FAO footballers who want to move to Finland

We’ve had a massive increase in the number of people posting comments here trying to get attract the attention of clubs or agents. This has happened since the blog started, but it is getting to the point where they are taking over the site and I’ve decided to do something about it. The comments don’t have any effect really, nobody scouts for players using my blog so agents are not going to contact anyone who posts a comment here.

I suspect that the comments only open the commenter to exploitation, so from now on comments that try to advertise anything (including the services of a footballer) will be deleted. If you want to contact me, you can do so via footballinfinland ‘at’ gmail ‘dot’ com. I am not an agent and will not assist any player trying to move, but if there is an angle to your story I might decide to write about it.

Honka sell Maanoja

Gone is their best defender/defensive midfielder, and their goalkeeper will follow. Honka have announced that Tomi Maanoja will hop on the ferry and move to Stockholm’s AIK. Thursday’s UEFA Cup game against IA Akranes in Iceland will be “Psyko’s” farewell. The transfer fee has not been made public, but rumours are circulating that Honka will get about 300 000 € – roughly the same amount of money they got for Hannu Patronen.

Honka fans are not exactly praising their club for selling their important goalkeeper while their team is trying hard to make it to Europe next year – possibly through winning the title. Moreover, selling two important players is an interesting move from a club which in 2006 made no secret of their dreams of playing in the Champions League group stage in 2012, or attracting over 10 000 people on average to their home fixtures in 2010.

I don’t think Maanoja’s arrival at Gnaget is going to make Honka supporters much happier. Most likely he will not make his debut for the first team in a while, with Daniel Örlund being the man he has to compete with. I do not see people on the streets of Espoo dancing when they realize they sold an essential part

Colin Burns

Players arrive in Finland from many different countries, for many different reasons and with many different backgrounds. We’ve covered the Zambians at RoPs, but this post is about a success story from last season.

Colin Burns was in a bit of a pickle when he left the University of Massachusetts. mid ranking and ‘developmental’ players in the US don’t earn much money, and of course they often yearn to play in Europe simply to test themselves, aside from the financial implications. So rather than trudging round the mid-west for a USL team in front of small crowds earning pitiful wages, Burns took a risk and went to Europe to try out for teams there.

It turned out to be quite a big risk. He spent about five months with Partick Thistle, waiting for a work permit while the club paid his living costs and rented a flat for him in Govan. Burns had thought that his Scottish ancestry would help in the work permit application, but unfortunately that wasn’t to be and he had to cut his losses just when he was getting acquainted with Scotland.

He tried out with teams in Denmark, Switzerland and France before eventually landing a contract with the wonderfully named Olimpia Balti of Moldova. The money wasn’t great, but he was playing for a side in a league people cared about, cared so much in fact that his first game came close to being abandoned because of fighting in the stands.

At the end of the season, he had acquitted himself well but wanted to move to a higher profile league. Hard to believe that Finland is the answer for anyone in that situation, but apparently it was, with Seinäjoki 78 of Kakkonen looking for a keeper. Burns signed on, impressed everyone, and quickly moved up to Ykkönen side KPV. Here he did well, again, and has ended up starting the 2008 season at Ljungskile SK, one of the smallest teams ever to play in Allsvenskan.

Once he got to Sweden, however, he was confronted with the problem of FIFA’s transfer rules. He had already played for Sepsi and KPV in 2007, which according to FIFA was part of the 2007-08 season. You can’t play for more than two clubs in a season, so Burns had to lobby for the sensible solution, which was to regard 2007 and 2008 as different seasons. He got his way in the end.

He will battle it out with Michal Slawuta (formerly of FC Lahti) for the number one jersey, and who would bet against him coming out on top? He’s had two years of near constant battles to get this far, and a contract with a top flight club in a good league is about as much as he’d dared hope for when he left the US. Good luck to him.

Helsinki Times: Young players and Webster

I’ve decided two things. Firstly, I should write more football articles for Helsinki Times. And secondly, I’m going to start putting those HT football articles here. I’ll format them like they will appear in the paper, just for some local flavour from these crazy Finns. The first one is from this week’s edition:

Youngsters move abroad as Webster ruling shakes up transfer rules

Finnish football loses a lot of players to foreign clubs, but is all that set to change with the landmark Webster ruling?

29 February 2008


THE MOST striking thing about the January transfer window from a Finnish perspective was the number of teenagers who moved abroad for fairly substantial sums of money. They joined big clubs and will play in the youth teams, earning more money than they would in Finland and hopefully developing at a faster rate.

We’re talking about the likes of Lauri Dalla Valle, 16, who left Jippo and signed for Liverpool, FC KooTeePee’s Teemu Pukki, 17, who moved to Sevilla, and Tero Mäntylä, 16, who moved from TP-Seinäjoki to Portsmouth. KuPs’s 17 year-old midfielder Petteri Pannanen is currently on trial with Torino, who will doubtless track his progress over the 2008 season.

This movement is a consequence of the explosion in transfer fees for older footballers since the Bosman ruling, as rich clubs search further afield for the next generation of stars. It is a technique pioneered by Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, saving millions of pounds by spotting and signing players like Gael Clichy, Ashley Cole and Cesc Fabregas when they were young and relatively inexpensive.

Stay in school

Young players in the national team’s youth set-up are advised to take care of their education and military service, but beyond that the Finnish FA expresses no preference. Teemu Pukki will finish high school at a Finnish school in Andalucia, while Mäntylä and Dalla Valle will continue their education in English. All three will return to Finland at a later date to complete their military service or obtain an exemption.

This kind of transfer does not raise as many objections from Finnish clubs as it would elsewhere. Finnish salaries are low for most professions in international comparison, so going abroad to better yourself is an accepted and even encouraged part of a young person’s development.

The financial aspect of these deals helps a great deal, of course. While the sums are never astronomical, the prestige of sending a player to a Premier League or Serie A club helps the Finnish team to attract young players. It would not be good for a club’s reputation to stand in the way of a player offered that kind of opportunity.

“We like to offer young players opportunities they wouldn’t get at other teams, so there was no point standing in his way when Sevilla came in for him,” says KooTeePee chairman Matti Koski when asked about the Pukki transfer. “The money is not a lot and we don’t have any expectation of transfer fees in our budget, so the revenue will go towards the youth teams.”

Webster ruling

Koski is frustrated at having to compete with the big city clubs who find it much easier to find wealthy sponsors, and his task will be made that much harder by a recent decision made by the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS).

Andy Webster broke his contract with Heart of Midlothian in August 2006, moving to Wigan Athletic. He argued that under European Union law, and FIFA’s Article 17, he should only pay the remaining value of his contract to compensate his former employer.

They disagreed, demanding £4.6m (€6,100,00) as a transfer fee under the tribunal system, but the case was finally resolved on 30 January with Webster ordered to pay just £150,000 (€200,000) to Hearts.

“Basically, Article 17 gives footballers the sort of employee rights that anyone else would expect in the workplace,” says Tony Higgins, a representative of the international players union Fifpro. “What it means is that any footballer can now serve notice on his club [in mid-contract] and move on to a new club.”

While Higgins believes the most affected players will be those at the very top, the consequences for the likes of Pukki, Mäntylä and Dalla Valle are unclear. Will the big clubs still find it beneficial to have so many foreign youngsters on their books when they don’t have a significant re-sale value?

A quick survey of officials at Finnish clubs revealed that very few had any knowledge of the ruling, much less a plan to deal with it. That will have to change in the coming months.