This is not a football country, it’s an ice hockey country. So you cannot expect to get the atmosphere of a Hillsborough or Celtic Park. More likely is that you’ll get a Griffin Park, a small ground, fit for purpose, that encourages people to sing and keeps the noise in while providing the facilities you’d expect.
As this is a positive article, I’ll start with the best football stadium in Finland. Tammela is a district close to Tampere city centre, populated by a mix of families, students and pensioners, and it contains some of the oldest residential property in the city. In the civil war of 1918 it was devastated in Mannerheim’s assault on Tampere, and there is now a strange mix of beautiful old tenement buildings and much newer apartment blocks.
Tammela’s football ground was one of the first dedicated football facilities in Finland. The fence around the pitch was built by unemployed labourers in the 1930s depression, and is now a protected structure. It has been an obstacle for those wishing to redevelop the ground.
This has hindered plans for redevelopment of the stadium, which periodically re-appear. Until 1993 the ground wasn’t much to look at, and major football games in Tampere took place at Ratina or Pyynikkin Stadion, but then a refurbishment took place and the ground was the home for ‘big football’ in Tampere. The main stand was built then.
As you can see, it’s not that big, but when it’s even a quarter full the atmosphere is quite something. The floodlight pylons are a great landmark at night matches too, and when Tampere United played TPS at Tammela in front of 1,800 people in 2007, the atmosphere was one of the best I’ve ever seen at a TamU home game.
This is the pre-match display from Tampere United fans before the TPS game. It means ‘home at last’, a sentiment I heartily agree with.
The second best football ground in Finland is of course the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki:
When full, this is an amazing place to watch football. Even when it isn’t full, the atmosphere is pretty good thanks to the Finland fans in block B20.
Now we should move on to other grounds. Hietalahti Stadium in Vaasa is a wonderful old wooden ground. It was built in 1936 and holds 4,600 spectators, of which 1,500 are under cover. VPS and VIFK play there at the moment, and the ground has hosted Under 21 internationals in the recent past. HMK has taken some wonderful photos of the ground, and the best thing I can do is post them here rather than trying to talk about the place:
Veritas Stadion in Turku used to be one of the worst stadia in the league before the new main stand was built in 2003. After that the stadium has been considered one of the best if not the best in Finland. It is the home for both Turku teams in Veikkausliiga, TPS and FC Inter, and the stadium will also host some games in the Women’s European Championships in 2009. The ground will have one more stand built at one of the ends by that time.
The stadium is an interesting mixture of old and new, with the modern main stand and the old-fashioned Olympic Stand. The capacity of the stadium lies somewhere around 9000, with 6400 seats.
This is basically all they have for customers behind the old stand: 3 kiosks and a bar (to the left of the kiosk on the left). They have another bar too, but only those belonging to the respective supporter clubs of TPS or Inter have access.
This is what they have at both ends of the stadium for those who want to stand while watching the game. It goes without saying that the ends are the places with the worst view in Turku. The situation should be better as soon as the new stand is built.
This is the new main stand. It is quite modern and enjoyable with heating and a bar from which you can watch the game, and I wouldn’t mind getting myself one of the boxes (one level above the seats) or soft club seats. I have just one complaint, the green seats. It would look so much nicer if the stand had blue seats, similarly to the old main stand.