Finland

Capital: Helsinki
Population: 5.2 million
Currency: Euro
Official Language: Finnish and Swedish
Borders: Norway (North), Russia (East), Sweden (West)
GNP per Capita: $24,790 (16th in world)
Main Airport: Vantaa – Helsinki

Finland is a low-lying country of forests and over 185,000 lakes.  They country was annexed by Russia in 1809, ruling it until 1917.  It spends the winter in almost darkness, and conversely the summer’s are long and sunny.  The Finns are one of the most productive on earth and is the home to Nokia.

FINLAND

Go to Footiemap.com to get a graphic overview of Football in Finland on their excellent map site.

The Veikkausliiga is the premier division of Finnish football, comprising the top 14 clubs of the country (season 2006 was played exceptionally with 13 teams because of the AC Allianssi bankruptcy). Its main sponsor is the Finnish national betting agency Veikkaus, hence the league’s name. Veikkausliiga was founded in 1990; before that the top division was called Mestaruussarja (championship series) since 1930. Between 1908 and 1930 the championship was decided in a cup competition.

Ykkönen (division one) has been the second highest level of Finnish football since 1973.

Like in some other cold-climate European countries (including Norway, Sweden and Russia), league matches in Finland are played in summer, with a schedule usually from April to October. In current format each team plays all other teams twice, both at home and away. At the end of the season, the lowest-placed team is relegated to Ykkönen, whose winner will be promoted to Veikkausliiga. In normal seasons, the team placed next to lowest will play a two-legged relegation/promotion match with the second-placed team in Ykkönen. In season 2006, because the Veikkausliiga was one team short, this promotion match was not played and two best clubs of Ykkönen, FC Viikingit and AC Oulu, were promoted directly. KuPS were relegated.

Most of the clubs in Veikkausliiga are professional, although some of the smaller clubs are semi-professional. Average attendance has been around 3000.

Champions
The following clubs have won either the Veikkausliiga (between 1990 and 2006) or the Mestaruussarja (between 1908 and 1989) championship :

22 wins: HJK
9 wins: FC Haka, HPS
8 wins: TPS
7 wins: HIFK
5 wins: KuPS, Kuusysi1
4 wins: KIF, Tampere United
3 wins: Lahden Reipas1, VIFK, ÅIFK
2 wins: FC Jazz4, KTP3, OPS, VPS
1 win: HT, KPV, PUS, Turun Pyrkivä, Viipurin Sudet, Unitas, TPV Tampere, MyPa

2010 Clubs
The Veikkausliiga clubs in the 2010 season are (with their home towns in brackets):

AC Oulu – Recently promoted back to the top division.  They are based in the small town of Oulu and play in the 4,000 capacity Castren stadium.

FC Haka – 9 times champions, including the 2004 title, FC Haka are based in Valkeakoski and play in the homely 3,516 capacity Tehtaan Kentta stadium.

FC Honka – 4th in the league last season, the club from Espoo may be dark horses in 2008.  Their 6,000 capacity stadium is called the unpronounceable Tapiolan Urheilupuisto.

FC Inter – Still waiting for their first honour, the team from Turku play in a 10,000 capacitty arena known as the Veritas Stadion.

FC Lahti – Winners of the League Cup in 2007, Lahti are based in the city of the same name and can call the smart 15,00 seater Lahden Stadium (pictured left) as their home.

FF Jaro – Small club based in the provinsial town of Jakobstad.  Their stadium is the Centralplan which holds 5,000 supporters.

HJK – Finland’s most successful club having win the league on 22 occasions, including last season.  They play at the smart new Finnair arena – See below to get more details.

IFK Mariehamn – Based in the picturesque Aland Islands, IFK have never won a major honour.  They play at the Wiklof Holding Arena which can accomdate 1,500 fans.

MyPa-47 – League winners in 2005 and regular names in Europe.  They play in the town of Anjalankoski in the 4,067 capacity Saviniemi stadium.

Tampere United – 2008 Finnish Champions, and have been so on three previous occasions.  They can call on the 17,000 Ratina Stadium in Tampere their home.  Pictured left. See below for section on football in Tampere.

TPS – 8 Times Finnish Champions, although not since 1975.  They come from the city of Turku and play their home games in the Veritas Stadion which they share with FC Inter.

VPS – Small club based in Vaasa and have a 4,500 capacity stadium known as the Hietalahti.

JJK – Promoted last season, they play in the small town of Jyväskylä.

KuPS –The team plays its home matches at Magnum Areena. Until June 2005, KuPS used to play at an aged track and field stadium in Väinölänniemi, which is said to be one of the most beautiful sporting places in Finland. Väinölänniemi is a cape surrounded by a local lake, Kallavesi. KuPS holds the Finnish club record of Most consequent seasons at the top flight, from 1949 to 1992

For more details on Finnish football go to About a Ball.

