Showing posts with label MYPA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MYPA. Show all posts

Monday, March 23, 2015

Interview with JPY's Tero Koskela

The latest interview for ETS is with Tero Koskela, who works for the Finnish player's union JPY (Jalkapallon Pelaajayhdistys). The work that the JPY do is crucial to maintain confidence and the integrity of the sport in Finland, and they do a fine job of it. 


What is your role with the JPY? 
Well, my title is an account manager but I'm doing everything what is needed to do in our small organisation. We only have two full time employees so we have a lots of tasks to do and of course we try to serve all of our 1200 members. At the moment, I'm focusing more on meeting and educating players. For us it is important to physically be where the players are, in the locker room. When they let us to come to their “holy place”, we know we have earned their trust.

What are the challenges that the JPY now and in the future? 
For our organization, we should get one or two employees more but that´s more of an economic issue. When it comes to the individuals (players) we need be active in open discussion about what kind of status the professional players have in our society. Our players doesn’t earn big money so they should have the same employee benefits that normal workers have. We still have too many players whose insurance doesn’t cover much if a bad injury happens.

The JPY appear to be very forward thinking with the match fixing app, the player CV database etc. Are there many more projects in the pipeline?
Of course we are open to any new ideas, but at the moment implementing these projects to our members takes big part of our time.


SJK's Juho Lähde talks about the match-fixing app

In England there is a lot of talk about young players earning big money and not perhaps having the hunger to succeed that those from Africa or South America - do you see changes in motivation for young Finns?
Big money is really not a big problem for young Finns. Earnings are often below the poverty line so being a footballer it is not very desired profession. At the same time, we have very high level of school education which ensures that everyone could retrain for another profession. We need to make our domestic football more interesting so that we do not lose our young talents to foreign leagues.

What support services do the JPY provide to foreign players moving to Finland?
We are giving them the Welcome to Finland magazine, where they can read some important facts in our culture and how the things are done here in Finland. We have a good relationship with some foreign players who have been here for a number of years and they are ready to help us if needed.

The Welcome to Finland magazine

The FIFPro tournaments in Oslo provide an excellent opportunity for free agents to try to earn new deals - do you get a lot of players trying to get involved?
In this economic climate it has become a lot more interesting for free agents. Teams in Finland often drag out their contract negotiations to sign players who participate in these FIFPro tournaments. This is one of the important services we need to develop, to help our unemployed players to find a club and give them chance to train professionally.  


After the match-fixing problems at RoPS in the past, and the large betting interest in Finnish football, has the JPY app made a big difference?
Awareness around the match-fixing issue is the best thing that has happened. We have been able to give players a thorough education through this application and to discuss openly about the risks surrounding match fixing. 
 
With MYPA and Honka having such public financial problems, what could clubs do differently/better to support players? 
These two cases have similar problems. The players have been unaware of the situation because the club´s internal communications have been very poor. Telling the truth might not have saved the clubs, but it could have helped the players prepare for what is coming and maybe give them more time to change their plans.

Various Finnish clubs have been working with JYP to promote anti-racism and anti-discrimination campaigns - which countries do you think have done well with this? 
In Scandinavia, Denmark and Norway have done a lot of really good work to promote this issue. I also have a feeling that in England, they do quite a lot of work through the Show Racism the Red Card campaign. I haven’t met any player who doesn’t support this. 

JJK players show racism the red card last week

Some players I've met talk passionately about education and having a qualification to "fall back on" - is this a culture that's promoted to young players?
This is very important for our players. Players can’t live on their savings when they finish their career, if they've been playing in a big football country that´s a totally different situation. I don’t think it's necessary for a young player whose goal is to play abroad but when they see that the Finnish Premier League is the highest level where they are playing, then it's important to have a Plan B.

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Many thanks again to Tero for his answers. You can follow the JPY on Twitter and Facebook, while Tero is also on Twitter here.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Tulos: Cup draws, interviews and Japan

Been a fairly slow few weeks in the Finnish football world since the last update. Part of the joy of a summer league perhaps... Anyway, here is a little recap.

Sexypöxyt celebrate their 30th anniversary this year

The Suomen Cup fourth round draw took place on Monday, pitching some potentially very interesting ties. TamU-K will host IFK Mariehamn, PEPO play KuPS and Sexypöxyt will play Gnistan. Meanwhile, our partner club Atletico Malmi defeated NuPS to reach the fourth round for the first time, they will play the winner of JanPa and Jomela IK. I'm still waiting to hear on the availability of Malmi replica jerseys.


I've spoken to Dani Hatakka of KuPS and Richie Dorman of SJK, who were both very interesting and pretty open about life in Veikkausliiga. Dani spoke about his scoring prowess for the Finland U21 side, while Richie was grateful to Finnish football for the chance to become a professional, having spent time at Blackburn as a youngster. Sent a few emails for further interviews, hopefully will have some more soon.

HJK's attempts at world domination continue with rapid speed - they announced the signings of Japanese international forward Mike Havanaar and Swedish goalkeeper Daniel Örlund, who join fellow Japanese Atom Tanaka and former Nottingham Forest midfielder Guy Moussi. HJK CEO Aki Riihilahti spoke to MTV3 about the club's ambitions - while admitting that they had sold more Atom shirts in a week than any other player sold in the whole of 2014, while over forty thousand people watched highlights of the win over RoPS, while the usual figure is in the hundreds.
Jari Litmanen's 44th birthday passed by on February 20th with the usual fanfare and ticker tape. He keeps his usual low profile, making personal appearances in pubs etc.

MYPA appear to have folded in their present form, the club administrators have applied for bankruptcy. While it's likely that the various junior clubs will continue in some form, it's a shame that over-spending and poor financial management have enabled to club to wither. Watch this space for future news.

The latest Eremenko talent, sixteen-year-old Sergei, scored twice for Jaro in their Liigacup defeat to SJK. He has already spent time training with Internazionale's youth set-up, while those ITK lot reckon he could potentially be as good as brothers Roman and Alexei.

Anyway that's it for now - I'm trying to push the ETS Facebook page a bit more these days, so make sure you like that for some more slow-time updates. Twitter is so flimsy and instant...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tulos: Things you may have missed

Some family friends of ours were visiting from Finland this week, the topic of social media popped up. They work for a online sports channel focusing on extreme sports, EpicTV, and were more than happy to talk about their experience. Essentially, Kirsti and Panu said that I should be looking to focus more on Facebook. Twitter is excellent for instant and current news, but hardly a place to catch up at your leisure. As such, I post and link to several stories which may be missed unless you're on at the time.

