Showing posts with label San Marino. Show all posts
Showing posts with label San Marino. Show all posts

Monday, March 04, 2013

Kuningas Litmanen Part IV - Internationals, injuries and family

The final part of the documentary summary will look at Jari's international career, more of his problems with injury, and a (little) bit more of an insight into his private life.

The first real coverage of Jari in the national team jersey is the final fixture of World Cup 98 qualification at home to Hungary in 1997. (To clarify the timeline, this section came after Jari was sent off for Ajax v Volendam). In group 3, Norway had run away with the group, but the final fixture was betwee the Finns and the former mighty Magyars on October 11th 1997.

Finland had already gone 1-0 up through Antti Sumiala, when Mixu Paatelainen had a shot on goal right at the end of the game, which was deflected over. The referee awarded a goal kick, and Jari's protestations earned him a yellow card. Jari says "I protested the situation as it was so obvious, we'd have played the corner slowly so they wouldn't attack. It's football, a small decision for the ref but it changed the direction of the game".

Getting booked for dissent against Hungary

Hungary go up the other end of the pitch from the goal kick, and earn a free kick on the edge of the box, which goes out for a corner. As a result of the corner, an unlikely chain of events caused the ball to go in the Finland goal.

Jari recalls "It doesn't change that we defended in an amateur way, and when the ball went in I could hear the raindrops on my head. It was one of the biggest disappointments of my international career, we were so close. Even if we'd practised 1000 times, that wouldn't have happened again."

On his return to Ajax, he said the room went quiet, Edwin van der Sar came and hugged him.

Highlights v Hungary

The next match to get covered in detail is the Euro 2000 qualifier against Turkey in Istanbul. In October 1998, the Ali Sami Yen Stadium (then home to Galatasaray) was an intimidating place to visit, and made harder by Turkey's win against Germany four days earlier. Finland had started their campaign with a win against Moldova, and defeat to Northern Ireland. Jonatan Johansson talked about the atmosphere, the massive noise, the Police escort required, and he'd been hit on the head by a coin (you could see the bandage when he celebrated a goal later).

The match itself was brutal, several of the Finnish players were on the receiving end of harsh fouls, including Jari himself (see photo below). He was off the pitch receiving treatment at the same time as Johansson, while Mixu Paatelainen also received a knock. Keeper Antti Niemi was also hurt after a great save...

Johansson says he could sense a change in the atmosphere after he scored the second goal to put Finland 2-0 up, that some of the home fans were cheering them. Finland eventually won, Litmanen scoring the 3rd goal in injury time, and the game ended 3-1. Timo Walden, the national team's PR man, describe Jari's standing ovation, and how Jari got himself a Turkish flag to leave the pitch in.

Back at the team's hotel, Niemi broke a glass door near the swimming pool, but when the security guard came to investigate and saw Jari Litmanen, he seemed happy to meet the team. Johansson didn't remember that bit though because he'd had a bit too much to drink...

Fouled in Istanbul

 Highlights v Turkey

Within the next section of the film, in Jari's spell at Liverpool, there is coverage of an injury sustained for Finland against England, which took place funnily enough at Anfield. As Jari was showing us around the pitch, at the Anfield Road end, there was the place where he fell after a challenge with Rio Ferdinand. "I fell a lot in my career, and this was the unluckiest one".

Sami Hyypiä tells the story "Unfortunately we lost 2-1 after a good game. Jari could have made it 2-2, but it was unbelievable to hear what happened to his arm. I heard the bone was in several parts." Finland physio Jari-Pekka Keurulainen said "It was only when we got to the dressing room that he started passing out from the pain. It was the adrenaline which kept him going." That injury caused Litmanen to miss Liverpool's final wins in the FA, Carling and UEFA cups in 2001.

Tussling with Rio Ferdinand, prior to breaking his wrist in 2001

Throughout the last part of the film, there are a few brief clips of Jari sat in a doctor's office, dressed in a gown, with crosses on his knees indicating where to operate. In May 2011, he's told he has a tear in his right knee. In January 2012, it's the left knee. "It's balanced". At the end of the film, we see Jari getting ready for surgery again, and probably not for the last time.

