Lasha Chkhaidze

Just researching a story about football in Kajaani (keywords: smalltown rivalry), and came across this video of AC Kajaani’s Georgian midfielder Lasha.

TamU win sixpointer, look to Cup for European qualification

MyPa FC KooTeePee 2 – 0
FF Jaro HJK 1 – 1
RoPS FC Lahti 2 – 2
TamU KuPS 2 – 0
IFK Mariehamn FC Inter 1 – 1
FC Honka VPS 1 – 2

Highlights here

So, Tampere United got the win they desperately needed against KuPs. They absolutely dominated proceedings, with a number of chances cleared off the line before Jari Niemi finally bundled one home on 74 minutes. With a bit more defensive fortitude (not that they were especially short in that department) and calmer instincts in front of goal KuPs would have executed a perfect smash and grab raid, but they ran out of luck.

Both managers brought off their tricky foreign winger to chuck on a big lad up the front when things got desperate. For TamU it was understandable, as Rafinha hadn’t played that well and Henri Myynti has often caused problems when playing as a forward. For KuPs it was mystifying. Echiabhi Okodugha was their most potent threat, always involved when they got into the TamU half and absolutely dominating a very poor makeshift left-back in Sakari Saarinen. He missed a couple of chances, but set up Ilja Venäläinen on several occasions, only for the latter to be indecisive or muscled off the ball by TamU defenders.

The crowd was 2,811, a strange figure given that TamU claim to have sold 3,200 season tickets. It can be explained by the fact that Veikkausliiga recently decreed that attendances have to count only those who are actually at the games from now on, rather than the number of tickets sold, booked or given away. Honka had a very poor crowd of 1,700 for their game against VPS, possibly because this is the first game after the new rules came in.

Veikkausliiga Round 9 preview

After the depressing break in Veikkausliiga games caused by the European Championships, it is now time to get back to business.

TPS beat Haka 2-0 yesterday. I only saw the first 20 minutes of the game and had to miss the remaining 70 minutes due to football-related duties elsewhere, but I heard the game was not very good. TPS seem to be getting better though, reports have surfaced that last night’s game was an improvement. That is not much, given TPS’ recent form and awful performances, but the win was extremely important. Haka sure could have used the three points too, but their inability to convert chances proved fatal. Be sure to check out the goals, including Armand One’s wonderful strike, and bunch of other highlights as well as the post-match press conference at the amazing TPS TV.

I can’t see MyPa getting anything else but three points against lowly KooTeePee tonight. KooTeePee are probably doing their best, but Veikkausliiga simply seems to be the wrong league for the Kotka side.

FF Jaro will host HJK. The guests are favorites, given Jaro’s recent form and the attacking power HJK have in Tomasz Sajdak and Juho Mäkelä.

A clash between RoPS and FC Lahti in Rovaniemi will be a meeting of two teams who have enjoyed a surprisingly good run in Veikkausliiga. Lahti are second in the league table and favorites in that sense, but Rovaniemi is a tough place to visit – ask TPS or Tampere United. Lahti are dangerous up front, having probably the best strikers in the league in Rafael and Berat Sadik. However, I still feel like this might just be a draw. A win for either side would not be a huge surprise though.

KuPS will pay a visit to Tampere United in what, remarkably, is a relegation battle. Only one point separates the two teams in TamU’s favour.
TamU have no excuses anymore. They are 13 points away from the top position and the first two spots are, if not beyond their reach, at least a considerable distance away. KuPS, on the other hand, are playing pretty much according to expectations. Of course, they would not mind a win either, so it is not going to be an easy night for Tampere United. 

Inter are topping the league, with two points and a game in hand to go in their favour as opposed to FC Lahti. However, their defeat in the cup game against HJK proved that they might not be immortal after all. According to the reports, the performance was nowhere near the standard they have reached in Veikkausliiga.
Maarianhamina is a tough place to visit and with the players at their disposal, IFK Mariehamn can cause problems. A difficult game to predict, and most likely a difficult game for both teams.

The league table predicts an even match between FC Honka and VPS, too.
Honka are not missing too many first team players. Nicholas Otaru, Hermanni Vuorinen, John Weckström and the likes are on the teamsheet, and tonight’s match might just be a farewell night for the Sweden-bound Hannu Patronen, too. VPS are going to field a good team as well.
Honka’s home form is nothing short of deadly, but VPS have excelled at defending, conceding only three times in eight games. On the other hand, they have only scored four times and that has to change.

Football in Finland COMPETITION!

Do you want to win this match worn shirt, kindly donated to Football in Finland? It’s from Stanley Festus’s time at Sepsi, and looks pretty damn smart:

Sepsi shirt

All you have to do is draw a picture of Kalervo Kummola at a Tampere United game and send it to footballinfinland ‘at’ gmail ‘dot’ com, along with your name and address, by the end of July. I didn’t get a picture of Kummola at the Djurgården match and I’m not sure I didn’t dream that he was there, so I need your help to jog my memory.

Where does your heart lie?