So I've decided to summarise the stories of interest with one blog post, I think the term is 'ICYMI'. Anyway, here's what has happened in the last couple of weeks. Future blogs will be shorter, covering perhaps a fortnight at most - the below covers most the year so far. Feedback, as always, is welcome!

Cricket scores in the Helsinki futsal third division...




Finland U21s reached the final of the Commonwealth Cup in Russia, losing 2-1 to South Africa. Their semi-final win over Turkmenistan saw two moments of bravado from the Finns. Moshtagh Yaghoubi and Dani Hatakka were involved, well worth remembering.

 


Finland played two internationals in Abu Dhabi - they defeated Sweden 1-0 and drew 0-0 with Yemen. The sides were mostly made up of Nordic based players, but outstanding performers in the Sweden game were Lukas Hradecky and Petteri Forsell, with a debut international goal for Roope Riski.

Former Chelsea youth player Nortei Nortey had a trial with Jaro, but failed to earn a contract.

The 2015 Liigacup began, wins for Ilves and Inter and a draw between IFK Mariehamn and HIFK. Make a note of the fixtures and results here.

The farce/saga over Veikkausliiga places rumbles on, as MYPA were denied a licence to play in the top division in 2015, Ilves promoted in their place. They have since applied to play in Ykkönen but have also appealed the decision. At the time of writing, this is still to be decided. KTP meanwhile took Honka's place - Honka will now play in Kakkonen going under the name of FC Esport Honka.

In the annual FIFPro tournament in Norway, Finland's team of free agents lost both of their matches on penalties against Ireland and Norway. Player of the tournament was former RoPS striker Aleksandr Kokko, who spoke about his desire to play abroad.

Finland defender Markus Halsti signed for MLS club DC United. He played in this season's Champions League for Malmö.


Despite several media reports of tedious speculation, Niklas Moisander confirmed that he would remain at the club until the end of the season, where he is likely to move to a Serie A club, possibly Lazio or Roma.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Licences, cold money and Christmas

It's been an eventful December for a nation with a summer league system. The rarity of a Finnish team still in European competition, the sorting out of league licences for 2015 and some ups and downs for the Finns spread across Europe. In the absence of the usual weekly reviews, I've decided to do a recap of what has gone on recently.

Santa is an HJK fan?!

The 2015 season

Last week, Honka were denied a licence to play in Veikkausliiga in 2015. I've made several mentions over the last year or so relating to the money problems which have plagued the club. Despite new owners taking control of the club, they also assumed the debts, issues and promises. In a roundabout way to appease reformists, the eleventh-placed team was replaced by the club that came second in Ykkönen - FC KTP, who only formed a year ago in their current form due to a merger between KTP and FC KooTeePee.

In a less expected twist, MYPA have been given a deadline of January 8th to prove themselves worthy of a place in the top flight next season. They too have been cutting back on their finances, while they're looking to make up an estimated shortfall of 200k Euros, or else their place in the 2015 season will be taken by either TPS or Ilves, who have been asked to submit potential applications. MYPA are also in danger of potentially missing out on the Europa League - they were the highest eligible side in the Fair Play table, which could mean a spot for KuPS... Banzai!

Mixed fortunes

The most widely told story is that of Sami Hyypiä resigning as Brighton manager on Monday. It had been predicted for a number of weeks in lieu of their form over the season, but still a shame to see a young manager fail for a second time - his spell at Leverkusen was very much a case of Jekyll and Hyde.

In other news, Finland U21 midfielder Glen Kamara made the bench for Arsenal (but didn't come on) in the Champions League match against Galatasaray and spent a fair bit of time training with the first team ahead of the Liverpool league match. Lauri Dalla Valle returned to his former club Crewe Alexandra on a free transfer. Tim Väyrynen received an E grade in In Bed With Maradona's review of their 100 young players in 2014.

HJK finished third in their Europa League group, ending in a 2-1 defeat to Club Brugge. Niklas Moisander (Ajax), Markus Halsti (Malmö) and Roman Eremenko (CSKA Moscow) were eliminated from the Champions League.

Christmas

As the song goes, it's the most wonderful time of the year... So FC Santa Claus come out to play, Saint Nick visits pretty much every club in the country, while things tend to shut down a little bit. I've been a little guilty of over-promoting FC Santa Claus, I'll certainly cut that down. To be honest, if they ever replied to their emails, I'd be feeling a bit more festive.

If I don't blog again, hyvää joulua!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Veikkausliiga week 21 - MYPA get their sexy back

All twelve teams in action, and a couple of games with plenty of goals. Are HJK's eyes on Europe too much? Their lead is down to seven points, ahead of their Champions League tie with APOEL in midweek. MYPA meanwhile put five past KuPS, recovering from their Europa League exit.


Saturday

Jaro 0-1 SJK
Inter 3-3 HJK


Highlights of Saturday's games

Sunday

VPS 1-2 IFK Mariehamn
Honka 1-1 TPS
MYPA 5-3 KuPS
RoPS 0-1 Lahti

Highlights of Sunday's games

Monday, July 14, 2014

Veikkausliiga week 19 - RoPS shoot down TPS

Split over three days, here are the highlights of the latest fixtures.



Saturday

SJK 0-0 KuPS
RoPS 3-0 TPS


Sunday

MYPA 3-0 IFK Mariehamn
VPS 3-1 Honka


Monday

Inter 0-1 Lahti


See you next week!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Veikkausliiga week 9 - RoPS draw blanks again

Some Friday night lights this week, with five fixtures and plenty of tension. Here's what happened... Plus your patience will be rewarded with two howlers in the final game by KuPS to gift MYPA three points.

RoPS struggling again (photo via Eetu Sillanpää)

Lahti 2-0 TPS

A decent start for Lahti continued with the most regulation of home wins over bottom club TPS. Goals in each half, a volley from Loorents Hertsi (18') and Rafael's bustling finish (80') secured three points - and condemned TPS to a seventh league defeat in nine games. Lahti sit in fourth place, four points from third. TPS have six points from nine games, and only four goals scored.

SJK 0-1 Jaro

Jaro continue to rule the Ostrabothnia mini-league after a win at SJK to add to their previous win over VPS. The game was sealed early, Shahdon Winchester heading in from the edge of the box after just fifteen minutes, his third of the season. SJK's fans were noisy and created quite the atmosphere, but it wasn't enough. SJK are ninth with nine points from eight games. Jaro are third, with nineteen points from ten matches.

