Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Keith Armstrong's Day Off

I've been following Finnish football for a while now, it's provided me with an awful lot. Friends, excitement and some very odd stories which have to be seen to be believed. But one of the strangest events I can recall from Finland (or anywhere else for that matter) occurred on Sunday 4th October...

Ilves in Tampere are one of my favourite clubs in the country. The atmosphere at their ground is fantastic and I've enjoyed myself each time I've visited. They were promoted last season into Veikkausliiga after the demise of MYPA, they had a small budget and have performed well throughout. Their new manager was the Englishman Keith Armstrong, who has been involved in numerous clubs throughout the country and coaching HJK to three titles at the turn of the century.

Sunday saw them visit the league leaders SJK in Seinäjoki, Ilves still not mathematically safe from a relegation play-off. A big game affecting both ends of the table, so of course the players would need a Braveheart-style rousing speech before the match to inspire. So how did the coach motivate his team?

He appeared on television as a pundit for the English Premier League matches being played at the same time.

Admittedly these are huge games, Everton v Liverpool and Arsenal v Manchester United... The broadcaster clearly wanted an English perspective, but did it have to be Keke? Anyway, as Ilves said in a statement on Monday, his absence was a big surprise to the CEO and that his TV appearance had not been authorised.

Armstrong on TV, during his side's defeat at SJK

As a supervisor in my day job, I'd be severely concerned if one of my employees failed to turn up for work. What had happened to them? Were they ok? Could I do anything to help? Nah, they bunked off to dick about. Book thrown at him.

Ilves announced on Wednesday afternoon that Armstrong's contract would be terminated. The players had lost confidence in their coach, such behaviour was unacceptable. What next for Ilves? They go into the final three matches of the season without the man who led them to (probable) safety.

Meanwhile, K€k€ will go onto something else. His video diary with IS:TV earlier in the season was reminiscent of Brendan Rodgers on Being: Liverpool.

Being: Ilves

A sorry, amateur affair all round.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Interview with Finland midfielder Perparim Hetemaj

Apologies for the recent lack of posts, it appears the Rugby World Cup is having a serious impact beyond the oval ball as well... Anyway, here is the latest interview, with Finland and Chievo midfielder Perpa Hetemaj. Enjoy and share etc.


Chievo have made a good start to the season, your goal against Juventus has been a highlight. What are the team's goals for 2015/16?
The team’s goal is the same as always, that is staying in the division, though the start of the season has been really good and now we’re trying to get the points we need as quickly as possible to ensure staying up, then we can think about other things!

As for Finland, there is still a chance of qualifying for a Euro 2016 play-off - what was the mood of the squad like after the Faroe Islands match?
Qualification isn’t in our hands, but we are going out to win the next two games and then we can see where we are! There’s always a great atmosphere when you win a match, though after a game you can’t hang around for too long as everyone goes their separate ways, getting showered and changed before heading home because you usually have an early flight back to your club's training.

You took centre stage with the Pohjoiskaarre megaphone after the match (not for the first time) - what is the bond like between the players and the fans?
The fans are important to us and after a match, it’s fun for the whole team to celebrate with the fans, and I think they also enjoy that! We have a great relationship with them. There’s a great atmosphere in Pohjoiskaarre (North end) and you can feel the support from the pitch!

Your brother Mehmet has returned to play in Finland this season with SJK and is doing very well - do you think you'll play for a Finnish club again?
Yes, my brother is a very good player and I will be glad if he wins the Finnish Championship with SJK. He has had a good season, as have SJK in general. I have been able to see SJK from close-up; they’re doing good work with their feet on the ground and a step-by-step attitude. It’s a shame my brother hasn’t had the chance to play in the Finnish national team because he’s a good player.

I would like to finish my career in Finland; I was raised by Klubi (HJK) – I have never represented any other team in Finland so the ideal option would be to finish my career with HJK where I started my footballing career. I would like to win the Finnish Championship wearing the HJK jersey – I’ve yet to get that medal!

With big name players moving to the Middle East, USA, China etc, would you like to play outside Europe?
I would rather not go to China or the Middle East, but I would be interested in playing in MLS, Australia or Japan at some point… Of those countries, I’d most like to go to Japan.

The new Finland manager (Hans Backe) starts in January, what new ideas do you hope he'll bring to the squad?
I don’t know this coach, but what I have heard has been positive and he knows his stuff! We have two more matches with Rive (Kanerva), Nurre (Nurmela) and Tintin (Johansson), so we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves.

Your recent tweet about Finland being a welcoming place for refugees was very well received, were you surprised at such a positive reaction?
I really only use Twitter to read UFC news, I hardly ever tweet, but I wanted to put out that tweet because it is a feeling that many former refugees have. But as to whether I was surprised – yes I was.

Kosovo played some friendly international matches in 2014, did they ask if you would play?
I have spoken with the coach of the Kosovo national team, but we have decided not to comment on this in public.

Who has been the best player you've played against in Serie A, and why?
It’s hard for me to say who has been the best, there are a lot of good players and a lot of annoying players…

Eero Markkanen told me that he'd like a rematch of the wrestling match you won last year - do you accept the challenge?
I have read that Eero put on 16-18 kilos since the last wrestling match. I could consider a rematch against him if he put on another 16-18 kilos! Seriously speaking, I don’t think Eero has much of a chance against me. Petteri Forsell has asked a few times about a wrestling match, but he is such a nice guy that I don’t want to make him angry at me after he loses!


Thanks again Perpa for your time, I wish you the best for the coming matches. There are a few more interviews in the pipeline, hoping to get them on soon. Assuming the rugby finishes at some point.