The UEFA Cup First Round match Racing Santander – FC Honka starts at 21:30 tonight Finnish time

That’s what it says at the bottom of the Helsingin Sanomat preview this morning. Normally it offers a way of following the game, on TV or radio, but those options are not available Finland tonight, because nobody has bought the rights. I contacted the Norwegian company that held the rights for the Viking Stavanger game – a big match that Honka had every chance of progressiong from – and asked how much it would have cost to get the Finnish rights.

They refused to put a figure on it, but laughed at my suggestion of €30,000 and said that kind of figure would only be possible if both teams wore skates and helmets. I got the impression they would have accepted any offer, given that the rights were not in demand from anyone at all.

So I didn’t fancy ringing up Localia Cantabria Television, who will be broadcasting the match in the Cantabria region.

Jonathan Pereira was so excited to play against his boyhood idols, he made a special scarf to commemorate the occasion
Jonathan Pereira was so excited to play against his boyhood idols, he made a special scarf to commemorate the occasion

HBL has an article sourced from Spanish websites, so please forgive the double translation and any errors that may result. Pedro Munitis is ever so excited about playing for his home town club in Europe, and apparently received the Big Book of Footballer’s Cliches last Christmas.

“For a Santander lad like me to represent them in Europe is like a dream,” said Munitis. “When I came home in 2006 I felt that I might well have played my last match in European competition, but thanks to our great season last year we have this chance now.”

“To finish sixth last year was an achievement, but that won’t help us tonight against Honka. I expect that we will meet a physically strong team that is very disciplined.”

Munitis ackonowledged Racing are the favourites, but awrned against complacency.

“But everyone who follows football knows that the favourite doesn’t always win. We can’t approach this with any kind of arrogance. Honka haven’t come this for for nothing. It would be good for us to be humble. That’s the best way to win the important matches. That’s something I’ve learnt over my whole career.”

His health in relation to a parrot was, tragically, not mentioned.

Mika Lehkosuo said that it was important to try and unsettle Racing early on, and ensure that his young team doesn’t show too much respect. Marca was apparently bigging up Honka’s striker yesterday, but according to Iltalehti there is little chance of it going to his head.

“Yeah, I’m a big man,” laughed Aleksandr Kokko. “My dream is to play for Barcelona one day. It could help if I score three goals against Racing.”

Note to any Spanish readers, unfamiliar with Pori humour: he is not serious.

Lastly, if we’re talking about Finns in Europe, Roman Eremenko played 90 minutes for Dinamo Kiev against Arsenal. He did alright, and has hopefully taken a step towards playing regularly for his club.


Kuusela packs his bags, Allen to fill in

Following an utterly disappointing season, TPS have sacked head coach Martti Kuusela.
Personally, I am shocked with the announcement. Letting your head coach go is not unusual when you don’t get the right result, but there are very few cases in the history of TPS when a head coach has been sacked while the season is still underway. TPS don’t usually do things that way, for one reason or another.

This also reflects a change of attitude of some sort. Having been asked about it on numerous occasions, managing director Petri Jakonen has said that the season has been a disappointment, but one bad season will not harm the stability at the club, giving the impression of, among other things, Kuusela’s position being secure.
Jakonen has let it be known that TPS want to achieve the top position among Finnish clubs in all respects, but there is no hurry. Kuusela was not given a chance to build a team of his own players (the current squad is largely built up by Mixu Paatelainen, who was in charge in 2007) before being sacked. A sign of impatience?

TPS will have to make interesting decisions in the future. Should they let a long-serving assistant like John Allen (assistant coach) or Marko Rajamäki (youth team coach) take over in hopes of continuity? Or should they take a bigger risk and look abroad in an attempt to find a new Job Dragtsma?

In addition, the squad could face considerable changes. Christian Gyan and Armand One are near contract expiry and are expected to leave. Kasper Hämäläinen, Mika Ääritalo and maybe even Jukka Lehtovaara might move abroad. Urmas Rooba, Jani Sarajärvi, Ville Lehtonen, Chris Cleaver, Iiro Aalto, Simon Pedersen and Mikko Paatelainen all have a couple of months left on their contracts, and making players sign new contracts is challenging when they don’t know who will be the man in charge.  As if this was not enough, rumours are spreading that the injury Simo Valakari has suffered of ever since the away fixture at Tampere United in May could be of a career-ending nature.

On the timing, Jakonen commented that TPS want to solve the coach issue and build their team with time and peace. As far as Kuusela is concerned, Jakonen said he was not under lucky stars, but “the general appearance of the team did not match the goals and expectations set for the team”.

Berat Sadik takes big steps

There’s an article on Berat Sadik at right now. My HBL didn’t arrive this morning so I’m waiting a little before I do a Veikkausliiga post, but it was an extremely eventful round of games.

Honka draw Racing Santander in UEFA Cup First Round

William Moore covers everything pertinent at I did an interview with Mika Lehkosuo this morning, you can here that at the Football in Finland podcast site. It’s a bit rough and ready just now, but it will take shape over the next few weeks and hopefully develop into a weekly programme that doesn’t bore you shitless.

FIF kicks Fjordball’s arse

A year ago, TamU were getting a good seeing to at the hands of Norwegian giants Rosenborg in the Champions League Third Qualifying Round. The Trondheim club have a budget roughly 10 times bigger than TamU, so it was no surprise that Rosenborg ran out easy winners. No shame for a Finnish club in losing to a Norwegian one.