FOOTBALL IN HELSINKI

HELSINKI – THE FINNAIR STADIUM – CAPACITY:10,300 ALL SEATER

About the Finnair Stadium
The Finnair Stadium is the most modern stadium in Finland, having been constructed as a football only stadium in 1999.  It is located next door to the Olympic Stadium, which hosted the 1952 Summer Games, and is still used for the national team.

The stadium is very similar in design and feel to Tallinn’s Le Coq Arena with one large two tier main stand (complete with a roof designed to look like a pair of wings), and three smaller single tier stands that wrap around to form a closed stadium.  Views are excellent – unobstructed and close to the pitch to enjoy the action.  The main stand also has heaters in the roof that keep you warm when temperatures drop at night, as well as heated seats.

The stadium is one of the grounds being used as part of the UEFA trial with artificial pitches.  The stadium hosted the FIFA U-17 World Championships in 2003 when Brazil beat Spain 1-0.

Who plays there?
The stadium is home to Helsingin Jalkapalloklubi Helsinki, more commonly known as HJK.  The club are without a doubt Finland’s biggest club in terms of success on the field, as well as support off it.  They are also the only Finnish team who have ever qualified for the Champions League Group Stages when in 1998-99 they were drawn in a group with Benfica, PSV Eindhoven and Kaiserslautern.  A return of 5 points from their 6 games was not enough to ensure UEFA Cup qualification, but it was enough to save any embarrassment – especially as they recorded a famous win in the home game to Benfica, and sold out the Olympic Stadium for the defeat against PSV Eindhoven. However, their greatest European night is still the home leg European Cup victory versus Liverpool in the 1980’s.

The club were originally formed in 1907 and soon began to dominate Finnish football, recording 7 Championship victories in 14 years before the championship reverted to a league base structure.  Since 1936 they have won a further 14 Championships, as well as 11 domestic cups.  However, more recently they have had to console themselves with a single Finnish Cup victory in 2006 when they beat KPV 1-0 and thus qualifying for this seasons UEFA Cup 1st round.

They last won the championship in 2003, and have had to console themselves with 2nd place for the past few seasons. In 2004 the club took over local rivals FC Jokerit.  In 2006 they finished behind Tampere United.  The club are managed by Keith Armstrong, who started off his career as a player with Sunderland but played almost his entire career in Finland.  HJK can count Mikael Forssell, Shefki Kuqi, Antti Niemi and Jari Litmanen as former players.  The current squad is made up almost exclusively of Finnish players, although due to a coaching agreement with a club in Sierra Leone they have a trio of players from Africa.

The stadium is also occasionally used by the National team instead of the Olympic Stadium next door when the opponents are not too attractive.  The last occasion they played here was versus Armenia in a European Championship qualifying match in November 2006.

How to get there
The stadium is located next to the Olympic Stadium in the north of the city centre – around about 3km from the water’s edge.  The stadium is easily walk able from the centre – simply follow Mannerheininte northwards past the lake on your right and after a good 20 minute walk you will see the stadium straight ahead.  Alternatively use Tram 7A, 3T or 3b from central station to Aurora Hospital stop – which is a 2 minute walk from the stadium.

For a better view of football in Helsinki go to Footiemap.com to view their excellent Football map of Helsinki.

Getting a ticket
Finnish football is comparable in terms of attendances to the English 2nd Division.  The average attendance is 2,900 – although HJK are the best supported team in the league with an average of 5,600.  They do occasionally sell out their matches – so it is prudent to book ahead.

The club use Lippupalvelu (http://www.lippupalvelu.fi) which is a Ticketmaster company to sell their seats.  Tickets go on sale around 2 months before the game, and you are asked to pick them up on the day of the game from the ticket office at the Arena.  Tickets for the main stand are €20, and for the family stand €12 (children €5).

HELSINKI – THE OLYMPIA STADION – CAPACITY: 42,062 All Seater

About the Olympia Stadion
The Helsinki Olympic Stadium,located in the Töölö district about 2 km from the center of the Finnish capital Helsinki, is the largest stadium in the country, nowadays mainly used for hosting sports events and big concerts. The stadium is best known for being the center of activities in the 1952 Summer Olympics. It was built however to host the 1940 Summer Olympics, which were moved from Tokyo to Helsinki before being cancelled due to World War 2. The stadium was also the venue for the first World Athletics Championships in 1983 as well as for the 2005 World Championships in Athletics. It is also the home stadium of the Finland national football team.