VPS 2-0 RoPS

Another blank for RoPS, and their fans are wondering where the next goal in coming from as they're now goalless in four, and missing Boris Kokko. A deflected effort from Keithy Simpson opened the scoring on 32 minutes, and Timi Lahti scored his first for the club after 55 minutes, following tremendous work from captain Strandvall. VPS are fifth with fifteen points, RoPS sit eleventh with seven points.

Honka 2-2 IFK Mariehamn

Alas Honka manager Shefki Kuqi took centre stage again with his antics, overshadowing a tense match. Ilari Äijälä's strike (38') took the hosts into the break with the lead, but Brazilian Diego Assis scored at the far post just after half-time to equalise. Top scorer Roni Porokara restored the lead after a corner in the 81st minute, but the lead was short lived, as Lucho Solignac punished poor defending three minutes later to secure a point. 

Kuqi meanwhile is under the spotlight, for kicking a bottle and ranting after Porokara was booked - Inter coach Job Dragtsma received a touchline ban last year for the same thing. Honka are sixth, with 13 points from ten games. Mariehamn are seventh, with eleven points from nine games.

MYPA 2-0 KuPS

MYPA returned to the top of the table by inflicting a first defeat on new KuPS coach Marko Rajamäki. The first goal will belong to the finest blooper reels - after 21 minutes, KuPS keeper Tomi Maanoja came out to clear a long ball, only to kick it at his own defender Omar Colley, and the ball rolled perfectly into the path of Stefano, who rolled the ball gratefully into the empty net for his fourth goal of the season. The second goal was another Maanoja howler, substitute Aleksi Ristola chased a long ball deep into injury time, played it past the on-rushing keeper and into the empty goal. MYPA go top, twenty points from ten matches. KuPS stay tenth, with eight points from nine games.

Highlights of Friday's games

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Veikkausliiga week 8 - Sexy football is the winner

A top two clash that didn't disappoint (for one side), worth all the hype perhaps... Meanwhile the rest of the table is beginning to bunch up. Here is the latest from Finland's top division.

Lahti scorer Tuco (photo via Mirja Hussain)

HJK 4-0 MYPA

Billed as Sexy Football v Sexy Football, or Bana v Ana (HJK coach Lekhosuo v former manager Muurinen, now in charge of MYPA)... The visitors were the early season leaders, and top scorers, but were but in their place by the defending champions, who returned to the top of the table with a thumping. Macoumba Kandji's second goal for the club on 31 minutes started it, sweeping in from inside the six yard box, before Veli Lampi scored the second, pouncing on an indecisive defence on 42 minutes. Nikolai Alho's first time finish just after half time made it 3-0, before Rasmus Schüller coolly made it four with ten minutes left. HJK go top with nineteen points, MYPA are second on seventeen.

Highlights of HJK 4-0 MYPA

Inter 0-0 VPS

Hardly high octane stuff, but then an entirely predictable scoreline. Bless Tuomas for compiling some action, but with no goals or even a booking, I hope the paying customers at least got to the nearby theme park afterwards. Inter are eighth on ten points, VPS in sixth with twelve.

KuPS 2-0 Honka

The Rajamäki revolution continues, as KuPS climb out of the bottom two and are unbeaten in four games under their new coach. After a goalless first half, Catovic finished across the keeper into the bottom corner to open the scoring on 54 minutes, before Finnish U21 international Aleksi Paananen made it two in injury time, running through the Honka defence to slot home. KuPS are tenth with eight points, Honka fifth with twelve (this was their first defeat in five games). This was KuPS's first victory at home to Honka in ten years, including eight consecutive defeats.

Jaro 2-0 TPS

Jaro's impressive start to 2014 continued against bottom club TPS. Trinidadian Shahdon Winchester headed his team in front before the break, after some crafty shoulder charging by Svanbäck. Argentinian defender Carlos Fondacaro made it two on 63 minutes with a neat turn and shot on the edge of the area. TPS defender Alex de John was sent off seven minutes later for pulling back Winchester outside the area with just the keeper to beat. Jaro are third on sixteen points, TPS remain bottom with six points.

SJK 3-0 IFK Mariehamn

Just a second league win for SJK, but it was convincing. Justin Moose scored the first goal from close range after 17 minutes, after Simon Nurme failed to hold a shot. Mariehamn had chances, before an effort from distance by Laaksonen in first half injury time found the bottom corner to make it 2-0. Mariehamn went down to ten men after a horrible two footed tackle from David Ramadingaye just after the break, before Toni Lehtinen scored the sort of goal you see on FIFA regularly, slotting into an empty net on 63 mins. SJK are now ninth with nine points from seven games. Mariehamn are seventh with ten points.

Lahti 1-0 RoPS

RoPS coach Juha Malinen took over at Lahti last season and led them from bottom to fifth. This year he returned with cup holders RoPS, but despite early chances, they conceded the only goal to "Tuco" Ngueukam after 71 minutes. Lahti move up to fourth with twelve points, while RoPS drop to eleventh with seven points, and just four goals in nine games.

Highlights of Saturday's games

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Veikkausliiga week 7 - Muurinho and absent Kuqi

Leaving it late (damn these Monday fixtures). Here are the highlights of the latest round of fixtures. The next round of fixtures is on the day of the FA Cup final, which I'm going to, so it may be a similar case of short but sweet for that as well!

MYPA continue to lead the table after their come-from-behind win against Jaro, while HJK needed an own goal to win 0-1 at RoPS. HJK host MYPA on Saturday, a much anticipated clash between the new boss of the champions against their former leader. Should be entertaining.

HJK plugging the forthcoming top of the table clash

Highlights of Monday's fixtures

Latest Veikkausliiga table

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Veikkausliiga week 5 - MYPA roll on, HJK in crisis?

During the week, IFK Mariehamn's 1-0 victory over VPS was changed to a 0-3 defeat due to an administrative error - the league tables haven't been verified pending an appeal. Any mentions of the two club's standings are based on the 0-3 result...

HJK 0-1 TPS

A first goal and the first league points of 2014 for TPS... To add to a terrible week for the champions. A defeat at Lahti and a draw with Honka was roundly finished by a nice finish from Wayne Brown. TPS fans celebrated, and their (mostly) young side did the fans proud. HJK fans meanwhile ponder the next low, and despite various injuries, they look devoid of inspiration. TPS move clear of the bottom, and next week's match at home to RoPS.

Wayne Brown celebrates his winner

Highlights of HJK 0-1 TPS

KuPS 0-2 Lahti

The first managerial casualty of the year was in Kuopio, where Esa Pekonen lost his job. Rumours circulate about his replacement, but veteran player Tero Taipale took the reins temporarily. Not that it did much good - goals in each half from Matti Klinga (40') and Rafael (57') earned another three points for Lahti, who are making a stronger start than the last two seasons. KuPS remain pointless and rooted to the bottom. Lots of work for the new coach.