That’s the tagline for Sheffield Wednesday’s attempts to market a huge price hike in next year’s season tickets, and a disgraceful guilt tripping exercise it is too. Tampere United seem to have learnt a thing or two from the bigger leagues in Europe though, and their cup game pricing policy shows just what that is.

TamU’s 10 year celebration match was an eventful game, end-to-end stuff, and the teams looked pretty equal until a scrambled winner for Djurgården late on. That wasn’t the point though: a ‘prestige’ friendly against a foreign club, especially one billed as a birthday party, is about more than tactics and formations. The important stuff is all off-field, and for a minority sport like football the people in the stands are much more important.

Some more important than others, obviously. Kalervo Kummola must have been to other TamU games – he owns a substantial slice of the club – but before Monday night I hadn’t seen him. many other VIPs were there, apparently having been given a free scarf on their way in. Mere plebs had to pay, however, even if they had a season ticket. When I discovered this I walked round to the press entrance, but if that hadn’t been an option I would quite likely have spent the money in the pub instead.

Quite a few people decided to do just that, as the crowd was just 1,500. It was a crap atmosphere, and you have to hope that if they make it to 20 years TamU remember that if people have to pay to come to your birthday party, only your closest friends are going to turn up. A far better idea would be to give season ticket holders a free ticket to bring a friend along too, given the 10% occupancy rate this game achieved.

Which brings me to tonight’s games. Ilves v VPS, at a proper football stadium, included on my Ilves season ticket, or TamU v FC Espoo’s reserve side at Ratina, costing €5 to get in? Why on earth did TamU decide 1) to play at the same time as Ilves and 2) charge money to watch a team in Kolmonen get torn a new one? I’m going to Tammela anyway, and then heading to the cottage for midsummer. Don’t expect any updates before Sunday.

Cup update and round-up

Okay, I know: my last update was appallingly inaccurate. It was the Fifth round not the sixth, and the game kicked off a mere nine minutes after I’d concluded that there couldn’t possibly be a semi-professional match taking place there. This is, I suppose, a good indication of football’s underground guerrilla-like standing in Finland, when games can take place entirely unnoticed by anyone in its vicinity. Never mind.

The day after that, I went to Tammela to get drunk and watch Ilves. It was a lot of fun, but the weather was grey and miserable so the crowd was quite poor, with just 444 people turning out. It was clearly a ‘big match’ though, and Ilves are definitely, incontrivertibly a big club. They out rank HIFK on the merchandise-ometer, for starters, with two full tables filled with Ilves jalkapallo goodies at very reasonable prices.

The game was, as expected, very even. Janne Salli held the Ilves defence together, and TPV created very little. Asked to pick the Ykkönen team out of these two, I would have picked Ilves. It was no surprise when Majamaa put them 1-0 up early in extra time. Here he is celebrating, photo courtesy of Petteri:

Jarno Majamaa scores the first goal for Ilves against TPV

You can see many more of his excellent Finnish football photos at his website.

In Veikkausliiga, TPS continued their remarkable start to the season with a 4-1 defeat at Lahti. Sadik was in storming form, scoring one and creating two, and he will surely be off to a bigger league soon. You can see highlights (complete with loan-sharking adverts – you stay classy in this global credit crunch, Iltalehti) here.

So what the hell is going on at TPS? It’s something I’ve been wondering, watching the erudite Martti Kuusela and the tanned and feminine Simo Valakari (the highest paid player at TPS, injured for the season) performing their punditry duties for Euro 2008 matches on YLE. You have to wonder what exactly Finland’s Newcastle are going to achieve this year – they’re comfortably mid-table, but look unlikely to trouble the European placings.

That’s not a good return on Seppo Sairanen’s investment, and a crucial next two matches could put Kuusela under pressure – if they lose to Atlantis in the cup and go out of the Intertoto to Lisburn Distillery, both entirely possible results given their current form, it might be hard to justify keeping him in post. I don’t expect them to sack Kuusela, he’s a massive name in Finland and admitting a mistake at this stage would not reflect well on the club hierarchy, but something is going wrong at TPS and they need to sort it out fast.

A sad lament for Helsingin Sanomat’s Pressikatsomo, which has published its last post. Hopefully the writers involved already have new projects, especially Kristian Sundqvist, whose stuff about Jaro, attendances and Finnish football in general is very good indeed. HS’s football coverage does not have a good reputation among fans here, and as we get both HBL and HS I can see where that view finds support. Still, there are other good Finnish bloggers about, notably Ari Virtanen at Nelonen, Mikko Knuutila at Ilta Sanomat, and Elias’s project Kulmapotku.

Väyrynen moves to Club Brugge

It looks like Mika Väyrynen didn’t like the houmous at AEK, and has opted to go to Belgium instead. He will now get a chance to play in the Brugge derby, which looks like quite a fixture:

Suomen Cup sixth round

I’ve had really terrible luck with the Finnish Cup this year. It seemed like a great idea, back at the start of th season, to go to a game in every round, and follow the winners. Unfortunately, things like not-really-being-arsed-to-go-to-Hämeenlinna-on-a-Saturday-morning intervened, and I didn’t get very far.

