Showing posts with label 1912 Olympics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1912 Olympics. Show all posts

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Escape To Suomi - A Year In Review

This site was born in June 2012, not long after the start of the Finnish league season and something to do while watching the European Championships. As the year has gone on, we've provided summaries of matches, the hot topics of the moment, and some other pieces which have required a lot of work.

As is tradition, it's time to look at the five most read articles on the site since it's inception, and hopefully gather some feedback.

Number 5 - Suomen Cup final preview

Written the night before the final, the blog previewed Honka v KuPS. Both sides were unlikely to qualify for the Europa League through league placing, and Honka were looking for a first cup win, with KuPS not having won it since 1989. In the end, Honka won the final 1-0, however the aftermath was dominated by controversy after both clubs were fined due to over-zealous support from the travelling fans.

Photo courtesy of Vartaloharhautus

Number 4 - The 1912 Finnish Olympic football team

Conceived during the London Olympics, and some cursory glances through the record books showed the Finland came fourth in the men's football event. Not bad given that they've never qualified for a World Cup or European Championship. More interestingly, it brought the tales of smuggler Algoth Niska and journalist Eino Soinio to a wider audience after the article was picked up and adjusted for esteemed football site In Bed With Maradona.

Eino Soinio

Number 3 - King Litmanen - The Movie

Kuningas Litmanen was the documentary released this autumn about Jari Litmanen. The movie was a big success, reporting big takings for a documentary and also getting an airing at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam. The film is out now on DVD, and features talking heads from such luminaries as Louis van Gaal, Steven Gerrard and Dennis Bergkamp. A full review of the DVD will appear on this site in the new year.

No mention of what the deleted scenes are

Number 2 - Carl Jenkinson

One of the big talking points amongst Finnish football fans and writers was about Arsenal full-back Carl Jenkinson, who had represented the Finnish U21 team, via his Finnish mother. After a fantastic start to the English season (standing in for the injured Bacary Sagna), the debate soon hit English shores. Under FIFA rules he was allowed to change allegiance once, and after being invited to train with England, he then made his full debut as a substitute in a friendly against Sweden.

 England's Carl Jenkinson

Number 1 - European prize money

As Finnish clubs progressed in European qualifiers (well, HJK and KuPS at least), the financiers were rubbing their hands at the prospect of the money on offer, as well as the potential for the lucrative group stages. KuPS made it as far as the third qualifying round (losing to Bursaspor), while HJK lost to Celtic in the Champions League qualifier and then Bilbao in the Europa League play-offs. Both will have done reasonably well, KuPS in particular grateful for the money as they posted 2012 losses of 200000. Financially challenged Honka could benefit from a decent run in 2013/14, it was only confirmed last week that they have met the UEFA licensing conditions.


For 2013, I'll be continuing the weekly Veikkausliiga reviews, and inviting submissions for articles about Finnish football or Finns abroad. I'll be attending the World Cup qualifier against Belarus in Helsinki in June, and against France in Paris in October, so hopefully more about the international team as well.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The 1912 Finnish Olympic football team

Before World Cups and European Championships, Olympic football was the only major international competition which could determine the world's best team. But before the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, the Swedish Olympic Committee had to be convinced to include football in the first place. The Swedish FA put up the funds required to stage the event, with the Olympic Committee taking 25% of the gate.

The football tournament had already concluded prior to the opening ceremony, where eleven teams competed over a week, and the tournament even featured a spin-off consolation tournament for teams eliminated in the first and second rounds.

 The Finnish team at the 1912 Olympic opening ceremony

Finland entered the Olympics in some controversy. Still part of the Russian Empire (they were a Grand Duchy), the Finnish team entered the opening ceremony in Stockholm with no flag, in a bid to distance themselves from their Russian counterparts. Hannes Kolehmainen, winner of three gold medals for long-distance running, even went so far as to say he almost wished he hadn't won, after seeing the Russian flag lifted when he received his medals.

