Showing posts with label barcelona. Show all posts
Showing posts with label barcelona. Show all posts

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Competition - win a Jari Litmanen t-shirt by 8BitFootball

As part of a collaboration with the genius of, he has created an image of Finland and Ajax legend Jari Litmanen celebrating his goal against another European goal for Ajax.

For a chance to win a t-shirt featuring this image, we're running a competition.

To enter, just answer the following question:

Q: Who did Ajax defeat in the semi-final of the Champions League in 1995?

To enter, send an email to with your name, address, t-shirt size and preferred colour.
Entries must be received by 2359 on Monday 4th March 2013.
Winners will be chosen at random.

If you'd like to buy this top, or any other great merchandise featuring 8bitfootball designs, click here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Kuningas Litmanen Part III - Barcelona, Liverpool and back to Ajax

Because of the timeline of the documentary, I've decided to separate the remainder of the film into club and country. This part will cover leaving Ajax, and the rest of his club career.

Back at Helsinki

After leaving Ajax, we see Jari being unveiled at HJK in Helsinki in 2011 - and news footage about his statue in Lahti being vandalised. The head had been damaged, while the base had been burned and cracked. Litmanen said it was getting harder, and that Lahti had been another chapter in the road.

The first of several clips of Jari in hospital follow, with a doctor discussing the results of an MRI scan on his left knee...

We return to his later Ajax days, the failure in the 1996 Champions League final (despite Jari scoring in the match, and converting in the shootout), and his only red card for Ajax, at Volendam in 1997.

Sent off (around 2:30)

The red card was so out of character that Danny Blind went round to Jari's house after the game to ask if anything was wrong at home... Jari said he'd run into space, and straight into a fist. The defender had been harassing him, and decided to knee him in the stomach. Team manager David Endt talked of how often Jari was kicked, that this was the only time he reacted - was the solitary red card a sign of his sportsmanship?

Jari talks of his final days at Ajax being littered with injury. He may stay fit for a month, then be out for a month. Ronald de Boer called him the glass man, and recalls a time when Jari played a rare ninety minutes, then hurt his back getting into his Corvette. Louis van Gaal was of the opinion that Jari wasn't mentally strong during injury. Jari himself mentioned how constantly playing 2 games a week was crazy, and needed pain relief to focus more on games.
Jari receives treatment

Physio Jari-Pekka Keurulainen reckons Jari's right ankle should have been operated on in the 1990s, but it wasn't done until 2006. Jari's first operation was in 1984, yet he still carried on playing football with a cast on his right leg. Tommi Kautonen was told that it was fine, and laughs at Jari's insistance on playing on with it.

Ronald de Boer and Edwin van der Sar joked about how often Jari spent in the physio room, so much that he had his own bed - even the Ajax physio Pim van Dord joined in, saying there was one bed he wouldn't allow anyone else to use.

So Jari's final home game (also the final match of Danny Blind and van der Sar) was at home to RKC Waalwijk on May 16th 1999. A 2-0 victory, sealed with Litmanen tapping the ball into an empty net. At the final whistle, the three departing players were in tears, and Jari gave the crowd an emotional speech, thanking the fans for their wonderful support. David Endt had to withdraw himself to the dressing room in tears.

 Saying farewell

Jari described the changing of Ajax, that most of his former colleagues had left, and was left with a decision - sign a new deal and never leave, or see something else.

And so we see Jari in the Nou Camp, Barcelona...

Surveying his former stomping ground

At the Barcelona training ground, Jari is reunited with former team-mates (and current Barcelona starts) Carles Puyol and Xavi. Jari said he'd seen the Spanish league, and Barcelona as one of the biggest clubs in the world (remember Jari had trained with the club in 1992, see part 1). The coach Louis van Gaal wanted him, and he knew several of the players from Holland, as van Gaal had brought with him several Dutch players (Reiziger, both de Boer brothers, Cocu, Kluivert, Bogarde, Zenden).

Inside the Nou Camp, Litmanen uses his hometown of Lahti as a point of reference - Lahti's population was around 100,000, only slightly larger than the capacity of the stadium. He walks along the turf, commenting on the perfect pitch.

Carles Puyol said they knew of him previously, such a skilled player at Ajax. He even said he blew fire into the team. Xavi talks of being an 18-19 year old beginner, finding life under van Gaal difficult. Jari became a friend, always helping and becoming encouraging. Van Gaal suggested to Xavi to watch Jari play and practise, to learn his control and making space.

Carles Puyol                                          Xavi

Puyol recalls Jari staying after training to practise his shooting, Xavi remembered how he'd line up 7-8 balls and shoot them all into the net. Then the talk of saunas... Xavi remembered Jari having a sauna every day, walking in naked but for his football boots, advising how they mould to the foot better... Even Jari's cobbler back in Lahti remembers getting a bag of boots from Barcelona. Jari had a particular requirement for stud placement at the rear of the boot for more support, and he trusted Tuomo Rokka.

