Racism in Finnish football

This week started off with an unpleasant incident at Finnair Stadium, when bananas were thrown at RoPS players at the end of their game against HJK. RoPS have signed a number of Africans over the years. Some have become firm favourites, like Zeddy Saileti, who took on new coaching duties at the start of the season, and some have never been heard of again.

This mix of outcomes is generally what happens when you sign footballers from anywhere. RoPS undoubtedly have a harder time trying to attract talent than most clubs, as they are geographically remote and financially disadvantaged, so it is unsurprising that they cast their net a little wider than teams down south.

The match report on RoPS’s website mentioned the incident, and it cannot have been nice for anyone involved. I tried to call Risto Niva, RoPS’s chairman, but he did not reply to messages. HJK have made no public comment on the matter. Compare and contrast to Sweden, where Hammarby fans throwing bananas at a black man – even when that was a long-standing tradition to do with the opposition’s location not the player’s race – caused a media outcry.

I wasn’t there, and I don’t know exactly what happened, but I do know that this kind of thing would cause an absolute shitstorm in many other countries, and probably fines for the club involved.

On a similar theme, Juha has done some recent work on racism in Finnish football, interviewing Armand Oné and TPS B-Junior Samuel Lindström about racism in Finland. Here are some excerpts:

One and Lindström both argue that football is not an especially racist environment.

“I encounter racism more in my free-time than in football,” Lindström says.

One also experiences more racism in his free time.

“When I go out to a bar someone might call me a nigger. When they realise I am “Tepsi’s Armand Oné”, they become my friend.”

The jist of the piece is that Finland is quite racist, but football is no worse than anywhere else. And that people who know him, be they his own fans or idiots in bars, don’t act in a racist fashion. Here’s Oné’s comparison of all the places he’s played.

“In England and Scotland things were fine. In France people have made monkey noises at me since I was 16. In Finland I experienced some racism last year in Kotka, when we played KTP,” says Oné.

Lindström has had some comments when playing for TPS.

“An opposing player complained that he had been forced to mark a nigger. He also called me a nigger when I went into a tackle too hard.”

There is an anti-racism campaign running on Finnish TV at the moment under the slogan ‘rasisti on reppana’, which roughly translates as ‘a racist is pathetic’. Jari Litmanen and Niki Mäenpää play football with some Somali kids before giving the tagline to camera in an appropriately macho stance. It hasn’t had much effect on the banana-thrower(s) at HJK, and it’s difficult to see the point if incidents like that go unpunished.


7 Responses

  1. “bananas were thrown at RoPS players”

    Bananas were thrown at HJK’s end while the game was being played in the RoPS’ end. Klubi’s Ville Wallen was the nearest player.

    “An opposing player complained that he had been forced to mark a nigger. He also called me a nigger when I went into a tackle too hard.”

    I’m willing to bet the word used was “neekeri” which would translate to “negro”, not “nigger”. “Nigger” in Finnish would be “nekru”. While neekeri is often considered to be a racist term, it is far more neutral than nekru (aka nigger).

  2. The word was neekeri, it said so in the article, and it is a racist term. No ‘often considered to be’ about it, you use it around black people you are likely to get your face filled in. And rightly so.

  3. That looks unnecessarily confrontational this morning. What I meant was that the term was considered racist by the person it was directed towards, and by most definitions of racism you have to start from the presumption, under those circumstances, that it was racist.

    You could disprove that presumption, but it doesn’t seem to me that you have a very strong case. ‘Negro’ derives from ‘negroid’ , a very specific racial descriptor that refers to black Africans. Lindström’s ethnicity is Indian, and ‘neekeri’ is often used towards people who are not black african, and never in a positive way. At least I’ve never heard it used in a positive way.

  4. Whichever term that was used, simply complaining about having to mark a black player is racist in itself …

  5. Well yes, there is that too. The alleged banana-chucker has been on forums trying to argue that his action wasn’t racist, but has thankfully been given short shrift. There might well be some more to this story in the next week or so.

  6. Hi Egan. I really like this blog. You have a lot of interesting opinions and I really respect your fresh articles.

    As I was the one who threw those bananas in to the pitch I would like to give you some comments on this issue. First of all I agree with you that throwing bananas is really stupid thing to do. It may seem racist action but actually I didn´t concider it as racism. People do stupid things when they are drunk and this was one of those days when you were too pissed and chose to irritate RoPS-fans by throwing bananas.

    So why did I do it? I did it because I hate RoPS that have illegal stadium conditions which are against the rules of Finnish FA. RoPS have neglected these so called “league licence rules” for several years and when they have done this they have caused a major obstacle for other clubs and for the whole football family to develop football in Finland. For me it is clear that RoPS is a terrorist club that has destroyed the potential and the so called EOM-spirit. This is why majority of Finnish football fans dislike RoPS so much. I thought that the best way to irritate RoPS-fans is to throw bananas in to the pitch. That´s why I did it. For me it was not about racism at all. It was just about showing middle finger to most stupid football club and their moron supporters. That´s it. I´m very sorry.

    After the incident I have realised that throwing bananas into the pitch was not the best way to protest against Rovaniemi or RoPS. I am against all kinds of racist abuse. I have lot of foreign friends: Russians, Etiopians, Nigerians etc. It doesn´t matter if you´re black or white. I´m aware that there is a big risk that some one who doesn´t understand the circumstances would concider that the action that I did was racist. But I assure you my motives were 0% racist.

    Luckily in Finnish football there is not systematic racism. But sometimes there are drunken people who may have stupid actions or stupid shout-outs. We should not tolerate any kind of stupid actions that may have racist nature. Let´s keep racism out of Finnish football! Love and Peace!

  7. Having just read this entire convo I find myself at a loss as to quite why the banana thrower has not been penalised in some way e.g. a ban for instance? Assuming that the person is, as claimed, unaware that throwing said bananas just might be considered a tad racist (considering all the past well documented cases etc) then some sort of restraining order might be healthier for him anyway. I sometimes get a bit drunk myself but, oddly enough, never seem to have that all important bunch of bananas in my pocket to make my protests. Racism is racism. Kill it.

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