Prepped for surgery

As his second spell at Ajax was coming to an end, Finland faced the Netherlands in Amsterdam. Antti Niemi was amazed at his following - after the pre-match training session at the ground, 500 Ajax fans surrounded their bus, letting off flares and waving flags, all to say farewell to their hero. "Everyone on the bus realised what he means to the fans, you get emotional even for someone else's moment".

With family

The first time we see Litmanen with his family is at the 2007 Independence Day President's reception, only a fleeting sight. Talking about his children, Jari says "A friend told me it will turn your life upside down. But it does change your life, your values change." He talked about having lived with half a suitcase packed since 1992, ready for the next destination.

Hanging out with Dad (and grandad)

Jari's two children only feature twice, in the photos above, and aren't introduced. His partner again features twice, and doesn't say a word to the camera.

There is footage of the funeral of Jari's agent Heikki Marttinen in November 2010. Jari was a pallbearer at the funeral, while the camera films proceedings from a distance. Jari speaks (away from the funeral), and again he struggles to hold back the tears. He describes Heikki again as a father figure, who took care of his business, and supported him as a friend. "It was thanks to him that I transferred to Ajax, he was priceless help and support for me".

Returning to football, Hungary again had a part to play. After a defeat in Helsinki to Hungary in 2010, then-coach Stuart Baxter joins in. "There was a desire to change the team, that we should take away some of the more experienced players, so I wasn't sure which role Jari should have." Baxter recalls talking to Germany manager Jogi Low after a World Cup qualifier in 2009, where Low said Litmanen was his man of the match, as Germany needed a last minute equaliser to end 1-1.

Baxter was replaced, for one match only, by Olli Huttunen, for the home match against San Marino in Helsinki (the match was in November 2010, not October as the DVD caption states). Jari said "When Baxter left, the general atmosphere was that we needed to make the team younger, a new era". He seemed slightly irritated, ending with "there's no place for me".

 The final international

Finland beat San Marino 8-0, Jari scored the sixth goal from the penalty spot. Antti Niemi says he's sure that Jari will play football for as long as he's alive, he loves the game so much. After the match, Jari is interviewed about the banners, big pictures of your face - "What sort of moment was that?". Litmanen was visibly moved, nearly in tears again, "You can probably see".

The music starts in the background, and David Endt, for one last time speaks, "Not even I know him completely, there's always something mysterious".

We end with a list of honours won by Litmanen throughout his career, over footage of numerous goals we've seen throughout the film. This montage is also available in the extras section. There's not a lot in there we haven't already seen, just some extra footage of clips, statue unveilings and tours.

We'll be giving away a DVD copy of the film in the near future - be sure to follow the site on Twitter or Facebook for more information on how.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Finland U21s discover the road to the Czech Republic

After all the chat, explanations and stilted humour of a morning in Nyon, Finland finally learned who they will have to face in order to get to the Euro 2015 tournament in the Czech Republic.

Finland U21s, picture from Suomen Palloliitto

Let's have a quick look at who they'll have to face, if they want a summer holiday in a couple of years...


Finland played Stuart Pearce's England U21 in the opening game of the 2009 finals in Sweden. Lee Cattermole gave England an early lead, before Tim Sparv scored a penalty. A second half goal from Manchester City's Micah Richards gave England the win. England went on to the final, where they lost 4-0 to Germany. Finland lost all three matches in the group stage. The two teams also played in qualification for Euro 2002, the first match was 2-2 in Finland, England won the return 4-0.

Kasper Hämäläinen vs England in 2009


Wales were the opponents in qualification for Euro 2004 (group 9), and Finland opened with a 2-1 win - goals from Pekka Lagerblom and a late winner by (then Liverpool forward) Daniel Sjölund ensured three points, despite an equaliser by Adam Burchill. The return tie in Merthyr Tydfil saw a goalless draw. Italy won the group, Finland third and Wales fourth.

Mathias Lindström gets stuck in

The teams faced off in qualification for Euro 2013, and saw away wins in both ties, starting with a shock in Turku - Finland were 3-1 up at half-time, only for the visitors to score twice, then a last minute winner. They met again four weeks later, and while Lithuania went ahead early, three second half goals won it for the Finns. Finland ended the group fourth, Lithuania fifth.

Finland trudge off after losing at home to Lithuania

Moldova and San Marino

Finland have never faced either team in UEFA u21 competition.

Depending on fixtures (yet to be announced), and locations, ETS will be hoping to attend the matches in England and Wales. Watch this space!