Political Football

There are local elections taking place tomorrow, and Football in Finland has nailed its Tampere colours firmly to Jussi Kahola’s mast. He is candidate number 610, and I really hope you vote for him if you can.

There are a lot of candidates who claim to care about football when elections come around, but you never know just how important it really is to them, or what they are going to do about it.

With Finland using the D’Hondt system for local elections, even voting for a football obsessed candidate could mean giving your support to someone who hates the sport, as votes cast for a party’s candidates are added together and all of them go to the top ranked candidate. The second ranked candidate gets half, the third a quarter, and so on and on down the list.

This means that all parties try to have as many candidates as possible, and attempt to exploit social networks and individual popularity as well as ensuring that at least someone on their list seems ‘a bit like me’. Parties use all kinds of campaigning methods, the weirdest for me being the Centre party’s offer of free carrots:

Keskusta Carrots

I was sceptical about voting for anyone in the established parties, as they have done nothing to get a heated outdoor pitch for Tampere, or renovate Tammela Stadium, or provide proper, civilised conditions for people to watch Veikkausliiga football in Tampere. Something new was needed.

Jussi is standing almost solely on a football platform. He plays Fifth division football for Lappro, and has a clear understanding that more pitches will mean more people get to play more often, and that will have beneficial effects for social and health issues. He also loves Tammela, which is the most important thing.

His final campaigning event was today, and involved playing football in Keskustori (Central Square), where all parties have their main campaigning activities. The idea was to drive home the point that there are not enough facilities to play football in Tampere, and we need more.

Eye on the ball

A sunny day in Tampere


After a while we decided to ask some politcians other than Jussi to come and join out game. Only two accepted, Imdat Uludag from Keskusta and Tiina Elovaara from Perusuomalaiset, but they both put in good performances. Uludag was a deep-lying sweeper, the kind of player who dominated Italia 90 but has fallen out of fashion since. He is also a magistrate and teacher, and his candidate number is 57. He would like to see more football pitches in Tampere too, and jumped at the chance to play with us when we asked.

Elovaara was more of a playmaker in midfield, threading through balls to the strikers and putting in strong tackles when necessary. Perusuomalaiset (‘True Finns’) have a reputation as a populist nationalist party, and Elovaara was keen to explain that her themes are social exclusion and mental health. She said the party in general attempts to look after ‘those who don’t have so much’. They have had racists among their candidates, but they are being weeded out as the party gains more support and comes under closer scrutiny – euro-scepticism and improved social services are their favoured themes these days, and Elovaara was keen to emphasise how she would like more football fields to help integration.

But then, she was talking to a foreigner who wants better football facilities, so she would say that wouldn’t she? Sorry to be cynical, but if football is the most important thing in the elction for you, then voting for Jussi Kahola is the best thing you can do. Tiina and Imdat are both nice people, and I hope they get elected, but they and the rest of the council could really do with a football man asking the right questions and prompting them to make the right decisions.


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