RoPS 0-1 MYPA

Another blank for RoPS, with the optimism of a new start under Malinen fades further. MYPA made the trip north without their own coach Antti Muurinen, who was somewhat under the weather. A 75th minute goal from new signing Dawda Bah was the only goal. MYPA remain unbeaten, and go top of the table. RoPS last year relied on good home form, and will need to improve drastically.

Honka 3-1 Inter

Shefki Kuqi's side continue to take shape, and (perhaps rightly for now) are prioritising results over style. Roni Porokara's deflected fourth goal in five games after four minutes was a great start, while on-loan Fulham youngster Alex Brister scored his second goal for the club on 42 minutes. Henri Lehtonen pulled one back in first half injury time, before second half sub Anyamele scored a fine third in the 89th to secure the points. Honka have a steady seven points from five matches, while Inter's good start seems a long time ago, with a second consecutive defeat.

IFK Mariehamn 1-3 Jaro

After a choppy couple of days, where Mariehamn lost three points (and their perfect record, on paper but not the pitch), the doubt was removed on Sunday against Jaro. Jaro's Ilya Vaganov's 25th minute strike was equalised seven minutes later by a penalty from Petteri Forsell. Two goals in six minutes for the visitors (Emet, 71' and Helmke, 77' penalty) saw them earn a third win in a row, and up into the medal positions. The hosts will need to regroup, with a Suomen Cup quarter-final with JJK to play on Wednesday.

Highlights of Sunday's fixtures

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Veikkausliiga week 3 - TPS & KuPS lose again, MYPA top

KuPS 1-4 Jaro

On a day when Finnish football, and KuPS in particular, remembered the life of the late Aulis Rytkönen, the hosts were truly stunned by a fine display from Jaro. First half goals from Hendrik Helmke and Shahdon Winchester were followed by second half strikes from Aubrey David and David Carlsson. A consolation from Miikka Ilo was followed by a red card for Ilo on a poor day for the yellows, leaving them pointless at the foot of the table. This was Jaro's first win, with their first goals to boot.

KuPS look to the skies for inspiration

VPS 1-0 TPS

The bronze medallists of 2013 beat those of 2012 by a single goal, a 75th minute strike from substitute Lasse Linjala. A steady start to the season for VPS, but another poor result for TPS after their Suomen Cup defeat to JJK in the week.

Honka 1-2 MYPA

Ten man MYPA took their place at the top of the table with another win against Honka, who they had also beaten in week one (weird fixture scheduling). Denis Abdulahi gave MYPA the lead (28mins) before Honka's on-loan Fulham defender Alex Brister equalised on 43mins. Pekka Sihvola restored MYPA's lead on the hour, but was sent off shortly after as MYPA held on. How long before Honka coach Shefki Kuqi picks himself up front?

Lahti 3-1 HJK

A surprise defeat for the champions, who were outplayed by Lahti in front of a decent crowd of 4512. Drilon Shala's 7th minute goal gave Lahti a lead, but another goal from Ghanaian defender Gideon Baah made it 1-1 just before half-time. But Lahti somehow scored twice before the break, first through Mikko Hauhia and then a second for Shala. The game ended 3-1, despite Shala having a penalty saved at the end of the game.

Inter 2-1 SJK

(Bad Easter pun time) Inter's 2014 resurrection carries on, but it was SJK who had put all their eggs in the basket with Akseli Pelvas scoring after 22 minutes. But Irakli Sirbiladze scored nine minutes later, and Tamas Gruborovics converted a penalty (his third goal in three games) just after the break to seal three points. No mention of crosses.

IFK Mariehamn 2-0 RoPS

Mariehamn keep a clean sheet? Their promising forwards delivered, with early second half goals from Solignac (49mins) and Forsell (53mins). RoPS meanwhile struggle, and only have one goal from their opening three games.

All the goals from Saturday's games

Monday, April 07, 2014

Veikkausliiga week 1 - Sexy football is back!

After a loooooong winter, with nearly six months since the last round of 2013, the new season is finally under way. In typical style, the start has been split - this week saw half of the teams start early, hosted on artificial pitches.

In perhaps a warning for the year, my day job has become a lot busier, so there may not be the epic week reviews that I did in 2012/13... Anyway, here is a brief recap on Sunday. The video below is a compilation of all of the goals, so hopefully easier to load.

MYPA 4-3 Honka

Antti Muurinen's new charges at MYPA started with a bang - eventually. Honka, now under Shefki Kuqi's management, took the lead three times, each time pegged back by MYPA, before they scored an injury time winner. MYPA's new Brazilian loanees remained on the bench, while a much-changed Honka debuted Fulham loanee Alex Brister in defence. An interesting welcome to Finland!

MYPA overcame Honka the hard way

HJK 1-0 Jaro

A steady start from the champions, but they were made to work. A goal from new captain Teemu Tainio secured the points, while various other efforts came close - but Jaro did ok, and some of their new signings look quite promising. HJK have been busy signing forwards, and will be without Demba Savage for a number of weeks.

Tainio celebrates the winner

RoPS 0-2 VPS

A great start to 2014 for last year's bronze medallists VPS, but it came at a cost. Goals from Koskimaa and Strandvall gave them the points, but they lost striker Steven Morrissey to a fractured arm and he'll be out for two months. Meanwhile RoPS begin their new era under Juha Malinen with an insipid performance, and need a big improvement ahead of their match with SJK next weekend.

Steven Morrissey in pain - ouch

All of Sunday's goals

Friday, March 28, 2014

Veikkausliiga 2014 season preview

It's been a long winter since the end of the last Finnish football season. Saturday 26th October saw the final round of fixtures, which had little bearing on the final outcome. HJK had sewn up the title, the silver and bronze medal positions were already decided, while JJK were long since relegated (they finished twelve points behind eleventh placed RoPS).

So this season starts on Sunday April 6th 2014, with a staggered schedule. Six teams get their seasons started, the three matches being played at grounds with artificial pitches. HJK host Jaro, RoPS play VPS and MYPA take on Honka. In fact HJK start with four home games in their first five... The rest of the sides join in a week later. The teams that finished in the top six last year will play seventeen home matches in 2014, while those in the bottom half will play sixteen.

The 2013 Veikkausliiga champions

The pre-season Liigacup (league cup) was won by newcomers SJK after a 1-0 win against VPS, who had been drawn together in group four, both matches ending in a 2-3 away win. HJK fielded a youth side in their semi-final against SJK and were beaten 1-0, while Inter Turku had the best group stage record with three wins out of four.

