The Finnish Cup has already started! Nearly a month before the league season begins, teams in Kolmonen and below are beginning their campaigns to get to Finnair Stadium and win a place in the 2009-10 UEFA Cup. Whether many people turn up to the final is an open question – less than 2,000 attended last year to see a storming game between Honka and TamU, with TamU running out winners on penalties.
One thing that is quite odd about the cup in Finland is that a huge number of teams don’t even enter. The biggest is IFK Mariehamn, who have pretty high travelling costs and very long journeys, but also missing out are KäPä, VIFK, GrIFK and FC Hämeenlinna from Ykkönen, and a whopping 14 clubs – one third of the total – in Kakkonen.
Those sides have the smallest resources, and an extra game a long way away, with a small crowd and tired players doesn’t much appeal. Money also plays a part – an OPS official remarked that ‘Miika (Juntunen) counts every penny’, when i asked about his clubs’ decision. Juntunen is the team manager at OPS these days, an empire he can call his own after personality clashes have seen him depart from many other, bigger clubs.
Given this lethargy about the cup, it seems somehow appropriate that I failed to get out of bed in time to see Härmä-Toip 49 on Saturday, and will therefore miss out on my round-by-round Finnish cup adventure. I’m going to England on Sunday, so will miss the second round, and therefore will not even be able to follow Toip against FC Teivo away. I have no clue why Teivo got a bye in the first round, my research indicates that Toip are a bigger club (they have a website, Teivo don’t).
So, er, if anyone knows of a second round cup match taking place within easy reach of Tampere, before Sunday, then do let me know. If not, never mind, I will take a Juntunenesque hard-headed pragmatist’s view of this year’s competition.