[Show Notes] Keke & Mark W are joined by a legend of Finnish football, Aki Riihilahti. Aki takes us back down memory lane for a fascinating conversation about his playing career at HJK Helsinki and Crystal Palace, as well as behind-the-scenes in his current role as CEO at HJK.
Learn how Aki once broke Keke’s heart 💔 (and that he’s not sorry about it), how his work with the European Clubs Association gives him so much satisfaction and why he’s added ‘Toilet Paper Delivery Driver’ to his CV.
In this episode, I hope we’ll get back to something like normal. Wait, wait, don’t all switch off or skip to the next show in your podcast player. Surely YOU are gagging for football as much as we are?! We recorded this in the first week of June 2020 and there are a couple of key dates coming up in the near future; the Veikkausliiga is due to kick off from the 1st July and the Suomen Cup has matches scheduled from 16th June.
We look at those Suomen Cup fixtures and then start to prepare for the Veikkausliiga kick off, by looking at the transfers that have taken place during the extended closed season. All EIGHT months of it! 😫 This show was pulled together all of a sudden (with two weeks planning!) but we won’t have all the usual features this time. We’ll bring back ‘Ja sillä sipuli’ and ‘Following’ next time, we promise.
Mark W speaks to Chris Cleaver, the British football agent at Scandinavian FI OÜ Player Agency. Chris is the former captain & first team coach of SJK Seinäjoki in Finland. He talks about his playing career in Finland, bookended with spells in Seinäjoki, before explaining about the transition to becoming an agent and how this has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Back in February 2020, the Finnish Football Show team got together online to record FFS 27. Mark began FFS27 with the words “We started recording this show at 21:45 because we had some technical problems for the last 20 minutes, which were MY fault this time…!” What you are about to hear is what happened before the show, eventually, went live.
Yes, we know, it’s been ages since the last show, but this time it really ISN’T our fault. There’s been this virus thing, you see. This episode is something a little different. Firtsly, it’s only Mark W & Keke, but this time we are joined by a very special guest, Mikko Laitinen, Marketing Manager at Suomen Palloliitto – the Finnish Football Association.
Mikko talks to us about financial challenges within Finnish football and, conversely, the commercial opportunities offered by the impressive performances of the Huuhkajat. Mikko also explained the background to the “Kauden tärkein ottelu” (the Season’s Most Important Game) campaign, which enables fans to support Finnish football during this difficult time. Encouragingly, the start of the 2020 Veikkausliiga season was also announced on 6.5.2020, the day of the recording, so of course we talked about that too.
Rich speaks to Jonne Lindblom, a former agent and now the Sporting Director of KuPS Kuopio in Finland. Jonne explains how KuPS is helping its players maintain fitness during the COVID-19 pandemic. He looks at the challenge the corona virus poses for new manager, Arne Erlandsen, to communicate his ideas to the team, as they prepare for the defence of the Veikkausliiga title they won in 2019 – whenever that defence might start!
Jonne tells about his role as Sporting Director (handling recruitment, scouting, player contracts and agents). He also gives some insight into his close involvement, as an agent, in the rise of Alfredo Morelos. Then he looks forward to future plans for a new stadium in Kuopio and his determination to develop the KuPS Academy, so it provides more players for the first team squad.
Keke talks to Finland international player (or Huuhkaja) Markus Halsti, who explains how he, and fellow Finn Joni Kauko, are trying to keep fit for Esbjerg fB in Denmark, and how they could be recalled to action with a days notice, even though the club coaches are currently NOT ALLOWED to train them!
Markus tells about his special connection with HJK Helsinki and Malmo FF and his experiences at D.C. United in Major League Soccer – including how USA fan culture incorporates chainsaws! 😨 Finally Markus shares his disappointment at not swapping shirts with Xabi Alonso and why he couldn’t celebrate on the pitch after THAT Liechtenstein game, when Finland qualified for Euro 2020.
Mark W talks to SJK Seinäjoki’s new 1st Team Coach, Joaquin Gomez about his bold move from Spain to the UK and dramatic rise, as a coach and assistant manager, through the Football League (EFL). We talk about how meeting Sami Hyypiä and Antti Niemi, later led to opportunities to become coach for Finland U21s and, latterly, SJK. Finally, he explains how they are keeping the SJK players fit, physically and mentally, during this period of uncertainty.
Keke speaks to Jussi Hartikainen, the Executive Director of the Finland national team supporters club, Suomen Maajoukkueen Kannattajat ry. Also known as SMJK to its friends. Jussi explains how the SMJK has handled the postponement of Euro 2020, how he manages relations with the Finnish Football Association, Palloliitto, the prospect of club football restarting anytime soon and the prospects for his club FC Vikingit. Oh, and the new SMJK beer: Pohjoiskaarre Pale Ale.
Mark W speaks to Richie Dorman, the British technical director of SJK Seinäjoki in Finland. Richie talks about his career in Finland from player to technical director, seemingly overnight, and how SJK is taking care of it’s players, employees and Academy during the COVID-19 pandemic.