Niclas Lonnqvist wrote a series of articles in Hufvudstadsbladet this summer, focusing on immigrant sides in Helsinki. There was a Kosovan side, a Hispanic one, a Russian club and Mondial stars, a club that draws its players from any and all immigrant groups.
They have different problems to ‘normal’ Finnish clubs. As immigrants they have fewer sponsors to draw on, as their connections are not that good yet, so finances are difficult at times. Immigrants make less money than natives, in general, so asking the players to chip in can cause problems as well.
The finances of Finnish football are another problem. Municipal facilities are very cheap for junior clubs, as promoting sport among young people is one of the duties of local councils here, but for amateur teams it can be as much as four times as expensive. The league licenses are also much dearer for senior teams than for junior ones, especially as the line between pro clubs and pub teams is pretty blurred, and all the immigrant clubs play at or near that line.
They also face a different problem. Finnish teams can be reluctant to play against immigrant teams, as they have a lot of misconceptions about the way immigrants play football. When pitches are scarce over the winter, it is difficult for the immigrant clubs to get a game as the clubs with pitch bookings tend to ring up their mates in other clubs rather than ask the foreigners to play. So it tended to be Mondial against Colo Colo and Spartak (the Hispanic and Russian teams) when winter came around.
So last winter Mondial got a grant to buy a share in a heated pitch, as a means of ensuring they had a nice facility to play in. They invited lots of clubs for friendlies, including A Juniors from Atlantis, organised sauna evenings with other clubs, and generally tried to make themselves more well known and acceptable among Helsinki’s football fraternity. It was, it has to be said, a massive success.
Unfortunately they might not get the grant money this year, because instead of organising seminars about racism they played football and drank beer. I am an amateur at race relations, but in my limited experience of breaking down prejudices and barriers, sitting in classrooms has been much less productive than playing football and drinking beer. I hope Mondial get the money to continue their work from somewere. If you would like to help (money is good, offers to drink beer and play football infinitely better) then get in touch via footballinfinland ‘at’ gmail.com.