NFN was a guest at Tampereen Kisatoverit’s 90th anniversary celebrations on Saturday. It was a fun yet educational party, as all good socialist festivities must surely be. This article appeared in this week’s Helsinki Times.
Photo by Olli Jantunen
IT WAS not easy to avoid the political roots of Tampereen Kisatoverit (TKT) at their 90th anniversary celebrations. Even without the knowledge that ‘toverit’ translates as ‘comrade’, the presence of red flags, books about the Finnish civil war and several mentions of socialism in the speeches ensured that visitors were aware of the club’s background.
“We do have a different culture to some of the other Tampere clubs, it’s true,” conceded Petteri Tyni, TKT’s press officer and cameraman. Tyni spent a lot of the day interviewing elderly members of the club about their memories and experiences, which he found a fascinating, funny and occasionally emotional experience.
The club was founded in the wake of the Finnish civil war, when the Finnish sports federation expelled clubs with a considerable number of ‘disloyal’ members, meaning those that had fought on the side of the reds. Several Tampere clubs that had been organised around factories were victims of the cull, and TKT was the result.
The club’s official history details the founding of the club in 1920 as the merging of Pellavatehtaan Konepajan Voimistelu and Urheiluseura Tempaus, two factory clubs that were supported by the owners but contained large numbers of former reds, and the club immediately applied to join the Workers’ Sport Federation (TUL). At first the club colours were red, but when that was banned for political reasons they settled on blue and light grey, a combination that endures to this day.
As the demographics of Tampere have changed and the city has expanded, the original constituency served by TKT has moved from the Petsamo area, which used to be a worker’s district on the outskirts of the city but is now much more affluent. TKT have accordingly shifted their centre of gravity to Hervanta, a suburb in the south of the city that has a mix of social and student housing, higher education institutions, and technology firms, and a high percentage of foreign-born residents.
This shift has entailed a degree of internationalisation in TKT’s junior operations, and chairman Eero Huhtakallio estimates that around 20% of their junior footballers are from immigrant backgrounds. These families have different challenges, involving language difficulties and cultural difference, but they also deal with many of the same issues that TKT has traditionally confronted.
One of the most prominent exhibits at the celebration was a selection of photos from Ensilä, the club’s retreat on lake Näsijärvi. Since the 1920s TKT has sought to provide a place in the countryside for their members, most of whom did not have access to a summer cottage.
The club has progressively improved their summer facility and now has a large house on the lake, three saunas, a beach volleyball pitch and a dock. Ensilä represents the way TKT have sought to respond to the needs of their members, offering a wide range of sports and activities for their community, rather than concentrating on excellence in one or two.
Perhaps surprisingly, TKT have an entrepreneurial spirit that has ensured that costs for their juniors and members are much lower than at other clubs. They own two buses that are used by TKT teams and rented out to other clubs in the area to help drive down costs. The buses are driven by volunteers and the money goes to subsidise TKT’s junior activities.
That ethos, along with the geographical focus on Hervanta, means that TKT have become a centre of activity for migrants in Tampere sport. The diversity has already yielded results for the football section, with Finland under-16 international Henry Malundama recently travelling to Blackburn Rovers for a trial.
“Henry’s a black lad,” beamed Huhtakallio proudly, showing that hang-ups about political correctness are not necessarily the most effective tools in the fight against racism. An active club, low financial thresholds and an open attitude can count for a lot more.
If you’d like to get involved with TKT, who offer everything from gymnastics to petanque, contact Petteri Tyni at email@example.com.