Back to Jari on the pitch, he admits not scoring many goals, but a special one from a Kluivert pass. He said there were 3 to 4 internationals in each position, and when fit he'd need to compete with them, but the first season was difficult with injuries.

A candid van Gaal admits that Jari found it hard, the system was set for him with two number 10s, but the pace of Spain compared to Holland didn't help. Van Gaal was replaced by Llorenç Serra Ferrer, and Jari was told he'd need a new club. Then teammate Marc Overmars said it was due to the club having no structure on or off the pitch. In January 2001 Jari moved to the club he supported as a boy...

"We always touch the sign"

Litmanen was signed by Gerard Houllier in the season Liverpool won three trophies (FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Cup). Jari admitted that as boy he had supported Liverpool, and that this was the third time they had tried to sign him. We also hear Jari speak English for the first time, at the first press conference, talking of his favourite players being Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish as they'd played in his position.

He chose to wear the number 37 shirt (3+7 = 10), as Smicer had the famous 7 shirt, and Michael Owen had the number 10 jersey. His new boss enthused about Jari's different qualities, and how they'd compliment his current strikers (Owen, Robbie Fowler, Emile Heskey).

Current Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was in the squad when Jari arrived, and like Xavi was full of praise for Litmanen's way with younger players, being supportive. But it was his skill in training that amazed Gerrard, his movement and skill a class apart.

The heavy Scouse accent required subtitles

We see some footage of Jari scoring his first Liverpool goal, a penalty at Sunderland, while Edwin van der Sar recalls how he misjudged a bounce while playing for Fulham at Craven Cottage, and Litmanen beat him and rolled the ball into an open goal, although he was hoping that the producers of the DVD wouldn't find footage of the goal. 

Jari spoke about the difficulties he found at Liverpool with the management. Houllier became ill, and was replaced for a number of months by assistant Phil Thompson. Jari was playing well at the time, and used the English saying "Never change a winning team". But Thompson did, and tolf Jari he wouldn't be playing much again. Even when Houillier returned, Jari found appearances hard to come by.

Highlights of Liverpool v Roma, 2001/02 

There's footage of a match between England and Finland at Anfield in 2001, where Jari broke his arm after a challenge with Rio Ferdinand (we'll cover this match in part 4), but it was here where his inury problems started at Liverpool.

Gerrard wishes Jari had stayed longer, to offer more to the club, and he was frustrated that Jari would sit unused on the bench, as he could create things from nothing. Sami Hyypiä was also surprised his compatriot didn't feature, as Jari was the best player in training and 5-a-side matches. Finland goalkeeper Antti Niemi recalls reading FourFourTwo magazine, where the president of a Liverpool supporter club said he wished Jari would leave the club, if only so that other people would get to enjoy watching him play.

So Jari came to the end of his Liverpool days in 2002 - so he decided to return to Ajax. But it wasn't straight-forward - he said he was offered a laughable contract, but thought it wasn't about the money. But the negotiations hurt his pride, and he eventually decided to go anyway.

In his second spell at Ajax

But quite simply, the move didn't go very well. Ajax weren't the club they were in the mid 90s, and some of the younger players didn't take Jari seriously, despite him being the first for training, and the last to leave. David Endt randomly names two players in particular "let's call them Wesley and Rafael" as laughing at him behind his back. Conveniently it was as Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart were celebrating a goal which Litmanen assisted.

The only then-player to give good feedback on camera was Zlatan Ibrahimovic, then a raw 18 year old who had signed from Malmo. Zlatan (in English) said "He played behind me, he helped a lot and helped me improve. He was a quality player, easy to play with him and the combination was fantastic."

Zlatan played with Jari for Ajax

Endt described Zlatan as hungry to win and improve himself, he was big and wanted to show the world how good he was, but he had a small heart. Jari explains that the end of his second spell was very one-sided, he had no input and in 2004 he was released.

Antti Niemi remembers an international for Finland in Amsterdam, where their coach was halted by 500 Ajax fans trying to say farewell to their hero. They had flares, signs and it was a fantastic, emotional moment.

The rest of his club career is somewhat glossed over. He signed for FC Lahti in 2004, and quickly moved to German side Hansa Rostock in January 2005, who had fifteen games to avoid relegation from the Bundesliga. Despite his arrival, Rostock were relegated, but teammate Marcus Allbäck remembers Jari's enthusiasm, "he played with the football like a small child plays with a favourite toy".

Rostock against Bayern Munich

It was at Rostock that Jari received one of the strangest injuries - in the dressing room after a game, he asked someone to open a bottle of drink for him. An unnamed teammate attempted it with a snuff box, and the cap of the bottle went straight into Jari's eye. Even now he has problems seeing in bright sunlight.

The rest of his club career gets glossed over. A spell at Malmo gets a brief mention, but no mention of his spell with Fulham (0 matches), and nothing additional about his return to Lahti or HJK.

So that's the end of the club part of the DVD. We'll return soon with the final part of the summary, about his international career.