Well, Honka just did Viking in Stavanger to go through to the First Round of the UEFA Cup, which is a frankly astonishing result. The same budgetary problems apply, and remember that Honka have sold three of their better players to Swedish clubs for biggish money in the last year.

Highlights here

Veikkausliiga Round 18 preview, part 1

FC Lahti and TamU kicked off the 18th round on Friday and the matched ended in a 2-2 draw. Dramatically, TamU were up by one until the 90th minute. Then Jari Litmanen scored in stoppage time and two minutes later Jonne Kemppinen gave the hosts the lead. Nobody expected TamU to get a result anymore, but Toni Järvinen scored on the 11th hour to settle the final score.

Saturday 23rd, 17:00 FC Haka – FC Honka

This is a sixpointer. Honka are third in the league and Haka are sixth, trailing their opponents by three points.
Their encounter in the spring ended in Honka’s 7-0 victory, but a similar result is an unlikely event. Haka have some new players, and off-pitch issues that caused speculation around the last Honka game are now a thing of the past.
Haka are missing Pietari Holopainen, Mikko Innanen and Sebastian Strandvall. Honka’s Tuomo Turunen will return from suspension.
The game is difficult to call, but having an unbeaten record of eight unbeaten games, I would pick Honka to for the favourites – despite the fact that they have never got an away win at Haka.

Sunday 24th, 18:30

TPS – MyPa

MyPa are trying hard to reach the European spots, and TPS are targeting similar positions in the table.
TPS have Jani Sarajärvi, Janne Vellamo, Simo Valakari and Jarno Heinikangas missing, but will still field a good squad. Their most interesting player is their new Danish striker Simon Azoulay Pedersen. MyPa, on the other hand, are missing Tuomas Kuparinen and Juho Nykänen.
TPS are a very unpredictable team. One night they play really well and give their opponents no chance, another night they look like they have never even seen a football. Sometimes they play really well, but end up losing anyway. This could really be a win for either side and a draw is by all means possible too.
The season’s first game between these teams ended in MyPa’s 1-0 home win.

RoPS – FF Jaro

Rovaniemi is a tough place for any team to go. On the other hand, RoPS have not won nor scored in their last four games. Jaro got a surprise win against MyPa two weeks ago and have not played since, because their last Sunday’s game at IFK Mariehamn was cancelled.
RoPS are fairly healthy, their only notable absentee is Mika Nurmela, who is suspended after collecting too many yellow cards.
Jaro are quite the opposite. Vesa Heikinheimo, Kristian Kojola, Jens Portin and Toni Junnila are all out, Jari Sara is doubtful. They have reinforced their squad with defenders Jordan Simpson and Jermu Gustafsson (on loan from Inter) and midfielder Joonas Laurikainen (on loan from KaaPo).
Both teams are looking to stay clear of relegation and occupy a mid-table position, so this game is important for both sides. Maybe we will see another draw, like in the spring?

VPS – IFK Mariehamn

Another important game, especially for the visitors, whose recent form has seen them go down to sharing the relegation play-off spot with KuPS.
IFK Mariehamn have had problems with their goalkeepers, but with their new acquisition, Dan Alexandru Chisom, things look better. Arash Bayat will also make a debut for the islanders.
VPS are missing Tony Björk. Other than that, VPS coach Tomi Kärkkäinen has said they can field a good squad.
VPS have had problems with scoring and even creating chances in their recent fixtures. IFK Mariehamn, for their part, have not won for a long time, so both teams have a chance of regaining some of their lost confidence.

U21: Finland 1 Sweden 1

The respective U21 sides of Finland and Sweden had nothing between them as their friendly match in Turku drew to a close, and the result – one goal for each – reflected the proceedings quite well.

The hosts started the game well, with Tomi Petrescu, Perparim Hetemaj, Berat Sadik and Tim Sparv all causing trouble to Finland’s western neighbours – who, after all, started the scoring. In a sudden wave of generosity, Joni Aho of FC Inter kindly donated the ball to Emir Bajrami. Tomi Maanoja, who was Finland’s keeper in the first half, went to great lengths in order to cancel out Aho’s mistake, but was powerless to resist when Bajrami got another chance from the rebound.

“We started the game well but got too complacent, and it backfired when Aho made the mistake”, commented head coach Markku Kanerva in the post-match press conference, adding that Aho recovered well enough to put in a solid performance after all.

Perparim Hetemaj had to be taken off just before the referee signalled an end to the first half as he suffered what is hopefully a minor injury. More changes were made during half-time: Maanoja made way to Anssi Jaakkola of AC Siena and Aho, Tuomo Turunen, Tomi Petrescu and Berat Sadik accompanied the new AIK signing in the shower.

Among the incoming players was Jarno Parikka, who was released by Mehmet Hetemaj three minutes into the second half. Parikka’s strike saw Finland back on level terms, and no goals were yet to be seen. Sweden were slighly in control for the remainder of the night, but had to face one of the key issues involved with every football game: ball possession does not win matches. They did not cause a remarkable threat, owing in part to the linesman, whose interpretation of the offside rule frustrated Ola Toivonen to the extent that in the end he put the ball in the net despite hearing the whistle blow.

Finland’s first half formation, 4-3-3, clearly worked better than the formation of four midfielders and two strikers they switched to before the second half. However, Kanerva could not be drawn into assessing his tactical decisions. “I am more concerned about who I select for the team and who I leave out”, he assured, declaring that he still has not decided who will be the team’s goalkeeper in the upcoming qualification fixtures against Denmark and Slovenia.