Construction of the Olympic Stadium began in 1934 and it was completed in 1938. The stadium was completely modernized in 1990–1994 and also renovated just before the 2005 World Championships in Athletics. Its spectator capacity was at its maximum during the 1952 Summer Olympics with over 70,000 spectator places. Nowadays the stadium has 40,000 spectator places. The tower of the stadium, a distinct landmark with a height of 72 m, is open for visitors and offers impressive views over Helsinki.

The stadium is located a stone’s throw from the Finnair Arena.

For a better view of football in Helsinki go to Footiemap.com to view their excellent Football map of Helsinki.

Getting around
Helsinki has a very comprehensive public transport system comprising of buses, trams, an underground system and suburban trains.  The Metro is expanding every year.  It was originally opened in 1982 and is planned to run without drivers in the next few years.

Buses run from the Central Station to most areas of the city, as too do the trams.  A single ticket on any form of public transport is €2.20, although a day pass is only €6.

Nearest Airport – Helsinki Vantaa Airport (HEL)
Telephone:              +385 82 771
Website:                  http://www.helsinki-vantaa.fi

Finland’s largest airport is located around 15km from the city centre, close to the town of Vantaa.  It was originally constructed for visitors for the 1952 Olympic Games, and now handles around 12 million passengers a year.  The airport has won a number of awards for cleanliness, punctuality and facilities for travellers.

The airport is connected to the city centre by a regular bus services that takes around 40 minutes to reach the train station.  There are plans to construct a rail link, although no start date has been confirmed as of yet.  The airport is served on a daily basis by Blue1 from London Stansted, British Airways from London Heathrow and Finnair from London Heathrow and Manchester.

FOOTBALL IN TAMPERE

TAMPERE – RATINA STADIUM – CAPACITY: 16,850 ALL SEATER

About the Ratina Stadium
The Ratina stadium is the centre of all athletic activity in the whole region.  It was built in 1965, and has been virtually unchanged since then.  The stadium has three sides uncovered, with the end stands curving around behind the goals.  The main stand is a covered single tier affair and offers some respite from the driving wind and rain that often characterises the Finnish season.  The unique feature of the stadium is the floodlights, which tower over the stadium.

Who plays there?
The stadium is home to Tampere United – one of the longest serving teams in the Finnish top division – the Veikkausliiga.  They were formed as recently as 1998 through a merger of local teams FC Ilves and TPV.  Consequently their history and achievements are a bit thin on the ground.  They won promotion to the top division in their first season in the league in 1999, and finished in 6th place in their debut term.

In 2001 they won their first Championship trophy, although their subsequent Champions League campaign ended in a 6-0 defeat in the opening qualifying round.  They won the championship in 2006, and again last season beating off competition from HJK Helsinki.  They also won their first ever Champions League tie, beating Murata 4-1 on aggregate in the First round.  In the second round the odds were stacked against them when they were drawn against Levski Sofia but the Finns surprised everyone by winning 1-0 home and away.  With a place in the Champions League Group Stages beckoning, the club couldn’t overcome a resurgent Rosenborg team and went out 5-0.  However, they have the opportunity to try and go one stage further in 2007/08 when they will take their place in the Qualifying Rounds again.

How to get there
The stadium is centrally located, just to the south of the city centre  and no more than a 5 minute walk away, and on the shore of the lake.  It is located adjacent to the central bus station.

Go to Footiempa.com to get a better overview of football in Tampere at their excellent website.

Getting a ticket
With average gates struggling to make it past the 7,000 mark on all but the games versus HJK Helsinki, you will have no problems buying a ticket on the day of the game.  When the national team are playing in town tickets are sold in advance from the stadium, or online from the Finnish Football Federation website.  Average ticket prices for a Finnish league game start from €10.

Getting around
Tampere city centre is small enough to be covered on foot, although buses run to all suburbs of the town.  Most buses run through Hämeenkatu in the city centre, and stop in the central square.  Single tickets cost €2, and a Tampere Tourist Card which costs €6 gives you unlimited travel and can be purchased from the Tourist Information office as well as the main train station.

Nearest Airport – Tampere Pirkkala Airport (TMP)
Telephone:              +35 8 3283 5111
Website:                  http://www.finavia.fi

Located 12 miles south west of the town centre, Tampere is the second biggest and busiest airport in the country.  The Airport is linked to the town by a dedicated bus service that runs every 90 minutes.  Alternatively, taxis are plentiful and cost €15.  Tampere is served on a daily basis by Ryanair from London Stansted and Liverpool John Lennon, as well as from Heathrow with British Airways.

If you are flying in from Helsinki Vantaa Airport, then there is an hourly Express bus service to Tampere operated by Panu which departs from platform 13 at the airport.  A return ticket costs €40.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s