The European contenders this year will be HJK in the second qualifying round of the Champions League, while Honka, VPS and RoPS will enter the Europa League at qualifying round one. MYPA were elected as the Fair Play representative, and are also set to enter in round one, and will find out in May. Honka's entry isn't confirmed yet, as their ongoing financial problems have led to IFK Mariehamn being invited to apply to take their place. After last year's abysmal showing, where every participant was eliminated at the first stage, the Finnish clubs will need to pull their fingers out to improve the co-efficient.

For any UK-based Veikkausliiga fans, there was good news this week with the news that VeikkausTV, the Finnish betting site, will be showing fifty live matches this season, starting with the opening day match between HJK and Jaro. I'm not aware yet of pricing or whether the site is viewable in the UK. If not, I'll recommend some sites that allow your computer to think it's in Finland... Don't forget that ETS is the only English language site authorised to show match highlights!

New boys SJK celebrate their Liigacup victory

Last year, I did a page looking at all the new kits for the season. Unfortunately, some of the clubs are yet to release any decent photos of their wardrobes, while some appear to be using the same kits as last season. I'll try and put a page together at some point as plenty of clubs have moved onto new kit manufacturers.

So what can we expect this year? Some of the young talent has moved abroad, there have been plenty of managerial changes and new faces could make big names for themselves. Below we'll look at the twelve teams taking part, along with a brief update on the changes at each club. The teams are listed in order of their final position in 2013.



HJK

A fifth consecutive title came, but it was fairly underwhelming in the end. Rumours that manager Sixten Boström would be replaced subsided, but the question remains if whether HJK can push on in Europe after feebly falling to Estonians Nomme Kalju. Zeneli, Pohjanpalo and Sumusalo have gone, but Baah, Lampi and Heikkinen will shore up the rear. Mikael Forssell and Demba Savage are likely to remain the key threats up front, and they have signed Danish goalkeeper Michael Tørnes. Something has to go horribly wrong to prevent another championship.




 Honka

Another winter of financial troubles with talk of big debts, but this time they lost their manager too. Finland legend Shefki Kuqi has taken his first manager job, but will be taking over a much different side to the one that challenged for the title. Väyrynen,Yaghoubi, Palazuelos, Meite and Baah have left - it's hard to see any real challenge. They have some decent young players, and may survive by virtue of teams in bigger struggle... If they are granted a licence to compete in 2014.



VPS

A surprising (but well deserved) third place finish brings Europa League football, and perhaps an outside bet for a higher finish this season. They have retained key players Sillanpää, Strandvall and Morrissey, and signed Timi Lahti from HJK. They reached the Liigacup final, with captain Strandvall the key man, and if Morrissey can score like he did in 2012, they'll have a good league season.




IFK Mariehamn

Possibly the side with the most exciting attacking options, if they stay fit... Petteri Forsell is back, Luis Solignac and Josef Ibrahim ended 2013 scoring hatloads, and they were the second top scorers in the division (with the second worst defence). Red card magnet Darren Purse has left, Duarte Tammilehto has joined, and at the time of writing, they're second favourites for the title.




FC Lahti

After a poor start to 2013, Lahti recovered with a great run including seven wins in nine games under Juha Malinen. They're now under the guidance of former MYPA coach Toni Korkeakunnas, and with a mostly unchanged squad, they'll do fine. Elder statesman Rafael (35) scored sixteen goals last year, and could well carry the burden again.




MYPA

Sexy football is back! Former Finland manager Antti Muurinen has taken the reins, and will be trying to bring a Brazilian flavour to the league after signing a partnership deal with Fluminense (borrowing three young players). Several squad members have signed new deals, but Muurinen will need to work hard to inspire more than a top-six finish.





KuPS

Surprisingly ended 2013 in seventh after a mediocre season, with rare highlights including a win at HJK and reaching the Suomen Cup final. The retirement of top scorer Ilja Venäläinen will hit hard, while various attempts to recruit replacements have fallen through. There's a decent crop of youth players, but the club will be hoping not to have to rely on them too heavily. Also heavily in debt, but it's unlikely to affect league status.




TPS

A major budget shortfall after poor performance in Europe and over-extending the wage bill has led to mass player departures and uncertainty. Wayne Brown has remained, but several youngsters and untested imports will fill out the squad. A good win over AC Oulu in the Suomen Cup will need to be built on in order to avoid a year of struggle on the pitch as well as off it.




Inter Turku

Another turbulent year, with poor performances, a lack of goals and little creativity. But the return of Mika Ojala and Joni Aho will make Inter resemble their 2012 silver medallist position. Irakli Sirbiladze can be dangerous on his day, but last year seemed disinterested while the signing of Tamas Gruborovics didn't create as much as was expected. Unlikely to trouble either end of the table.




FF Jaro

2013 started well, with Hendrik Helmke on top form and Shahdon Winchester settling in well, but it tailed off dangerously in the autumn. Now Alexei Eremenko's side have those two players back, but they have lost others (Banner, Skrabb, Jonke). Goalkeeper Jesse Öst can be superb on the right day, but will be very busy. Will struggle.




RoPS

The Cup winners are now managed by the well-travelled (and well-respected) Juha Malinen and are looking to build on a solid defence. They will need to improve the forwards, after only scoring 25 goals in 33 games last year. Their home form was decent, but hopefully Europe won't prove too much of a distraction, where home games are likely to be played in Oulu.


SJK

Their first season in the top division in their current guise, SJK have recruited well ahead of the campaign, signing several experienced players with top flight experience. Winnig the Liigacup final is a grand start, but they'll face far greater challenges. They have a large British influence on the staff, and are coached by former Derby midfielder Simo Valakari.




So that's the line-up for 2014 - don't forget to check back every week for updates. Day job depending, I still plan to do weekly round-ups with highlights. Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates and scores as well. For those of you who like a bet, good luck!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 33 - over for another year

Six months on, everything is sorted. While last week confirmed the final major issue of who would get a medal, there were still farewells, trophies and places to deliver. Several managers move onto new clubs, HJK received the championship trophy, and several clubs still had places to play for.

Ahead of the loooooooooong winter break, there'll be posts looking at the best bits of 2013, statistical trends, and plenty of other things related to Finnish football - some will be appearing on other websites (follow Twitter/Facebook for more info). Meanwhile, here is the summary of the final round of fixtures.

