Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Interview with Finland futsal captain Panu Autio

In the latest ETS interview, I spoke to the captain of the Finnish futsal national team Panu Autio. Some very in depth answers, thanks again Panu. I'll also add that the interview was done in Finnish in order to get the full breadth of answers.

You’ve played both football and futsal at high levels – which is harder?
Personally football is a lot more difficult for me because the ball bounces more, the pitch is bigger and there are more players. Futsal is a simpler game, where decision making means the basic principles of the game are more pronounced in relation to physics for instance. Futsal is more wholesome. Attention is more focused on small details of the game and the conducting those with skill is the thing that makes the difference.

How did you get into futsal?
I played football for FC Espoo and my fellow player Janne "Boogie" Laine got me to go along. "Boogie" was the captain of the national team at that time, as well as the GFT player coach. When I got the hang of it, I realised futsal was the perfect fit for me. You could say it was love at first sight!

Do you think that more professional footballers should try futsal during winter?
It is fun and it gives you new points of view on the game. On the futsal pitch, you learn technical tools in a smaller space such as using the soles of your feet, protecting the ball and a lower playing stance. So why not? I am fairly convinced that one reason why Brazilian and Spanish footballers have a better understanding of the game than Finns is partly because they have played futsal as kids.

You and Pekka Sihvola spent time playing in South America, what did you learn from it?
I learned about how many different footballing cultures there are in the world. I learned how to work in a different changing room and how it is to show yourself to a completely strange foreign team where other players are completing with you for the same work and game opportunities. I also learned Spanish.

As you’re also working with JPY (Finland's player union), what are the biggest challenges facing young footballers?
I currently work for JPY as a Contact Manager. To work as a professional footballer is challenging in Finland and wages (that were never that high to begin with) have come down in the last couple of years. Compared with other countries, in Finland the status of a professional footballer in society's hierarchy is lower than in other countries. Here even the cleaner of the stadium often earns more than the youngest players in the league. It is an absurd situation and explaining it to a Spaniard, an Italian or a German might be difficult. A different career path may therefore seem an easier and smarter choice. On the other hand, because of these reasons, you can say that in Finland the top footballers are working with total commitment.

What role can sport play in helping integrate refugees and immigrants?
This is a big question. Sport, and football in particular, is probably the best way to help refugees into the Finnish society. Football is a universal language and on the pitch everyone is equal in front of the game. We already have so many positive stories of players who have risen to key roles in our national teams. U21 national team captain Mosa Yaghoubi for example is a brilliant example that we can be proud of here in Finland. If football becomes important in the refugee question, this can also help the popularity of the game in Finland. The player organisation has for several years organised a "Football Belongs to Everyone" campaign that concludes with a national championship tournament between the reception centres.

Do you think futsal can become as pivotal as street football in developing talent?
Futsal is very similar to street football. Making distinctions between the street game, football and futsal is extremely difficult and often quite unnecessary. In Finland the street, park and yard footballing culture is fairly non-existent. I believe that futsal could bridge this gap in Finnish football and sports culture. I especially hope that futsal tournaments at different levels could become more common in Finland.

In recent years, futsal has become more popular – what will happen next?
The growth in popularity will most likely continue for a while. The Finnish national team is the Nordic Cup and the Baltic Cup champions so we could act as a kind of pathfinder for other Northern European countries. I also hope that futsal is more actively chosen in the school sports curriculum. Afterwards I would like to see Finnish futsal leagues getting more professional and the media get increasingly interested alongside it.

How much support do you get from Palloliitto (Finnish football association) for resources and facilities?
Palloliitto does a lot of good work for futsal and they have understood futsal's value and potential. Of course there is always room for improvement. For instance when it comes to conditions, Palloliitto could take a more active stance with the public sector and ensure that all towns have enough safe futsal pitches for the players. In Finland there isn't a single outdoors futsal pitch for example.

