Finland’s friendly against Poland was televised live on Saturday evening. That is not such a common occurrence in Finland, as the media tends to rank football somewhere between tractor-pulling and volleyball in the list of broadcasting priorities. Helsingin Sanomat’s reporter at the game, Kristian Sundqvist, kindly gave NFN permission to translate his column from Sunday’s paper bemoaning this sorry state of affairs:
Last minute excitement over television scheduling decisions, Romanian language internet streams and real-time messageboard reports from fans at the game. This is the cutting edge reality of Finnish football fandom.
Only the senior national team’s World Cup and European Championship qualifiers are sure to be televised in Finland, everything else is completely uncertain.
When the reigning Finnish champions FC Inter Turku played in the Champions League last autumn, not a single Finnish TV or radio station cared about the game. Inter’s away leg against Moldovan side FC Sheriff was shown on a Romanian sport channel’s free internet stream. The stream worked well enough, and Romanian is a beautiful language.
Watching the match like that, however, really gave you the feeling that Finland is a developing country in football terms. Champions League qualifiers are part of the same competition as the group stages and even the massively publicised final. Is there another European country where the Champions’ own participation is not televised, but games from the big European clubs are? YLE and the public service broadcasters, is anyone listening?
Last Friday the senior national team played in Estonia, and in March Stuart Baxter’s men were in Malta. The games were not televised, and in Malta not a single journalist from the broadcast media was present.
On Monday we got the news that TV Viisi would show the match between Poland and Finland. Fans of the Eagle Owls were excited by this, of course, but there is plenty of cause for concern at the Finnish FA. The senior national team’s games are the scraps left over in the television market, so much so that a marginal channel can decide to screen them at the last minute if they want.
The contrast with ice hockey is huge. The sportingly indifferent and tediously frequent Euro Hockey Tour tournaments are covered as hard news, with the fourth line winger’s bruised heel getting serious attention. Yesterday at least Finnish football fans didn’t need to search out the miracle of a Polish internet stream.