HJK 4-2 KuPS

A fifth consecutive title had been confirmed a couple of weeks ago - but they finally got their hands on the trophy after a pretty open game against KuPS. The teams had previously faced each other in Helsinki in June, and KuPS came away with a 1-2 win. This time, Mikael Forssell's hat trick (6, 54, 89 mins) was decisive, although goals from Hakola and Paananen had given KuPS the lead. Mannström had scored the other (39').

Ville Wallen with the trophy - don't drop it!

HJK were unbeaten in their final twenty league matches after an indifferent start, including ten wins in the last eleven. It's lazy to assume the European exit was a kickstarter, as Honka were providing a solid challenge at the time. The key match was HJK's 4-2 win over Honka in August, from which Honka never recovered. KuPS meanwhile say goodbye to a mixed 2013 - inconsistent league form, a third cup final defeat in a row, and more financial loss. But with decent young players in the wings, some of the pieces are already there.

Highlights of HJK 4-2 KuPS

HJK finish the season top with 73 points (average 2.21 points per game). KuPS came seventh, with 41 points (1.24pts).

MYPA 3-0 JJK

JJK say farewell to the Veikkausliiga with a comprehensive defeat at MYPA - who ensured a top flight finish and an extra home game for 2014. Goals from Sihvola (62'), Sesay (66') and Anttilainen (76') sentenced JJK's young side to a fifteenth game without a win, and a fitting send-off into the second tier.

Highlights of MYPA 3-0 JJK

MYPA end in sixth place with 47 points (average 1.42pts). JJK were last with 22 points (0.67pts).

Inter 1-2 Honka

Tim Väyrynen's late winner ensured a winning finale to a good season for Honka, with a golden boot as the top scorer in the division. His seventeen goal of the season (86mins) delivered a thrilling comeback, after Guy Gnabouyou had given Inter the lead on 55mins, only to be equalised by Väisänen on 81mins. It was probably Tim's final game for Honka, whose silver medal was their highest finish since 2009.

Highlights of Inter 1-2 Honka

Inter end the season with 40 points (average 1.21 per game). Honka came second with 61 points (1.85pts).

IFK Mariehamn 4-1 VPS

VPS's bronze medal party was brought down to Earth, but they won't be too fussed in the grand scheme. Goals from Trafford, Wiklöf and Hradecký gave Mariehamn a 3-0 lead, before Tomi Ameobi's ninth of the season made it 3-1. Byskata's injury time penalty made it 4-1 - good for Åland, which sees a historic season for the club end on a high note. VPS head into Europe next summer, but will remember the day for the bronze, not the result.

Highlights of IFK Mariehamn 4-1 VPS

IFK Mariehamn end the season in fourth place with 49 points (1.48pts per game). VPS were third, with 51 points (1.55pts).

Lahti 3-2 TPS

A fantastic second half of the season for Lahti ended with a win over TPS, who will be glad the season is over... Lahti's goals were scored by Hertsi, Rafael and Nganbe Nganbe. The TPS goalscorers were Riski and Lehtonen. A tremendous push from Lahti under RoPS-bound Juha Malinen, who took over a team destined for a relegation struggle. TPS meanwhile failed to live up to pre-season medal hopes, although injuries did take their toll - and budget cuts mean that 2014 could be just as challenging.

Highlights of Lahti 3-2 TPS

Lahti end the season in fifth place with 48 points (average 1.45pts). TPS ended in eighth, with 41 points (1.24pts).

Jaro 2-0 RoPS

The meeting of the teams in 11th and 10th was resolved early in favour of Jaro - Banner (6') and an Emet penalty (19') provided their first win in 13 games, after eight straight defeats. If you'd offered RoPS 11th and the Suomen Cup in March, I guess that would have been a good result... They only won one of their final ten games, and rumours of several player changes for their new coach could make things interesting - although I'm a big fan of Malinen. Watch this space.

(pending)
Highlights of Jaro 2-0 RoPS

Jaro's win took them to tenth, ending with 37 points (1.12pt average). RoPS finish in eleventh place with 34 points (average 1.03pts).

Monday, May 13, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 6 (part I) - MYPA catching up, VPS stumble

Week six of the Veikkausliiga was split over two days (four games Sunday and two on Monday) - and there were plenty of goals to focus on.

IFK Mariehamn 0-4 MYPA

A fact that has seen plenty of airtime recently showed that IFK Mariehamn hadn't lost a home game since the end of the 2011 season. But in three games in 2013, they've now only earned one point and that was down to a late equaliser against JJK.

 Ducking under the ball (photo via Siri Lindén)

MYPA had made a reasonable start to 2013, beating Inter and Honka already. But a home defeat to Jaro on Thursday showed their inconsistency. Without a Europa League campaign to worry about this year, their main focus is on getting back into Europe via league places. Mariehamn meanwhile found out this week that they would be in Europe via the Fair Play rankings.

The visitors only took twenty minutes to take the lead, actually the latest opening goal of Sunday's games. Sasha Anttilainen scored his second goal in two games, and it was all downhill from there for the hosts. Olajide Williams got his first goal of 2013 before half-time, and it was 0-2. After the break, Lody and Sihvola added insult to misery, and Mariehamn were on the end of a 0-4 home defeat.

Highlights of IFK Mariehamn 0-4 MYPA

Since Pekka Lyyski and Petteri Forsell won the April awards for coach and player of the month, May has seen one point in three games, with just one goal. In England, the awards are seen as a curse, and it'll be interesting to follow the awards in Finland too.

VPS 1-2 KuPS

The KuPS recovery continued in Vaasa, and the difference was a pair of Gambians. KuPS had taken five games to register their first win (a 4-1 win over TPS on Thursday), and this was just as crucial.

 Attacking the ball (photo via Eetu Sillanpää)

VPS had made a surprisingly good start, with ten points from four games. Built on a solid defence, they were caught cold by the visitors. Dawda Bah had been one of the best imports in recent history, with titles at HJK. His time in Germany was ruined by nasty injury, but he broke his 2013 duck in the week, and scored from the edge of the box after 10 minutes. VPS equalised 15 minutes later, Jarno Parikka following in after a Tomi Ameobi shot. But defender Omar Colley won it just before half-time from a corner. Colley has had a mixed start, but was highly rated, and this is more like it.

Highlights of VPS 1-2 KuPS

KuPS now have seven points from their six matches. VPS have ten from five. Suddenly the difference isn't so stark.

RoPS 4-0 JJK

Another side with a shaky start, RoPS returned home with a thumping of bottom club JJK. The visitors had looked decent at Mariehamn, but otherwise limp.

Striking the ball (photo via Raija Suopajärvi)

RoPS started early, twelve minutes lapsed before Antti Okkonen's opener. Niklas Tarvajärvi made it 2-0 on half-time, before Boris Kokko scored twice in the second half, leaving making it 4-0.



