Atlantis 1 JJK 0

This game kicked off at 2pm on Saturday, 3 hours before the Finland-Azerbaijan game and just 100 metres from the Olympic Stadium. The ground is called Bollis, or Pallokenttä, and it is the oldest football ground in Finland. There is only one stand, it is uncovered, but when fans chant the echo from the apartment blocks on Urheilukatu is pretty impressive. Similar to Brahen Kenttä in Kallio, where Stadin Kingit make HIFK Bandy games an enjoyable spectacle, the key is proximity to the pitch and no wide open spaces on any side.

I arrived quite early and went for a coffee at the smart cafe under the stand, which provided welcome shelter from the mizzling greyness enveloping Töölö. Atlantis would like there to be a roof on top of the stand at Bollis, but apparently ‘the whole area is protected’ so Helsinki Council won’t do it.

With my prgramme there was an advert for Jorma Kronstedt, a Kokoomus candidate in the forthcoming local elections. Being extremely cynical about politicians of all stripes, I decided to give him a call and ask to meet up at half time, in the certain knowledge that he wouldn’t be wasting his Saturday afternoon watching Ykkönen football. I was wrong, he came and introduced himself just before kick-off, and his campaign manager was there before the game to have a lengthy discussion about his policies. So was Christian Thibault, a bulky German who is also standing in the elections. He’s a Svenska Folk Partiet candidate in Espoo.

Both had gratifyingly down to earth ideas, and wanted to use football (and sport in general in Kronstedt’s case) as a force for social cohesion. The problem as Thibault sees it is that kids don’t have the money to pay their subs (around €100 a year), especially immigrant kids. So Atlantis have a ‘hundreds’ club whereby businesses and individuals can chip in €100 and help a young player play for free, when they might otherwise be unable to afford it.

Thibault is a strong believer in football’s ability to change society. “When people go to a game, they sit next to each other, they mix, they talk and they have something in common,” he told me before the match. “The chances to interract between Finns and immigrants are pretty rare, so maximising these chances is vital for us.”

It’s a great image, and the idea of ‘keeping kids off the streets’ is also prominent with Kronstedt. He coaches hockey and golf as well, and sees them all as a means of preventing the listlessness of unemployed youth. There is a strong strand of paternalism in Kronstedt’s politics (he’s in the right wing party, after all), but he and Thibault seem genuine, they go to matches, and they support a football club that needs the money and seems to be doing good work.

JJK did not play well. Ady was inventive and clever, keeping moves flowing and looking after the ball, but the Atlantis defence were resolute. Eid Adel was particularly impressive, keeping a lid on Babatunde Wusu and making a couple of last ditch tackles.

There were a LOT of JJK fans there, and the racket they made was quite impressive. The crowd was 835, but that didn’t include the 100 odd people standing on Urheilukatu watching the game without paying, or the several journalists who had gone in before the Azerbaijan game to have a quick look.

In the second half Skepple scraped a shot home, and Atlantis had something to hang on to. The news of TPV’s surprising win at Viikingit filtered through to give the JJK fans some hope, but aside from a weak header by Wusu and a goal disallowed for offside, they created little. The result secures Atlantis’s position in Ykkönen, as VIFK now travel to Tornio for their final game against TP 47 knowing that a draw will see them cling on to their position in Ykkönen.

The title race goes to the wire now, with Viikingit away at JIPPO and JJK hosting Kemi. If JJK win they go up as champions, if they draw then Viikingit need to win by three clear goals to win the title. a two goal margin might be enough, depending on how many JJK get. The team that finishes second will play off against the second bottom team in Veikkausliiga, either KuPS or IFK Mariehamn.

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3 Responses

  1. so if kups or Ifk win their respctive play off ,they stay up while the opponent stays in ykkonen ? bizzare , and unfair !
    why cant the use they normal play-off system ?

  2. Well, that’s the way it is. The champions go up automatically, which is right, and the second placed team has to play-off. It isn’t the worst promotion and relegation system in Finnish football, I would say that was between kakkonen and Ykkönen. Kakkonen teams have to win their group to go up, and second place gets nothing. It kills interest early for a lot of teams.

  3. The Ykkönen-Kakkonen promotion rules aren’t great, but the SPL will insist on 3 regional third tier leagues, and promoting first and second from Kakkonen would mean 6 teams getting relegated from the Ykkösliiga.

    Perhaps a playoff between the runners-up of the three regions for a single extra promotion spot would be the best solution, but that’s still 4 up, 4 down in a 14-team Ykkönen.

    I’m going to the Tornio – VIFK match. Should be a cracker with so much at stake for both teams.

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