Showing posts with label fans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fans. Show all posts

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Matsipäivä - a Finnish football photo book

Nine Finnish football photographers have joined forces to compile and showcase their most beautiful and interesting photographs. Matsipäivä (the Finnish word for "matchday") is a confession of love for Finnish football.

Football is the most beautiful sport. A photograph can capture the endless layers, to tell you all about a single moment, a single player, one team or the nature of the entire event. It can act as an interpreter of emotions when catastrophe strikes, and at the time of redemption, as evidence of an immortal genius hero moment or a villainous twist.

But how do you capture Finnish football? How to preserve the passion and longing? Matsipäivä presents images from lower leagues up to Veikkausliiga, as well as the Finland national team in one volume.

The book will present the photographs of Mari Hietala, Olli Jantunen, Niko Karumaa, Teemu Kvist, Riku Laukkanen, Petteri Lehtonen, Matti Savolainen, Jaakko Stenroos and Joppe Survonen.

The project is being crowdfunded, with some good benefits for donors. If the project is funded, contributions can be rewarded with copies of the book, along with poster sized prints of a selection of the photographs included in the books. 

You can contribute to Matsipäivä by clicking on this link -

The group can also be reached on the usual social media channels:
Twitter - @matsipaiva
Instagram - @matsipaiva

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Behind Closed Doors - a Liigacup story

Here is another guest post by our friend Henry Hakamäki, fresh from his Liigacup preview. Henry has written about the recent Lahti v HIFK match, which was played with no fans in attendance, through choice rather than as a punishment...

Is there anything more strange in the world of sports than a game where fans are prohibited from attending? Something just seems wrong when a game is being played and no fans are there. There is an eerie silence, only broken by the occasional strain of effort, command by one player to another, or instruction from the manager. Regardless of the stakes of the match, the importance is seemingly much less when there aren't ravenous fans cheering, screaming, and singing in unison, trying to will their team to victory with their support.

Action from Lahti v HIFK, photo via Mirja Hussain

Imagine El Clásico, Barcelona and Real Madrid, playing with no noise. Imagine turning on the TV and hearing silence as the likes of Messi and Ronaldo play their hearts out. If those stakes aren’t high enough, imagine they are playing in the Champions League final, the grandest stage for clubs. In your head, you know the importance, but without the mobs of screaming fans, the atmosphere is that of a small club pre-season exhibition game.  

The reason I decided to write this piece is because of the Liigacup fixture between FC Lahti and HIFK. Lahti was victorious, 1-0, but at the expense of the seeming importance of the fixture and the enjoyment of fans. In case you haven’t heard, FC Lahti made the decision to play the fixture behind closed doors. According to sources at Lahti, the decision was made because HIFK fans are regarded as “higher risk”, due to their exuberant behaviour at games in previous seasons. Lahti determined that it was “not economically feasible” to hire enough security personnel to ensure safety for their fans at this particular home fixture. 

HIFK fans at a Stadin Derby v HJK in 2015

While the game was televised, fans were not allowed to attend the game, meaning empty stands and an atmosphere that makes attending games so meaningful was missing. Even watching on TV, listening to fans yelling and screaming makes the game that much more enjoyable, even though a TV minimizes much of the crowd’s noise. A game playing behind closed doors, without the team being sanctioned to do so, is absolutely bizarre. To me, this is something that I have never heard of and I wanted to dig into the topic a bit more.

I have watched games played behind closed doors before, so I knew they were not totally unheard of. Clubs or national teams, facing sanctions by either their football league or federation, is not uncommon in some places where fans are punished for racism and violent displays at the match relatively frequently.  Eastern European teams and African teams are often sanctioned to play behind closed doors, as is the occasional case in large South American derby matches.  Some other examples of matches being played behind closed doors were a Hungary v Romania World Cup qualifier in 2013, Inter Milan’s Champions League home group stage fixtures in 2005, and various Russian and Turkish league fixtures (where matches played behind closed doors are surprisingly common). The logic behind sanctioning a team to play a home game behind closed doors is three-fold, it punishes the team by eliminating the main factor of the home field advantage (the crowd), it hurts he team financially as they take in no ticket revenue for the fixture, and it also removes the potential for crowd trouble, be it violence or racism.  

