him, as he holds the manager in high regard. Last year’s Lahti coach gave Roiha his debut for both HJK and the national team, and it sounds like they have confidence in each other.