Could Finland qualify for a major futsal tournament soon?
That is the dream and we strongly believe in it. The last couple of qualifiers under Mićo Martić have been extremely close. In the next Euro qualifiers our team will be strong and we will be tactically more mature than before. We also hope that more than one individual national team player gets a chance to play professionally in the top leagues in Europe. That would make us even more prepared to play against the best countries in the world.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Finnish Football Show episode 2

Monday 14th December sees myself, Mark and Mark return to our respective hotseats for the second episode of the Finnish Football Show. After the surprisingly good reception of the first episode, we will be looking at the Finland national team, with new boss Hans Backe due to start in three weeks time.

As before, we will be recording using the Blab platform, so it'll be a live video broadcast (effectively a video call) before the edited recording hits your podcast devices later in the week.

Please join us at 7pm GMT (9pm in Finland), where you can help contribute messages and tweets using the hashtag #FFS2 - see what we did there?

Subscribe to this link - Finnish Football Show episode 2

See you then!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Finnish football mugs

I saw a tweet this week which seemed to strike a chord with me and one of my more recent hobbies. Since my first visit to Finland with Mrs ETS in 2008, we've been picking up a few Arabia Moomin mugs, also finding a few places that sell them in London. The collection is quite big (but not as big as Suvi's).

Egan has mentioned on several occasions that a lot of people, including foreign visitors, would buy and keep various items of merchandise, especially mugs. I own a couple of mugs (KuPS, SJK, HJK) but thought it'd be nice to see what else is out there. So I asked on Twitter, and got some tremendous replies.

Here they are.

AC Oulu, thanks to Heikki Mertaniemi

HIFK, thanks to Henrik Fagerström

Nyt kunnon kupposia ostettavissa MPS Storesta! Omaksi työpaikalle tai vaikka kodin kahvitteluun. Hinta tutuille 8€ :)
Posted by Malmin Palloseura on Tuesday, 20 October 2015

VPS, thanks to Johanna Keturi

As you can see, there's plenty of choice available - now to start buying...

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Interview with Finland U21 forward Vahid Hambo

The latest interview for the site is with Finland U21 striker Vahid Hambo, who in summer 2015 signed for English Championship club Brighton and Hove Albion. At the time of writing this, Brighton are top of the table and still unbeaten. Vahid started 2015 in scintillating form to earn his big move. Thanks again to Vahid for his time, you can follow him on Twitter here.


Brighton have made a great start to the season, what is the atmosphere like at the club?
We are still top of the Championship and unbeaten this season, and that's always good. I think everybody has developed a strong winning mentality, so people at the club will be very disappointed if Brighton doesn't finish in the top three places this season.

What are your personal ambitions for the season?
I had a long ankle injury at the start of the season, then I was fit for two weeks and played in one under-21 game. Unfortunately I now have a knee injury (torn meniscus) and will be out for another two months... So we will see again after that.

You earned the nickname “Finnish Zlatan” before your move – what do you think of that name?
Haha it's funny, but I don't take any pressure from it - because there is only one Zlatan!

Has having (Finland goalkeeper) Niki Mäenpää at the club helped you settle in?
The club have helped me a lot. I now see Niki almost everyday at training ground. If I need something, I can always ask Niki.

Brighton has a reputation for being a very liberal place to live – what’s your favourite part of the city?
I'm living in Hove, around 15 minutes walk to the town centre, and only two minutes from the sea front. I don't have a favourite place yet, but I love being close to the sea.

What was the best experience of playing for Sampdoria’s academy side?
I don't know, probably everything! I learnt a lot about how strikers should move in the box and during the game. That was maybe the biggest thing. But also playing against the best young Italian players, that is where you see the level of play compared to Finland.

There was some talk of Bosnia showing interest in your career (Vahid's parents are from Bosnia, he was born in Finland) – is it something you’ve considered?
Yes of course, but I've always played for Finland, and I've never had any proper contact from Bosnia so there's nothing to think about at the moment...

Who was your footballing idol growing up?
When I was younger, I liked to watch Ronaldinho. But at the moment, I don't really have an idol.

Brighton re-signed Bobby Zamora in the summer, has he taught you anything yet?
I haven't really trained with him because of my injuries, but you can see in him that he has a lot of experience and is such a good professional. He has already scored a lot of important goals for us.

Have you had any Brighton Rock yet?
Haha no I haven't, yet!

My thanks again to Vahid - coming soon, an interview with Finland's futsal captain Panu Autio, once I get round to translating...