Arriving at OmaSp Stadion 10 minutes before kick-of, on the final game of the 2019 season, there were not many people to be seen. We found our usual parking spot with no trouble and there were several spaces in the (usually packed) car park. That’s ominous, I thought, everyone’s stayed away for the finale to a dismal season.
Not the most auspicious occasion for fans of SJK Seinäjoki to say goodbye to, Mikhel Aksalu, a legend of the club. Those that did attend made sure he got a good send-off with the Klopit (SJK supporters group) holding up a large tifo of “33”, Mikhel’s shirt number since he joined the club.
Having moved to Seinäjoki at the start of the 2013 season, Aksalu went on to win title he could have with SJK; the Ykkönen title in 2013, the Veikkausliiga title in 2015 and the Suomen Cup in 2016 – where his two saves were vital to SJK winning the penalty shoot-out – and securing his legendary status.
Even in his final season, when he initially lost his place in the team to Jesse Öst, Mikhel refused to lay down and fought his way back into the team. Unfortunately, he was injured for this game, but this only gave him the opportunity to join the Klopit in the stand before the game, conducting the singing. Forget the fact it was a song that I had never heard before, let alone tried to sing! It was a gesture of mutual appreciation for the fans who have always supported him and never been let down by him.
I’ve met Mikhel Aksalu a few times and he is a gentleman, always happy to take the time to talk. On one occasion, I saw him in the car park after a game in which he’d been injured (and carried-off?), ‘How are you feeling?’ I asked, ‘Yeah, I’m fine now, I think I was out (unconscious) for a moment.” he replied, as he climbed into his car to drive home!
Mikhel is planning to head back home to Estonia with his family. He does not yet have a club but is keen to continue playing ‘if the right opportunity comes along’. He did tell me though “Not in Finland, though, there’s only one club for me in Finland.” You see what I mean about legend?