Stanley Festus

Stanley Festus

I’ve posted before about Stanley Festus. I was a bit sceptical then, mainly because the tone of the article fitted Six Degrees’s line about foreigners in Finland rather than explained Festus’s situation. Since then I’ve found out more and spoken to the man himself, so it’s about time I wrote about what I’d found.

The first new source of information was Mikko Perälä. He is currently involved with Oulun Pallo Seura, with the interesting task of managing Miika Juntunen, but it is down to him that Festus came to Finland. Perälä has business interests in Bangladesh, and was intrigued when he met Festus.

“I met Stanley in a weird tango-course organized by a Bangladeshi guy who spoke the way the royals do in the court of England,” says Perälä. “Stanley was sweeping across the dance floor with an Ukrainian girl in the first lesson I took part in.”

“I found out that he was a football player and before that I had not known that people actually get paid to do sports in Bangladesh. I knew they had a cricket team and they were very popular, but national team in football was not in such good shape. And then there were all these African and South American professionals who earned quite a fair amount of money. Much better than they would earn, lets say, in Finnish 2nd division.”

“I met many national team players from countries like Burundi, Ruwanda and other smaller footballling nations of Africa. These guys were circling in Asia like old time sailors, taking a job when ever and where ever one came across. Lots of Nigerian players there as well. One that they looked up to and who was their “god father” was a Nigerian international, Ladi Babalola.”

All of these players, it must be said, want to play somewhere other than where they are. This might well be a condition endemic among footballers. Certainly Cristiano Ronaldo’s current travails would suggest so, but the Africans in Asia have a much simpler aim: to get to Europe and play at as high a level as possible. Perälä liked Stanley’s dedication, intensive training regime, spartan lifestyle and friendly disposition, and wanted to help out.

So he told Stanle to come to Finland, and he would sort out the formalities. Perälä bought train tickets, got people to meet Festus off the plane, and sorted out the footballer’s work permit. This allowed him to work as a footballer, but nothing else. Unfortunately, FC Dreeverit, the Kakkonen club that had been supposed to register Festus failed to do so before the deadline at the end of April, and so he had to start out in Kolmonen or below, where those rules don’t apply.

So he started out at FC Raahe, whose kit he is wearing in the photo up the top there. It’s worth pointing out here that none of these clubs were paying Festus. Perälä had promised to look after him, but having just started his own business, money was tight. He was staying at a flat rented cheaply from the oulu student housing association, but buying food and clothes was a problem. This is where the Finnish football community (or futisforum2, as it’s otherwise known) stepped in, selling the hat Stanley is wearing in the photo and using the money to pay his living costs.

At this point, Hannu Takkula MEP called Perälä. He’d been reading about Festus on futisforum2, and suggested that Perälä call Sepsi Seinäjoki. This he did, and off went Festus to play in Kakkonen and earn an actual wage. By this point Stanley’s brother, Chijoke, had arrived in Finland and was playing for OPS.

Unfortunately they’ve both suffered some injuries, and progress has been slow in terms of moving to a big league. On the other hand, they are both now happily married to Finnish women and Stanley has a new-born baby son. He lives in Vantaa and plays for HyPS in Kakkonen, doing pretty well as the senior player in a struggling team.

Stanley is very happy in his personal life, but in football things could be better. He feels that Finns don’t take football seriously enough, and his young team mates do things he wouldn’t countenance, taking holidays when they shouldn’t and not training as hard as they could. He’s resigned to the fact that agents don’t really come to Finland and he is unlikely to get picked up, but he is also disparaging about the standard of Veikkausliiga football. He feels that the standard is not that different to Ykkönen and he could be a success there, a view shared by many lower division players here.

You can win Stanley’s Sepsi shirt in our ongoing Football in Finland competition. The deadline is the end of this month, so there’s still plenty of time to get your entries in.

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4 Responses

  1. […] Ronaldo Assis de Moreira . Excerpt: “I found out that he was a football player and before that I had not known that people actually get paid to do sports in Bangladesh. I knew they had a cricket team and they were very popular, but national team in football was not in … […]

  2. I can’t seem to access the 6degrees article – its asking me to log in but there’s no option to register. Still, the tone of the article could probably be guessed for those who haven’t read the publication by the poll question on the front page:

    “Finland is planning to recruit employees from abroad. Do you think immigrant work force already present in the country has been used efficiently?”

    Brilliantly Finnish (that kind of Finn anyway).

  3. That question could be taken in different ways, though. 6 degrees is very pro-immigrant but in that particular story talked more about visas and red tape than what actually happened to Stanley. It made Finland sound like a very shit place for immigrants – which it undoubtedly is, for some – but Stanley’s had a lot of help from ordinary Finns and could always go back to play in India and earn bucketloads of money. I thought they could have covered the story in a very different way, because it made him sound like a victim and i don’t think he is, or would want to be seen as one.

    The fact that he hasn’t done so speaks volumes, and you’d hope that his influence will be very good for HyPS. he is pretty much the model of an integrated immigrant, and his football problems have mainly stemmed from some weird and inexplicable injuries (a mystery growth in his thigh kept him out for most of 2006 and 2007).

  4. Also, I don’t think people should be pigeonholed as ‘immigrants’ simply because they’re African. He’s a footballer and a very good one at that. Virtually everyone in Finland could earn more money if they did their job in another country, but they don’t do that for various reasons.

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