Highlights of RoPS 4-0 JJK

JJK remain rooted at the bottom, already three points behind 11th placed Honka. RoPS have done fairly well, and are looking like they will need plenty of home points.

Jaro 2-2 Honka

A fiesty game between two sides with mixed starts - four goals (one an own goal), a red card, and a rather saccharine Mother's Day appeal.

A happy Jaro bench (photo via ffjaro.fi)

Kastriot Kastrati scored twice for Honka, both crucial. The first opened the scoring after 14 minutes, before a Henri Aalto own goal levelled it on 35mins. Markus Kronholm gave Jaro the lead in the second half, before Jonas Emet received two quick bookings (and then the red). Kastrati scored again with 13 minutes remaining, and it ended 2-2.

Highlights of Jaro 2-2 Honka

Jaro have made a good start, but keep conceding. They have seven points from five matches. Honka's new players are slowly gelling together, building up to their Europa League campaign. They have five points from six matches.

Part two of the round-up (featuring TPS v Inter and Lahti v HJK is coming soon).

Monday, April 15, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 1 - TPS open with win, Mariehamn make history

It's been nearly six months since the end of last season, and we were threatened with an even longer wait for hostilities to resume - three of the six fixtures in the opening weekend were postponed due to snow and ice. In April. Those hoping to tune in to FC Inter v HJK will need to wait until May 2nd, while VPS v Lahti and JJK v Jaro have been moved to July 31st.

So the matches that took place this weekend - starting with last year's bronze medallists TPS playing Suomen Cup holders Honka. The match was due to take place at the Veritas Stadion, but had to move to a municipal artificial pitch.

Honka and TPS line up (photo Juho Tervala)

Because of the venue change, there was no live match coverage so those other than the 1250 paying customers have had to rely on YouTube and press reports... By all accounts, the first half was fairly even - both teams with some half-chances, and Honka keeper Tuomas Peltonen making a good save after a goalmouth scramble.

In the second half, a rather reckless tackle by Honka's Ghanaian defender Gideon Baah raised tempers significantly, several players from both teams weighed in, while Honka's Henri Aalto received a second yellow card for his involvement. 59 minutes in, the first red card of the season.

Honka new boys Rubén Palazuelos and Abdoulaye Méïté get stuck in (photo YLE)

The incident pushed the game in favour of the hosts, and it took nine minutes for TPS to take advantage of the extra man, but it was a splendid strike from outside the box from former Honka midfielder Duarte Tammilehto that opened the scoring. Tammilehto left Honka in the winter after a dispute over unpaid wages (he and HJK new boy Tapio Heikkilä cancelled their contracts, a decision upheld by the Finnish FA), and has already made an impact for his new club. TPS scored their second goal on 80 minutes, another strike from the edge of the area, this time from Petteri Pennanen.

Tammilehto (right) celebrates the opener (photo Sari Gustafsson)

TPS are many people's tip to finish runners-up in 2013, so this was a good start. Honka are an unknown quantity - they lost two of their most promising young players for free, but have brought in experienced players in Méïté and Palazuelos. Some good youngsters remain, but it may be a while before we get an idea of what Honka 2013 will be. In the #Ligatipset2013 contest run by YLE's Antti Koivukangas, I tipped TPS for second and Honka for fifth. Watch this space...

Highlights of TPS 2-0 FC Honka

Sunday saw two games, in Kuopio and Rovaniemi. The northern-most club in Finland managed to get their game on (they have an artificial pitch), and as discussed in my previous article about travelling to away games, IFK Mariehamn had quite the journey. Five hours by boat, and fourteen hours by train. As was pointed out by Janne Oivio, the away team had never won this fixture.

In the end, the visitors broke that hoodoo in style. Despite losing their top scorer Aleksei Kangaskolkka in the winter, they went 0-2 ahead with goals from Mattias Wiklöf and Diego Assis. RoPS striker Boris Kokko pulled one back, but an injury time goal from on-loan Petteri Forsell guaranteed the win.

Forsell is on loan from Turkish side Bursaspor until August (photo Pekka Aho)

Kokko had promised to score in each league match this season, and will no doubt be ticking them off... But the trip back to Åland will be three points better off. Forsell joked after the game about being offered sausages and kebabs by the home supporters, so he'll have something to eat on the way home. This was the first game back in the Veikkausliiga for RoPS after their promotion, and they'll be hoping to take advantage of a bonus home game next weekend against Lahti (switched due to ice in Lahti).

 

Sunday's other match was between KuPS and MYPA at the Savon Sanomat Areena in front of the weekend's highest crowd at 1801. The game was always likely to go ahead, despite heavy snow making some of the seating areas out-of-bounds. KuPS gave debuts to new signings Omar Colley (already looking like an excellent signing), Jussi Kajala, Dawda Bah and captain Rami Hakanpää, while HJK's on-loan midfielder Emerik Grönroos started in the MYPA midfield.

The MYPA fans go wild (photo Vartaloharhautus)

A goalless first half saw few incidents, but the 18-year-old Grönroos was very impressive, and KuPS keeper Mika Hilander made some decent saves. The second half saw Ilja Venäläinen foul MYPA forward Pekka Sihvola in the box, and Sihvola stepped up and eventually scored the resulting penalty after 58 minutes. Antti Hynynen equalised on 69 minutes, after some penalty box pinball, with a nice finish at the second attempt.

Antti Hynynen's equaliser on it's way (photo Vartaloharhautus)

Both teams had chances to win the game (Voutilainen for KuPS, and Sihvola for MYPA), but the keepers did their jobs, and the match finished 1-1.

Highlights of KuPS 1-1 MYPA

After KuPS tenth place in 2012, a home draw is a slightly disappointing result, but a point is a point. MYPA finished sixth last season, and have started 2013 with a very similar team. Neither is in Europe this season, so at least there'll be no extra midweek distractions.

So that was a reduced week one, but a nice start to the season with eight goals, one red card and some interesting cameos from new faces. Next week should see a full programme of fixtures, watch this space for updates.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

An introduction to Veikkausliiga 2013

With the 2013 Finnish Veikkausliiga (Premier League) season starting in April, it's a good chance to introduce the league, clubs and players to those with a passing interest, and to hopefully attract some new fans...

Respect is the theme of the 2013 season

The league was formed in 1990 as a professional league, replacing the Mestaruussarja, and is sponsored by the national betting organisation Veikkaus. It's a summer league, running from April to October, like most Northern European leagues, and continues to run throughout international tournaments. It's currently ranked 30th out of 53 in UEFA's national co-efficient (this is likely to drop further due to improved performance by teams from Slovenia and Azerbaijan).