Playing matches behind closed doors voluntarily for the purpose of fan safety is logical, and is the proper thing to do. Unless the safety of fans can be reasonably assured, fans should not be permitted to enter the grounds, only to expose themselves to potential harm. Beyond the obvious quality of increasing fan safety, it also reduces the risk that the club/federation will be held liable for any injuries sustained by fans or damage to the grounds. Another justifiable reason for voluntarily blocking fans is if repeated conduct violations by fans have led to threats by the federation to punish the club with points penalties. Having the game behind closed doors due because of extreme or violent opposing fans and/or a terror threat makes sense, but there are also less obvious examples of why it would be justified to hold fixtures behind closed doors. 

In 2009, the Mexican football league held a round of fixtures behind closed doors nationwide, due to the H1N1 influenza pandemic that the country was gripped with at the time. In 2013, Rhyl FC of the Welsh Premier League nearly played their last home fixtures of the season behind closed doors, even though they were league leaders at the time. After five fan conduct violations, the Football Association of Wales threatened the team with a points penalty if further violations occurred. Rhyl FC let supporters knew if there were any detrimental fan conduct, the rest of the season would be played behind closed doors. After this threat was issued, fans behaved more civilly and were allowed into the matches. The club would have been justified in closing doors to fans, if those fans would have jeopardized the championship for the club. These are examples where it is clear that playing games behind closed doors is logical, though still detrimental to the football atmosphere.  

Back to Lahti v HIFK. The justification of FC Lahti for playing the fixture behind closed doors was that it was not economically feasible to have adequate security personnel to ensure fan safety. Yes, HIFK fans do have a reputation of being a bit over-enthusiastic, though never cases of extreme violence or other safety situations. They are very loud, with occasional flares being lit, and some general over-exuberance, but in reality, outside the flares, they don’t create a situation where fan safety is of concern.  Fans are supposed to be loud, filled with enthusiasm and team spirit. To play a game behind closed doors, because you are worried that a normal amount of security will not be able to handle some noisy HIFK fans, is unbelievable. 

Typically, the home team encourages fans to be loud in the hopes that they will have louder cheering for their team. However, when you have a situation like this, where fans are not allowed to even enter the grounds, what precedence is being set? It is a bit scary that a cup fixture can be played behind closed doors for a marginal reason as finances.  Only time will tell if more Finnish football fixtures will voluntarily play behind closed doors, in anticipation of loud opposing fans. I, for one, certainly hope not.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Jaro fans reunite Serge Atakayi with long-lost family

Lost among the transfer rumours, corruption scandals and kit launches last week was a truly heartwarming story that proves that there is still plenty of compassion in football, in this case coming from the fans of one club in the Finnish Veikkausliiga.

Jaro, who are based in the Western town of Jakobstad (in Swedish, or Pietarsaari in Finnish), have had a rather inconsistent season so far, unable to put together any sort of run - but the undoubted highlights have been the emergence of two sixteen year old prospects. Sergei Eremenko, son of coach Alexei is one, while the record-breaker of the pair is Serge Atakayi - who has become both the youngest ever goalscorer in Veikkausliiga and the youngest player to get sent off...

Jaro's two future diamonds, Eremenko and Atakayi (right) - photo Jyrki Johannes Tervo

Serge was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1999, and came to Finland in 2010 (aged 11) to take part in the internationally renowned Helsinki Cup tournament. With the opportunity of a lifetime, to escape an unstable country, Serge took the life-changing decision to claim political asylum in the country, leaving his family behind. He hasn't seen them since.

No fan wants to see a key player unhappy and without a crucial support network. But Jaro fans are a different breed. They raised funds amongst themselves and the local community to fund a trip for Serge to visit his family in DR Congo at the end of the season on a scholarship, meaning he won't have any problems returning to the place he's called home for five years, while he's represented various Finland junior teams.

Serge on international duty

They surprised Serge at the end of a training session last Wednesday, marching onto the pitch to present him with the relevant paperwork.

Jaro's media man Viktor Enbacka told me "This is what FF Jaro is all about. Everyone wants to help somehow, by volunteering or doing things like this." Club captain Jonas Emet said "We don't have the biggest group of fans, but they all have a big heart".

Meanwhile, Serge said on Instagram "Thank you Jaro fans, for the gift you have given me today. I'm so glad that I don't know how to thank you all, I will never forget you".