In this episode, Keke, Mark H and Mark W are joined by another Huuhkajat star, Rasmus Schüller, who has over 50 Finland caps to his name. A serial winner, who has five Veikkausliiga titles, including three League & Cup doubles 🙌🏼 Rasmus is tough tackling, smooth passing, no nonsense, central midfielder currently with Djurgårdens IF in Stockholm.
Rade tells us how it felt to start in the Veikkausliiga, for Honka at the age of 18, the challenge of making the step-up to HJK Helsinki, his MLS adventure in Minnesota. He also shares some VERY interesting insights into the ill-fated Hans Backe era of the Finland national team and why Markku Kanerva has enjoyed such success in the Nations League and Euro 2020.
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SHOW NOTES & LINKS
Keke’s Questions (Listen or watch the show to hear Rasmus’ answers)
Breaking into the Veikkausliiga
- As I summarised in the intro there you have played for some of the top clubs in Finland and Sweden and you also had your season in MLS in America but if we go back to the very start you grew up in Espoo and played for local clubs FC Kasiysi and HooGee – how did your love of football come about and did you stand out as a talented boy in those early years?
- At around 17 years old you made your debut for Espoo club FC Honka and you scored your first Veikkausliiga goal in a victory over KuPS just after your eighteenth birthday. How did it feel to be playing mens football in the top division at such a young age? Did you feel ready at that time or was it a plunge into the deep end for you?
- You really took to the big stage and you even scored on your European debut when you found the net in the 74th minute of a Europa League Qualifier against Welsh outfit Bangor City. You became an integral part of the Honka midfield for the next 3 seasons with the club finishing runners up in 2009 and then placing 4th in the following 2 seasons meaning Europa League Qualifying rounds 3 years straight. How did you feel about your own form at this time and also about the fortunes of the club who really were pushing at the top of the division?
- In 2012 you left Honka and made the short trip to Helsinki to sign for HJK. Klubi were 3 in a row Veikkausliiga champions at the time you joined. Was it an easy decision for you to leave Honka now that the biggest team in the country had come calling and were you confident in your own ability to fit into a championship winning team?
- You were pretty much an ever present in the HJK midfield for the next 4 seasons missing only a few games in 2014 through injury. You were chipping in with goals and assists and you must have been really happy with how things were going at Klubi, you guys were pretty much unstoppable and you won a hat trick of Veikkausliiga championships from your first season through to 2014. How did it feel first of all to win the Veikkausliiga and then to go on to win that hat trick of league titles?
- You personally were playing some great football around this time, there was a memorable goal in the Champions League against Celtic in Glasgow and it was these performances that saw you make your full international debut for Huuhkajat. You had been in the U19 and U21 youth set ups but it must have felt good to see your excellent veikkausliiga form rewarded with a call up to the A national team. Did you always believe that you would go on to represent your country and how did you feel when Mixu handed you your debut in 2013?
- The 2015 season ended with a new champion as SJK claimed the top spot with HJK finishing third 2 points behind them. Many thought that a new champion was good for the integrity of the league but how did it feel for you and your teammates to lose the title after having your firm grip on it for so many years?
- After the 2015 season you transferred to Sweden to join BK Hacken along with your HJK teammate Demba Savage. How did the transfer come about and was playing outside of Finland something that you always wanted to experience?
- I believe that Swedish is your first language so it must have made settling into your new surroundings that bit easier but how was the step from Veikkausliiga to Allsvenskan in regard to training regimes, stadiums, fans and standard of football?
- You made a total of 22 appearances for Hacken scoring 1 goal. During your time there you suffered a knee ligament injury which must have been difficult but how do you look back on your time in Gothenburg?
- Your next move saw you go a bit further afield when MLS club Minnesota United paid half a million euros to take you to the United States. First of all, were you familiar with MLS before you moved to Minnesota and secondly I know there was a loan move back to HJK in the middle of your time with the loons during which you collected your fourth Veikkausliiga championship, but how do you reflect on your time in America having played over 50 games there?
- Fans of clubs and teams in Europe sometimes wonder if players consider the possibility of a move to MLS hampering their international chances whether through the travel complications or how people perceive the standard of the league. Did this enter your mind at all when you were moving to the States?
