Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Interview with RoPS manager Juha Malinen

In the latest interview for ETS, I spoke to RoPS manager Juha Malinen about his views on various aspects of Finnish football and beyond.

Juha Malinen

RoPS are exceeding everyone's expectations in Veikkausliiga this year. What key changes have you made to get such good results?
It's not because of changes, but long-term work. In this case, one and a half years. Last year I had the opportunity to exchange half of the players, so change in these areas. Of course, after the beginning of the season there have been minor adjustments, but before the team had already shown its skills by reaching the League Cup final.

You recently expressed an interest in the Finland manager job - what system do you think would get the best out of These players?
In my view, it's not fair to begin an election campaign in the media. One reporter asked me to apply, and I decided to answer honestly, and a small media campaign was born, It does not mean that I would like to start doing my tactical plans publicly.

Are there any teams in the world who you look to for inspiration? Which is the best team you've ever seen?
Teams who, on their day, can surprise, or do something exceptionally well. There have been many over the years. Ajax, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona, ​​Bayern Munich, Dortmund, All of these have had their time. I am not a fan of comparing teams. Comparison between the different teams over the years are a romantics job.

Juha's Eleven

How would you describe the style of play of your teams use? Do you have a "philosophy"?
Goal-oriented, ambitious, willing to develop, intellectual resources are all important. I also hope that the right kind of precision to be found, because that's what makes the difference! Every coach always wants the best, but the skill is governed in the head. Sure, I will try to adjust the team to meet different challenges.

How did you find working in Kazakhstan? Would you like to manage abroad again one day?
It was colourful, because the area is very Russian, but located in Asia, China is a neighbour and the people would like to be part of Europe, a cultural shambles. A lot of great memories, a lot of quirky things. But a man can handle it, if you know how to be your own person. Recently I received a message from my former boss where I got good feedback and a proposal to meet again somewhere.

What are the most notice things you'd recommend to someone who wants to be a football manager?
Young people should start at the grassroots level. Educate yourself, tour the clubs and the world. Inquire about everything and be curious. At the same time, visualise every position to expand and begin to develop your philosophy. Be brave and true to yourself, but be aware that sometimes you're certainly wrong!

You've managed players from many different countries - how do you communicate your instructions?
At one stage I figured that I've coached or had a beer with almost one hundred different nationalities. The first time I started using English as a second language in training was with MyPa in 1999, and with the exception of a couple of seasons, I've done it ever since. Sometimes I take a smaller language group apart and discussed matters in greater detail and then check between them, to make sure things are understood.

Juha the teacher - photo via Veli-Jukka Mustajärvi

Is there anything about modern football that has changed for the worse?
At the top level, wages are already quite unimaginable. Of course I do not want to take anything away from anyone, but if a footballer in their twenties has a weekly wage better than a highly qualified professional person earns in a year, there are some certainly issues and risks to arise.

Do you think social media is a good way for players and fans to talk to each other?
Of course, but there are limits. We must be able to remember the difference between online and real life, and that all social media posts can be misinterpreted.

Faith Obilor has been one of the best defenders in Finland this year - do you think they can play at the top level?
I know he can! Obi is physically at a very good standard. He wants to learn all the time and is therefore a good man. He can still learn more skill and tactics and therefore it would be fantastic if there was a team and a coach in a harder league for him more to harness. The most important part in a player's development is that the environment provides a good challenge all the time.


I'd like to thank Mr Malinen for his time and honesty, some interesting views. I'm still looking for people from a variety of different backgrounds to interview, any recommendations welcome!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Jaro fans reunite Serge Atakayi with long-lost family

Lost among the transfer rumours, corruption scandals and kit launches last week was a truly heartwarming story that proves that there is still plenty of compassion in football, in this case coming from the fans of one club in the Finnish Veikkausliiga.

Jaro, who are based in the Western town of Jakobstad (in Swedish, or Pietarsaari in Finnish), have had a rather inconsistent season so far, unable to put together any sort of run - but the undoubted highlights have been the emergence of two sixteen year old prospects. Sergei Eremenko, son of coach Alexei is one, while the record-breaker of the pair is Serge Atakayi - who has become both the youngest ever goalscorer in Veikkausliiga and the youngest player to get sent off...

Jaro's two future diamonds, Eremenko and Atakayi (right) - photo Jyrki Johannes Tervo

Serge was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1999, and came to Finland in 2010 (aged 11) to take part in the internationally renowned Helsinki Cup tournament. With the opportunity of a lifetime, to escape an unstable country, Serge took the life-changing decision to claim political asylum in the country, leaving his family behind. He hasn't seen them since.

No fan wants to see a key player unhappy and without a crucial support network. But Jaro fans are a different breed. They raised funds amongst themselves and the local community to fund a trip for Serge to visit his family in DR Congo at the end of the season on a scholarship, meaning he won't have any problems returning to the place he's called home for five years, while he's represented various Finland junior teams.

Serge on international duty

They surprised Serge at the end of a training session last Wednesday, marching onto the pitch to present him with the relevant paperwork.

Jaro's media man Viktor Enbacka told me "This is what FF Jaro is all about. Everyone wants to help somehow, by volunteering or doing things like this." Club captain Jonas Emet said "We don't have the biggest group of fans, but they all have a big heart".

Meanwhile, Serge said on Instagram "Thank you Jaro fans, for the gift you have given me today. I'm so glad that I don't know how to thank you all, I will never forget you".