Kai Kuokkanen

Jussi Kahola just missed out on getting elected in Tampere, but there were other football candidates in Finland. One successful football orientated politician was Kai Kuokkanen, who was elected on the Green Party list in Lahti. If you want to find out more in Finnish, or get in touch with him, you can do so via his website.

Kai Kuokkanen

Congratulations on getting elected, Kai! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Thanks! I’m 28 years old. Currently I’m working at Kesko where I’m doing my retail store trainee program. It’s going to take this year and hopefully I’ll be working near Lahti from the beginning of 2009. At the moment I’m working in Kotka.

My football career lasted 10 years and it ended at the age of 17. I was a goalkeeper playing for Reipas. I sometimes played also as a defender, few times I was stopping strikers with Lasse Lagerblom, who later played for FC Lahti and FC Honka. I just got bored with training and I thought I’ve got more to give for Finnish football on the terraces than on the field.

Tell me about your political career. When did you become politically interested, and what do you want to achieve in the council and on a personal level? Why did you pick the Green party?

I’ve always been interested in politics, but I joined the green party after the parlamentary elections 2002. I had met my girlfriend a year earliers and she had a huge influence on my thoughts. So in 2002 I joined the union of the Green Youth. When I moved to Kouvola for my studies, I got the idea to try to be a candidate in local elections. It was 2004 when I sent email to the boss of the Kouvola Greens and asked if I could became a candidate. That’s also when I officially became a member of the Green Party. I got 53 votes with a budget of 3 euros, so I was quite satisfied.

2006 came and I moved back to Lahti. I was elected as one of the candidates for the parliamentary elecions in the Häme election district. I got 550 votes (over 380 from Lahti), so that’s when I decided that I’ll have a run at the local elections in my hometown. Now it’s 2008 and I was a candidate and from the beginning of the next year I’ll be in the city council for the coming 4 years.

If you could choose where FC Lahti played, would it be Kisapuisto, Lahti Stadium, or an entirely new ground?

If I had the money, I would build an entirely new stadium. Kisapuisto is a legendary spot, but for old clubs, not for FC Lahti. For FC Lahti the Lahti Stadium is the home, it has been the home for the entire history of the club.

But as I don’t have the money, I’ll choose Kisapuisto. It must be totally renewed and built again. The location is the best in Finland for a football ground. Just in the middle of the city.

What do you think the council can and should do for football in Lahti?

The stadium is the best the council can do for FC Lahti. Of course council can give money for other things too, but the stadium is the most important. We have decent training facilities here for the youth clubs also, but of course if there is money left for football, it should go to the facilities.

When did you start following FC Lahti, and why? Did you follow another club before Lahti, and do you think they are now as popular in the city as Reipas and Kuusysi?

I started following FC Lahti from the first ever home match in 1997, against Ponnistus. Before that I was following Reipas and was strongly against the merger. But when the new season started, I decided that FC Lahti will be the club for me. I missed Reipas for a few months, but now there is only one club in my heart and I think FC Lahti is getting more popular year by year. The older people are strongly against it, but as the years go by, the new generation, who have only been following FC Lahti became stronger and stronger. After 10 more years we will be the number one club ever in this city.

Who is your favourite all-time Lahti player (excluding Jari Litmanen)?

Definitely Rafael. He’s the best player ever in this club. Hard working, goalscoring and a nice bloke. That’s all it’s needed to be a terrace hero! And I love the badge kissing every time he scores.

What’s your fondest memory of Jari Litmanen?

Of course his years in Ajax. The greatest FC Lahti memory is from his first ever appereance in Lahti shirt in the League cup final against Allianssi. When he came to the field, the whole stadium of 4500 spectators were standing and singing Litmanen. That was an unbelievable moment.

The current Lahti team have shown some real grit to qualify for Europe, but at one point they were considered title challengers. Are you satisfied with  the way the team has performed?

I’m totally satisfied. I was hoping for a top 5 finish, so us reaching the Uefa spot is more than I ever dreamed. I think it was in July or August, people started to talk about us finishing in top three, but I didn’t believe it before 94 minutes in Helsinki. Our manager Ilkka Mäkelä has done a fantastic job with the squad and I hope it continues.

Who has been the most influential player for FC Lahti this year? Who has improved the most? And who is most likely to move abroad?

I would say Konsta Hietanen. I played in all matches and was superb. He has also improved the most. And I think it will be he or Eero Korte, who will move abroad next.

Lahti fans have made an impression wherever they’ve gone to follow their team. What’s your favourite FC Lahti song?

“ohi syyskuun läpi repaleisen lokakuun, sarjapaikasta me taistellaan, ei tuu kultaa, eikä tule hopeaa milloinkaan”. We didn’t sing it a single time this season. We used to sing it more when we were shite! But I love it!

Lahti took a hell of a lot of people to HJK on Sunday. By all accounts it was a tremendous atmosphere and they did the team proud, as away fans always aim to do. Do you follow Lahti away, and if so can you tell us about your best memories of Lahti away games?

I try to follow them away as much as I can. This season was quite a difficult, when I was living in Kotka (so all the home matches were also away matches for me), so I didn’t travel a much. Next season I’ll hopefully be living in Lahti or Helsinki, so travelling away will be a lot easier.

The best memeries are from the season 2001 when I travelled to all away games (including two trips to Rovaniemi). Those Lapland trips are the best. Of course those heavy drinking sessions to Maarianhamina are also something to remember when I’m 70.

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