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.

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7 Responses

  1. Fantastic post, thanks Juha. I wish I’d thought about this before, I might have stopped off in Turku to see it. Maybe ÅIFK and HIFK are part of a Finlandsvensk football revival?

  2. Just have to say when speaking of derby games in Kakkonen that wednesdays HIFK-Klubi04 was a fantastic occasion with about 1000 spectators which is very unique in Kakkonen matches. I hope that HIFK get promoted at the end of the season. At the moment it looks good.

  3. Thanks Egan. I don’t see ÅIFK going pro very soon, but better late than never maybe? HIFK, on the other hand, seem to be doing things well and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in Veikkausliiga in a few years’ time. I would love it since HIFK are a traditional club and I believe they have great supporter potential even outside Stadin Kingit.

    Elias, I heard about the wonderful spectator count. HJK don’t attract exceptional crowds, but I could see that changing with HIFK in Veikkausliiga. I wouldn’t expect them to get promoted this year though. I think I’m in the bandwagon anyway, HIFK are a sports club that I appreciate.

  4. The whole IFK (Idrottsföreningen Kamraterna – ‘The Sports Association of Comrades’) movement is something special in Swedish-speaking culture, both in Finland and in Sweden. It’s quite interesting to read the history of, although today it’s doesn’t play such a big roll in characterising the teams. You will note that all the IFK teams have similar logos (always with the IFK movement’s star on it).

    Anyway, sadly my team is in Kolmonen and doesn’t show any signs of ever escaping it. (Good job my passion is more for bandy). Would be nice if HIFK makes it up though.

  5. Of course, the bonds are looser nowadays, but at least in Turku ÅIFK seems to be something special. As I said, most Swedish-speaking kids start their careers playing for ÅIFK, a considerable achievement from a club that has to compete with two clubs that have Veikkausliiga teams.

    I’m not sure about HIFK, but I believe they still somehow reflect their background? I believe their ice-hockey team is still widely supported among the Finlanddsvensk people, and I’ve understood Jokerit supporters, on the other hand, are proud of their working class background. (Of course, it’s not so simple anymore because things have changed). Sorry for referring to hockey here, but I believe it is the most convenient way to draw conclusions about HIFK. Actually, my assumption about HIFK having a big supporter potential in Veikkausliiga is based on the fact that HIFK seem to have lots of fans that don’t care about the sport as long as HIFK are playing.

  6. Yes, you are right. Swedish-speakers almost always support HIFK in icehockey (and almost never Jokerit, I’ve never known a Swedish speaker who supported Jokerit anyway). Back in the past, in derby matches between HIFK and Jokerit, the Jokerit fans sometimes used to cheer ‘Suomi! Suomi!’ etc. Which was kind of annoying for HIFK fans, but you get what they were trying to say about HIFK. I don’t think that happens these days though.

    Yes, HIFK is still very much a Swedish-speaking organisation in its other ‘less famous’ sports. Of course, the hockey team is so big that it goes beyond language groups.

    I think you are right about HIFK generally having lots of fans, regardless of sport. And there are many HIFK fans in other sports (ie icehockey) who would never ever support any other Helsinki team in Veikkausliiga (i.e. HJK). So, I agree – it would be good for the supporter base if HIFK made it.

  7. Excellent the writing.

    Thank You

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