Ykkönen starts this weekend

Or, to be more precise, started this evening. Viikingit beat Atlantis 2-1, and their bullish management believes that this is a first step on the road to promotion back to Veikkausliiga. They were not pretty, by all accounts, but more than 1,500 people saw them got a scrappy win with an 87th minute goal from Jussi Peteri, who also scored the first. Atlantis’s goal came from Panu Autio. you can see some nice sunny pictures, and interviews with the bullish management, from Nelonen sports news.

Ykkönen has a very Helsinki feel to it this year, with KäPa, PK-35 and GrIFK joining Viikingit and Atlantis in the division. Klubi 04, HJK’s farm team, were relegated to Kakkonen last year. It is astounding that there is only one Helsinki club in the top flight, but to be honest i can’t see any of the Ykkönen sides making a sustained challenge to HJK. We will probably have to wait for HIFK to get promoted for that to happen, and after a disappointing 1-1 draw against Kontu (yet another lower league Helsinki team, this time from the run-down eastern suburbs) on Monday it looks like they may have a harder time than they’d like.

It can be surprising, though. GrIFK striker Petter Meyer told HBL that he didn’t really expect to get promoted last year, and his side trailed PoPa for most of 2007. But here they are, promoted as champions, and representing Grankulla (Kauniainen in Finnish, although it is a bilingual municipality with a large Swedish speaking minority) in Ykkönen. Meyer expects that they will get 500 people a game, I think they will be lucky to achieve that in a handball area with a population of 8,000.

Ville Nylund mentioned that the clubs in Ykkönen are so diverse that helping them is not a uniform activity. Sides like KäPa have a very small budget, will be very happy to stay up, and have no intention of trying to compete in veikkausliiga. Viikingit want help with marketing and building their infrastructure, with the intention of establishing themselves on their next promotion rather than scrapping at the bottom of the table.

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