Becoming a Huuhkaja
- As it turns out you continued to be a pretty regular selection for Huuhkajat while playing in Minnesota. Mixu had moved on and we had been through the difficult Hans Backe era but once Rive was appointed manager things started to click for Finland. You obviously knew him from your time in the youth set up but could you feel that things were going to be different as soon as Markku Kanerva was given the job?
- You were a Minnesota United player all the way through the first Nations League Campaign and also through the Euro 2020 Qualifying Campaign. You were getting regular sub appearances throughout this period and were an integral part of the squad that did so well to win League C of the Nations League and to make all our dreams come true by qualifying for Euro 2020. If we can ask you to cast your mind back to that November night back in 2019, we ask all our guests to give us their memories of that famous night. How were you feeling watching history unfold from your place on the bench knowing that you were one of the squad that had delivered the dream?
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Returning to Europe (and more medals!)
- We’ll get back to Huuhkajat but focusing on your club career again, once you left Minnesota you decided that there was still some room in the trophy cabinet for another Veikkausliiga championship and you headed back to HJK for your third spell. You played a further 26 games for Klubi scoring 4 goals on the way to collecting another League and Cup Double. Was this spell in Helsinki always going to be for just the one season and was your ultimate goal to test yourself in another foreign league?
- Bringing things up to date you joined Swedish giants Djurgarden in January last year. How did this transfer come about and did you believe that you would have the impact that you had so quickly in Stockholm?
- Going back to club football, Allsvenskan is obviously a league that we like to keep an eye on with quite a few Finns spread across the various Swedish clubs. Saku Ylatupa started the season well in AIK and has just moved to Sundvall, Joona Toivio had his farewell season at Hacken, Leo Vaisanen was doing great things at Elfsborg, Saku Eriksson was the goalkeeper of the season, and it was especially good to see how well you were running the midfield for the team who sat top of the league for much of the season. It really was an exciting end to the campaign and you added a bronze medal to your trophy cabinet. How do you reflect on the season and the third place finish and do you believe that Djurgarden can go that little bit extra and win the title next season?
Starring at Euro 2020 & World Cup 2022 Qualifiers
- Your form has been excellent since arriving in Sweden and that has been rewarded with more and more game time at international level. I think most Huuhkajat fans would have been certain that you would be in the squad to go to Euro 2020 but how were your own feelings when you were waiting for the final squad to be announced? Were you confident that you would be included?
- It was obviously very special for us fans to be watching Finland in the Euros and as we have mentioned on the show many times before, now we can look back on our first ever major tournament appearance for the men’s team the feeling we are left with is pride. You guys in the team and squad gave everything and conducted yourselves superbly but if I can ask Rade if you could share with us your feelings when you think back over the three games, do you share the feeling of pride and also think what might have been if we could have just got a result from the Russia game?
- You featured in all 3 of our Euro games and that is certainly something you can be very proud of but we quickly had to move on and start focusing on the the road to the 2022 world cup. You played a part in every game of this qualifying series, most recently starting the home game against France in Helsinki. You had Captained the side that beat the world champions back in November 2020 and so you must have been confident going into the game but you found yourself on the receiving end of another early booking having previously picked up a yellow after only 2 minutes of the away game for a pretty innocuous challenge, we commented on both occasions that that it was a bizarre decision from the referees so early and that it must have been hard for you to play an aggressive game with the threat of a second yellow over you. Were these early bookings on your mind or were you able to shrug them off and refocus on the game plan?
- Ultimately we fell just short of a Play Off spot this time but it was an amazing atmosphere in Helsinki for the final game and for the team to be going into it with something to play for is certainly a step in the right direction. How do you feel the campaign went and are you already looking forward to the Nations League games with Huuhkajat?
- It is somewhat an end of an era for Huuhkajat what with Joona Toivio and Paulus Arajuuri announcing that they will no longer play international football and Tim Sparv retiring from playing all football. What has it meant to you playing with these guys and how do you feel about the likes of Robert Ivanov, Daniel O’Shaughnessy and the Vaisanen brothers coming in to take their places?
- Paulus and Joona certainly can claim their places as Finland legends and the send off they received from the Pohjoiskaarre was really special. How do you see your own relationship with Finland fans and what does it mean to you to represent your country?
- I had read somewhere and you recently confirmed to me when we were messaging that you have been studying for a law degree. Is there some ambition for a career after football or are you studying so you can make sure that your future club contracts are water tight?
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