Showing posts with label nomme kalju. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nomme kalju. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Tulos: Litmanen, licences and flare fines

It's been another eccentric week in Finnish football - in case you missed any of it, here is a summary.

It's been sixteen years since Mikael Forssell made his Chelsea debut

A Helsinki court found that a fan who threw a flare during the Finland v Spain match in 2013, which cost the Finnish FA a fine of €7000, is liable to pay the fine. Needless to say the majority of the public has sided with the fan, while there have been suggestions of crowd-funding in order to pay the fine on their behalf.
Jari Litmanen has been keeping his fitness up with Estonian club Nomme Kalju - he does spend a lot of time in Estonia, while it's more likely that it is just keeping fit for further legend games. Doesn't stop the speculation about a comeback!

We finally had confirmation about the line-up of the 2015 Ykkönen (second tier). The ten teams competing are AC Oulu, EIF, FC Haka, FC Jazz, JJK, MYPA, PK-35, PS Kemi, TPS and VIFK. Strangely, Atlantis were denied a place due to the FA believing their player development systems weren't up to scratch. Atlantis of course were the side that turned a reluctant sixth-division forward into a 40-goal striker last year. Weird.
Former Jaro midfielder Hendrik Helmke, who had moved to Iran in December, was released from his contract after suffering a knee injury and has signed for Egyptian club Al-Ahly.
In some evidence that goalscorers don't necessarily translate into other places - 2012 top scorer Irakli Sirbiladze has left Inter Turku and signed for KuPS, while 2013 goal king Tim Väyrynen has signed an 18-month loan with Viktoria Köln, still remaining on the books of Borussia Dortmund B.

Finally, I spoke to Finland and Real Madrid Castilla forward Eero Markkanen about a variety of topics, ranging from Grand Theft Auto to wrestling with Perparim Hetemaj.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Introducing Nõmme Kalju - HJK's European opponents

This Monday, HJK learned who they would face in the second qualifying round of the Champions League - Estonian champions Nõmme Kalju. The matches will be played on Wednesday 17th July in Helsinki, and on Tuesday 23rd July in Tallinn.

Friend of the site Angelo Palmeri, who writes about Estonian football for the Tere Italia website, has written a piece about HJK's opponents so we can learn a little more about the ties.  

Nõmme Kalju have become Estonian champions for the first time last year when they managed to clinch their first title finishing nine points clear ahead of Levadia and eleven ahead of Flora, the two clubs who normally have been disputing and winning most of the titles since Independence. Nõmme Kalju have been able to break the Levadia-Flora duopoly thanks to the effort made by owner, the entrepreneur Kuno Tehva (among others, he is the owner of a popular night club in Tallinn, 'Prive´, where last year players celebrated their title after an open-bus ride in the city).

The policy of the club has been quite clear: picking up the best Estonian players available with already a certain experience on their shoulders and matching them up with a foreign legion of players coming from many different countries, usually quite young and looking for achievement elsewhere in minor leagues.

Since being promoted to Meistriliiga in 2007 (the Estonian top flight, now called Premium Liiga) they started signing a lot of foreign players, mostly unknown. All started with a a big Brazilian troupe brought in by former head coach Getulio Fredo (he is now an assistant coach who holds double nationality: Brazilian and Finnish, he is married to a Finn and he´s been working for many years in the Finnish football world) which featured also 2008 Meistriliiga top-scorer, Felipe Nunes. Since last season the Estonian Football Federation (EJL) has approved a new rule meant to limit the number of non-EU players used during a game, it was probably meant to limit the influence of the Nõmme Kalju policy over the league results.

Clashes between Nõmme Kalju and EJL are not new, as the EJL President (Aivar Pohlak) is also the FC Flora president-founder and this has always brought a lot of controversy over a possible interests conflict within Estonian football. It has become quite famous an exchange of e-mails between Kuno Tehva and Aivar Pohlak where the latter litterally told him to go to hell using the F-word.

The aim of Nõmme Kalju, since promotion, has always been to win the league. It eventually happened only last season as the one before they ended up second behind the most successful club FC Flora. They didn´t manage to add silverware to their cabinet this season as they lost the Supercup final to Levadia (3-0) and the cup final to Flora last May (3-1) after poor performances which highlighted their difficulties in playing a ninety minute decider.