 The official football team photo

Finland's first match was in Traneberg against Italy, in front of around 600 people. The weather was described as unsuitably warm, and almost unbearably hot. The first half saw two goals for each team, but a goalless second half saw the game go to extra-time, the Finns playing with ten men after an injury in the second period. A goal in the tenth minute of extra time by Bror Wiberg clinched the win, and saw Finland through to the quarter finals. Italy had to console themselves by moving directly to the consolation tournament, where they beat the hosts before losing to Austria. The official report of the fifth Olympiad cited travel-related tiredness as the main reason for the Italian's defeat, due to them having the furthest to travel (all eleven nations competing were European).

Finland (dark shirts) v Italy, 29th June 1912, Traneberg

Finland's reward for their victory was a tie with Russia, maybe a blessing with regards to the future controversy between the two nations at the opening ceremony. The match kicked off less than twenty-four hours after the Finns' earlier match, whereas Russia had received a bye. It turned out that Finland actually started better, Artturi Nyyssönen scoring the only goal of the first half. The second half saw Russia wake up, and equalise, before a late winner from Jarl Öhman, the man who would become Finland's first full-time manager. Between 200 and 300 people got to witness the victory, unfortunately the lowest attendance of the main tournament. The Finns reached the semi-finals with the win, while Russia went on to lose 16-0 to Germany in the Consolation Tournament, where Gottfried Fuchs scored ten goals.

The opponents in the last four were Great Britain, who had won the previous tournament in 1908 staged in London. Like Russia, Britain had received a bye to the second round, where they faced Hungary, and defeated them 7-0, featuring six goals from one-time Arsenal forward Harold Walden. The British were anticipating a victory, resting forward Arthur Berry, and were keen to avoid any further injuries after losing Ted Hanney in the quarter-final. From the start, Jalmari Holopainen put a Sharpe cross into his own net, and another goal from Walden but the Brits 2-0 up after just seven minutes. The team in front could even afford to miss a penalty, before sealing victory with two goals in the final fifteen minutes, to entertain the 4,000 attending the Olympiastadion. The holders would go through to the final, while the Finns would face the bronze medal match against the Netherlands.

Finland try to prevent another British attack

The third place match was a one-sided affair. The Rasunda stadium hosted the meeting between the Finns and the Dutch, in front of an audience of a thousand people, but it seemed as the Dutch were expected to win at a canter. That they lost 4-1 in their semi-final to Denmark seemed to make little difference to the predictions, as that match had been described as one of the finest ever. The Finns only made one change in attack, but it was defence that perhaps required a rest - the Dutch scored nine goals without reply, including five by Jan Vos. The Finns had to make the short trip home, while the Dutch received bronze medals for their efforts. As a reward for their achievement, the Swedish FA presented the Finns with silver medals bearing their logo, also the prize award to the Hungarian winners of the consolation tournament.

For the Finns, there was no shame in losing to the eventual champion. The official report provided interesting opinions on the tournament as a whole, and with a hundred years of history and stories, seems quite timely to mention now. The British style of play was described as relying on science, combination and agility, whereas Finland were lumped in with Germany, Austria and Hungary as playing with speed and hard rushes, and without brain work, accusations that would have been herecy against future German and Hungarian sides. Finland went on to qualify for three further Olympic tournaments, including the 1952 Games in which were held in Helsinki, but never made it past the first round. 

The Finns

Memorable sports teams are made as much by the characters within as the results, and not just a collection of blue shirts swarming towards the goal. The most famous of the 1912 vintage was Algoth Niska (below), the left winger in the Finnish attack. Not only did he represent his nation at the games, but he became known as a bootlegger during the prohibition era. Bringing alcohol into a dry country became an adventure, meeting Estonian and German ships in international waters before heading back to satisfy the urges of the Helsinki elite. But it wasn't just alcohol he smuggled - he claimed to rescue over 150 Jews from Germany prior to the second World War, using stolen passports. Niska even found time to fight in the Winter War of 1939-40 against the Soviets. Niska died in 1954, yet he still goes by the names of the Gentleman Smuggler and the Moonshine King - and will always be the name that is synonymous with that Finnish side that came so close to an Olympic medal.

 Algoth Niska