The league winner enters the following year's Champions League in qualifying round two. 2012 champions HJK will play their first qualifier in July 2013. Europa League places also go to the teams finishing second and third (FC Inter Turku and TPS enter qualifying round one) and the winner of the Suomen Cup (Honka go to qualifying round two). As things currently stand, Finland are also due to receive an extra Europa League place through the UEFA Fair Play rankings, and if this is confirmed, the place will go to IFK Mariehamn who finished fourth in 2012.

The league itself is made up of twelve clubs, who play every other team three times. One match is at home, one away, the other randomly drawn. The teams who finished in the top six the previous year will play 17 home games, while the teams in the bottom half play 16 home matches. Until 2010, there were fourteen clubs in the division, playing each other team twice.



The Veikkausliiga trophy

At the end of the season, the club finishing bottom is relegated to the Ykkönen (division one), and is replaced by that division's winner. Haka were relegated in 2012, and replaced by RoPS.

In the UK, the only ways to watch the Veikkausliiga are through Bet365's in-play, or the occasional game shown on Kutonen (a Finnish channel with a streaming facility on their website). Pay-as-you-play website Urho also have rights to some Veikkausliiga games, charging around five Euros a match.

Since 1990, HJK (Helsinki Jalkopalloklubi) have been the most successful side, winning the Veikkausliiga nine times, including the last four championships. They're also the only Finnish side to have made it into the group stage of the Champions League, in 1998/99. FC Kuusysi made it into the quarter-finals of the European Cup in 1985/86, losing to eventual winners Steaua Bucharest.

The Veikkausliiga is also in charge of the league cup (Liigacup), which in Finland is only open to top division teams. The cup is used mainly as pre-season exercise for the clubs against similar opposition. The twelve clubs are drawn into three groups of four, playing home and away. The top two in each group, plus the two best third-placed teams, go into straight knock-out quarter-finals. This year's final was played on Saturday 6th April between FC Lahti and JJK, Lahti winning 2-1 with an injury time winner. There is no European place for the winner.

The twelve clubs in the 2013 Veikkausliiga are:

HJK

Current champions, and under new management. Former player Sixten  Boström has taken the reins, with the main brief to improve the club's performance in Europe. New signings for 2013 include former English Premier League players Mikael Forssell and Teemu Tainio. Certainly favourites to retain the title, but last year only won by six points. They'll need their new old boys to slot straight in.





FC Inter Turku

Second placed in 2012, and champions in 2008. Formed in 1990 by a local businessman, and named after Internazionale (they also play in blue and black striped shirts). Last year's league top scorer Irakli Sirbiladze remains in the squad, but their pre-season form has been poor. They've lost Mika Ojala and Joni Kauko, but new signings include JJK's Tamas Gruborovics and former Honka defender Tuomo Turunen.


TPS

Turun Palloseura are also based in Turku, and finished third in 2012. They've signed midfielders Duarte Tammilehto (Honka) and Wayne Brown (Bristol Rovers) for this year, and have looked good in the Liigacup. A solid core of young Finnish players throughout the squad, and with a history of producing quality players (including Finland captain Niklas Moisander).



IFK Mariehamn

Based in the Åland Islands capital, the club have only been professional since 2009. Losing all six group matches in the Liigacup was a poor start, but they've brought back Petteri Forsell on loan, and have made several new signings. The new guys will need to bed in quickly to keep their top half position. Europa League football could prove a distraction.



FC Lahti

Liigacup winners were formed in the merger of Reipas and Kuusysi, Lahti returned to the Veikkausliiga in 2012 and ended in fine style. They've since added two solid defenders in Pyry Kärkkäinen and Markus Joenmäki, and the biggest coup of the winter by signing Inter's Joni Kauko. They also have a decent core of youngsters, and have added Brazilian forward Vini Dantas. My tip for top three this season.


 
MYPA

Sixth in 2012 - par form. Since winning the title in 2005, they've only come between 5th and 9th since. They've retained striker Pekka Sihvola (despite him having several trials all over Europe), and have signed HJK youngster Emerik Grönroos on loan for the season. They may not yet benefit from selling the naming rights to their stadium, but a solid mid-table side.




Honka

Winners of the Finnish Cup in 2012, Honka will be going into 2013 in a degree of turmoil. Losing their captain Tapio Heikkilä to HJK and Tammilehto due to contract disputes over unpaid wages, and they were in danger of losing their league place. They have signed former Marseille and Bolton defender Abdoulaye Méïté, and have retained promising young striker Tim Väyrynen - well worth following their exploits.



 
VPS

Vaasan Palloseura returned to the top flight in 2006, but haven't finished a season higher than 8th, and 2012 also saw them come 8th. Jamaican forward Steven Morrissey scored fifteen goals last season, but has moved to Denmark, and the club have struggled to find a replacement. Defender Jesper Engström is also suffering from serious illness, and the club will struggle in 2013.



JJK

JJK of Jyväskylä suffered a hangover in 2012, following their 2011 bronze medal with ninth place and the worst defence in the league. A maiden European campaign ended with defeat to Montenegro side Zeta, and they sorely missed forward Babatunde Wusu. Tunde has returned, and young Eero Markkanen looks a good prospect. Should do better, but the top half may be beyond their reach. Liigacup runners-up.

KuPS

Kuopio's finest celebrated their 90th birthday recently, but will need clear heads. The 2010 runners-up seemed a long way off their best last season, where progress to the third qualifying round in the Europa League seemed to take over (before losing to Bursaspor). This year they have no such diversion, and have brought in HJK's former goal king Dawda Bah. Scored plenty of goals in pre-season.


FF Jaro

Escaping relegation on the final day with a surprise victory at TPS, Jaro again look like they will struggle to keep afloat in 2013. On-loan forward Sherif Ashraf has left, while Trinidadian Shahdon Winchester has come in and already looked dangerous. Young midfielder Simon Skrabb is also a potential match-winner, but is still only 18.


RoPS

The 2012 Ykkönen champions, and won at a canter. Better known for match-fixing allegations and YouTube clips about cold weather, they're very much a yo-yo club, but they've invested well. Saxman, Otaru and Okkonen have come in, and prolific Boris Kokko remains, despite interest in Poland. May find adjustment hard, but they won their Liigacup group.



So those are the runners and riders. We'll be running reviews of every round of fixtures, with highlights and photos. The latest news will be published on Twitter, while we're also on Facebook. I'll be visiting Finland in June, hopefully returning with some good tales and new friends.