Nõmme Kalju's trademark has always been 4-2-3-1, however this season Igor Prins (head coach since last year) has also tried a 4-4-2 formation putting up front the two big strikers (renamed ´the twin towers´, Voskoboinikov and Neemelo) and making their Japanese star (Hidetoshi Wakui) playing further from the opposition box. This setup has penalized the offensive capabilities of the team, as they're unable to develop flank games with Italian Damiano Quintieri and Frech Allan Kimbaloula (he gave up to a call at Norwich academy to take on the Estonian challenge at Kalju). Wakui has also been suffering from more defensive work and eventually he picked up an injury which has reduced his performances (he scored 8 goals in the first 7 games, now he only contributed with 1 in 6 games).

The difficulties experienced up front and in the middle have also had repercussions on defence, as Kalju have conceded 12 goals in 16 games, whereas last year they were a total of seventeen during the whole season. The goalkeeper, Vitali Teleś, is not always 100% confident of what he is doing, especially on long distance shots and this has made the defence very shaky.

If coach Prins will finally focus on 4-2-3-1 in the build-up to the qualifying game, the usual line-up should be: 
Kallaste – Koogas – Barengrüb – Siśov
Puri – Ceesay
Kimbaloula – Wakui – Quintieri

Prins usually switches Neemelo with Voskoboinikov and brings in Toomet for Quintieri and/or Dupikov for Kimbaloula as usual changes, however the line-up stays more or less the same.

Demba Savage will square up with country fellow Yankuba Ceesay. Ceesay has the honour of being the first Gambian player being signed as professional in Latin America (he signed for Atletico Peru before coming to Estonia), and has gained the nickname  ´Ceesaster´ since poor performance in last year's tie against Khazar Lankaran in the Europa League when Kalju lost 0-2 at Kadriorg Park Stadium. He is very physical and this leads him to commit fouls easily in the middle. Over the last season he has slightly improved, and he has also been often seen in the box for finishing reasons (headers mainly) however the results have been poor in terms of close chances.

The team also features former KuPS player Sander Puri´s twin brother Eino; and left-back, Ken Kallaste, son of the legendary Risto Kallaste, the flip-thrown in performer of the Estonia team of the 90s (interview here). Captain is central defender Alo Barengrüb who said his model is Fabio Cannavaro. Alo is also a good scorers on headers, and can be see often running up to the opposition box for corners.

Skipper Alo Barengrüb

Overall, HJK is considered a good draw from Nõmme Kalju perspective, considering that Celtic and Legia Warsaw were avoided. Good because they will be facing a club from a similar football realm and they will not have to take a big trip which will also help local fans travelling to Helsinki (not to mention the many thousands of Estonians living there who might go to show their support).

The question is whether it will be harder for Kalju to face HJK themselves or Kalju´s own flaws: little continental experience (six games in Europa League preliminaries brought 3 defeats and 3 draws), a poor start to the season mostly in terms of game displayed than table achievements (in the end they are just placed second - two points clear of Levadia during a season that has proved levelled for all top Estonian clubs fighting for the title – the latter of three being FC Flora) and finally the formation doubts shown by Prins from game to game. 

Form of key-players (Wakui especially) will be also important for this tie. Prins has declared to Estonian online paper Õhtuleht: "I think HJK are hoping to go past this round very quickly and start to prepare already for the next one. Our task will be to make their lives possibly harder. However, first of all, I have to concentrate on our team because the way we have played so far it´s not even enough against anyone in the Champions League. We have three weeks to fix things." 

Thinking about Jari Litmanen being linked with both clubs (he has a house in Nõmme district in Tallinn and their children attend regularly academy training at Nõmme Kalju facilities), Prins is quite sure "In the end he is Finnish, so I am sure he will support HJK in this challenge."

The venue of the game in Tallinn should be Kariorg Park Stadium, since last season it has been Nõmme Kalju's home pitch. The real home stadium would be Hiiu Stadioon, however the artificial turf has been replaced only recently with a 2-star UEFA quality as the bad quality of the previous turf compelled Kalju to change home. They will move back there for the Premium Liiga games however, due to limited attendance possibilities the game will mostly take place in Kadriorg Soviet-time built stadium.