Danish journalist, Michael Christiansen, reached out to the FFS team asking for the Finnish perspective on the incident when Christian Eriksen collapsed during the Denmark-Finland game.
Mark H, Rich, Keke & Mark W take a moment to ask Michael about the previous day’s result; England 2-1 Denmark. They then get down to business and talk about how the incident was reported in Denmark, Finland and the UK. How Finnish fans are viewed in Denmark. How each country’s performance at Euro 2020 has been received. And how does the future look for both the Finnish and Danish national teams.
Download an MP3 of In Conversation with… Danish Journalist, Michael Christiansen
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SHOW NOTES & LINKS
Mark W’s Replies to Questions from Michael (These form the basis of this episode. Listen or watch the show to hear the full conversation.)
How has this whole run been dealt with back in Finland? What was it like to be on the other side of that infamous match?
Of course, at the time the incident took place, everyone around the world held its breath. Seeing a player just collapse, then receive life-saving treatment on the pitch was shocking for everyone. There was also surprise that the game was to be restarted ‘because the players wanted to finish it’ as we thought at the time – the true story came later! It felt surreal when the game kicked off and it took a while for me, as a fan, to get back into it. I cheered, though, when Lukáš Hrádecký saved the penalty. I cheered even louder when Joel Pohjanpalo scored the only goal of the game. It felt weird, but what else is a football fan supposed to do in those situations?
In the days after, it was quite confusing. Were we, as Finland fans, allowed to celebrate beating Denmark? Did it even count as a victory, in light of what happened to Christian Eriksen? Upon reflection, I realised that it was a difficult situation for all the players, staff and match officials. Yes, the Danish team feared for their teammate and friend, but the Finnish players also went through a very similar experience with them. A scary situation for every one of them. I also considered, what were the Finland players supposed to do? They probably didn’t want to play, but had to motivate themselves to play a competitive match under these conditions. So, while it was exactly equal for both sides, I feel that Finland had a right to compete to try to win, as did Denmark.
Fortunately, Denmark were able to beat Russia comprehensively to qualify 2nd in group B, while also giving Russia such a negative goal-difference that Finland finished 3rd – another small win for the Huuhkajat over their neighbour.
How is the general atmosphere in the country, now the team is out of the euros? Are people feeling proud or disappointed?
In general people are proud of Finland. It was a novelty, obviously, to be involved in the final stages of a major competition, but the whole country has got behind the Huuhkajat. People have been watching the games and taken more of an interest in the Euros. At least, up to the point that Finland was eliminated.
The Finnish Football Show podcast has been going for five-and-a-half years, so we’ve covered the end of Mixu Paatelainen’s tenure as manager, through the shambles of Hans Backe and into the reign of Markku ‘Rive’ Kanerva’s “Rive-lution”. I think our emotions probably mirror those of most Finnish football fans, initial disbelief and amazement at qualifying, excitement at the upcoming tournament, disappointment at the 12-month postponement, excitement when it finally started and then, probably, a feeling of ‘what if?’ regarding the game against Russia.
What if Joel Pohjanpalo’s 4th minute goal had been allowed to stand? What if we had reacted better to that setback and played like Finland had played in qualifying and in the two Nations League campaigns. Then, maybe, we could have qualified for the knockout rounds. Overall, though, there is a sense of pride in the Huuhkajat. This team has gone further than any previous generation. Claiming a goal, a win and three points in its first finals competition is not a bad achievement, and gives the squad something to build on in the World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign.
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Was Finland hoping to copy Iceland’s heroics in 2016 or accomplish something similar? How were the expectations beforehand?
Iceland is a handy, recent example of what a smaller nation can achieve when they play as a team. There are also similarities in the connection between the players and supporters of both countries. Whether or not the management and players used that as motivation, it is that similar aspect of teamwork that has helped the Finland team progress in the past four years.
Before the tournament started, we saw the Russia game as having the most potential for three points, hoping that a draw against Denmark would give us 4 points and qualification out of the group. These were hopes, though, not expectations. We had a guest on our podcast, Cameron Deacons from @footy_nordic, who made us very aware of how dangerous Denmark could be!
How was the whole situation with the game against Russia, considered the historic aspects of the neighbouring countries? Did it matter anything?
Russia and Sweden would, historically and geopolitically, be Finland’s most significant rivals. There are people living across Finland, who were displaced by Finland ceding territory to the USSR after World War II. Those wounds and resentments still linger. The game, however, was viewed more as an opportunity to take sporting revenge on an overpowering neighbour. A chance for a David vs Goliath situation.
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