This continued today, with me trekking half an hour across a rainswept Tampere city centre to see HIFK playing TPV-A at Pyynikki. Pyynikki is a classic old ground, with a wooden stand and grass banks behind one goal, but unfortunately I arrived 24 hours late. The game was yesterday, and HIFK won 5-4 on penalties. I missed PP 70 taking on LoPa, and losing 3-0, got piss-wet through, and didn’t even have the consolation of seeing Russia against Spain. There is a reason some people think Finnish football fans are idiots.

Tomorrow I hope to see Ilves against TPV at Tammela. Kick off is, I think, at 6:30pm, they sell beer, and the teams are well matched. If it isn’t postponed, and I don’t get struck by lightning, I will post my thoughts on the first ‘political’ Tampere derby I’ll have seen.

A Turku derby in Kakkonen

For historical and political reasons, they always say that Turku is ahead of other parts of Finland in all areas of everyday life. Unfortunately, I had to notice yesterday that this statement does not apply to arranging Kakkonen games. As I headed over to Yläkenttä in Urheilupuisto last night to see Åbo IFK take on Sinimustat, I quickly noticed a pay bar is something one can only dream of. They did not even have sausage, a fact I had my acquaintance grieving over. They only sold the likes of coffee.

ÅIFK - Sinimustat 5.6.2008
Yläkenttä, home for several lower division teams in Turku.

Anyway, I was looking forward to the game with interest. ÅIFK won promotion to Kakkonen at the end of last season, having played in Kolmonen for six years before that. They have always been an essential part of football in Turku, having won three championships (1910, 1920, 1924) and one Finnish cup (1965). Nowadays they are the oldest football club in Turku, celebrating their 100th anniversary this year.
In fact, if it wasn’t for IFK, TPS might not exist.

TPS was actually founded in 1922 because the Finnish language majority did not have a sport club in Turku and they wanted to have something to go against ÅIFK. However, things have changed since those days. The clubs actually have a link, ÅIFK being the club TPS send their players to if they have not enjoyed a run in the first team.

ÅIFK attract lots of kids every year to play in their youth teams, but the most talented ones usually switch clubs because IFK have not had a professional first team in ages. They strongly build on their Swedish language following, I think most Finlandssvensk kids start their playing careers playing for ÅIFK.

Sinimustat, on the other hand, are completely different. After last season, FC Inter cancelled their link with Naantali’s VG-62 and founded a new club that came to be called Sinimustat. In theory, they are a different club altogether, with the backing of Magnus Bahne and the likes, but in practice, the club only exists to provide Inter’s youth players some playing time.

I don’t think Inter are even trying to make it look like Inter and Sinimustat are two different clubs. Their head coach is Jami Wallenius, a former Inter captain and a long-term assistant coach. Their shirts are exactly similar to those of Inter, with the exception of Sinimustat not having the Inter logo on their shirt. In addition, Sinimustat do not even have a website of their own, but they have settled with a subdirectory on the Inter website instead.

In last night’s game, both teams really looked like feeder teams. The ÅIFK goal was guarded by TPS’ backup goalkeeper Henrik Moisander and Antti Hakala, TPS’ third striker, was trying to create something at the offensive end. The most interesting player on the pitch, however, was undoubtedly the new TPS signing, a UEFA Cup winner and an ex-Feyenoord player Christian Gyan. Most likely he was there to get back into the idea of playing and he did well indeed. No miracles there, but most probably he was supposed to avoid contacts, having just signed for a club in need.

His passing was precise, and his ball control skills were way ahead of other players on the pitch. However, he seemed to have collected weight, but I might have gotten the impression because the shirt he was wearing was huge. ÅIFK also had some former Veikkausliiga players on the pitch. Juha Virkki and Ville Harittu both used to play for TPS, and they were still good value on this level.

Sinimustat, on the other hand, played some of the most talented Inter kids, such as Oskari Forsman, Ville Mäkilä, Jussi Henriksson, Joni Kauko and Alban Ferati. They showed potential, but in a surprisingly unremarkable match, ÅIFK held the upper hand. Albin Granlund was effective in the IFK midfield, and Antti Hakala caused some trouble for the Sinimustat defence.

They were unable to create chances though, and it might have cost them the game. They began to tire in the closing stages of the game and the young boys of Sinimustat had no real trouble holding on to the lead they secured in the 83rd minute as Joni Kauko beautifully converted a freekick.

ÅIFK - Sinimustat 5.6.2008

After last night’s game, Sinimustat are now in the 8th position in the league table. ÅIFK are currently 11th, having won only once. However, they are not expected to be relegated and they have plenty of time to make things look better.

Väyrynen: AEKing to play

Mika Väyrynen has had a torrid few years at PSV Eindhoven. His injury problems have disrupted his time significantly, and he has lost his place in the squad. PSV might even have forgotten about him, you never know.

So it’s good to hear that he’s in negotiations to move to AEK Athens, a club with a decent Finnish scouting network and a desperation to break the stranglehold Olympiakos have over the Greek Championship. They’ve won the last four, but AEK have improved recently and finished second last season.