Cultural differences

Wed, Sep 5, 2012

Finland, Finnish National team

Finland’s football community is frequently engaged in an agitated discussion about about whether its culture is sufficiently impressive to nurture any kind of football worthy of respect. The presence or absence of something called ‘football culture’ might, to the casual observer, seem like a function of the league system (if there are football matches, bingo!) but to Finns, with their 8 month-winters in which to contemplate their shortcomings, it’s never so simple.

The reasoning goes something like this: Finland is a cold country. People ski, or play ice hockey, or fish through the ice, or carry their wives, or throw mobile phones, or do something solitary and serious that involves spending lots of time in the forests. They are not football people, and they never will be.

The proof is found in every small failure on the part of administrators, fans, players or coaches, which can be attributed to the lack of a genetic or cultural disposition towards the most popular sport in the world.

The latest outburst of angsty soul-searching was caused by slow ticket sales for the Respect match this Saturday, in which a phalanx of former Finland internationals will take on a World XI to give fans a chance to say goodbye to retired super-legend-hero-kings, Jari Litmanen and Sami Hyypiä.

This match is scheduled for the day after Finland’s men’s national team takes on France in the opening game of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.

That game kicks off at 9.30pm, presumably to suit French television, and was expected to draw a low crowd as a result. It’s a late night for kids and there’s limited public transport out of Helsinki after full-time, so people could be forgiven for skipping this one.

Only they haven’t. As of today more than 30,000 tickets had been sold and the game was heading for a very healthy crowd indeed. So why the brow-beating about the testimonial game and its significance to Finland’s ‘football culture’?

Tickets were not cheap, at 30-80euro (although SPL wisely decided to halve the prices because of slow sales), and it was always going to be difficult to persuade people to turn out two nights in a row. Why not just celebrate the optimism around the current team without trying to hit fans up for more cash to see yesterday’s men?

NFN will be heavily represented at both the France game and the Respect match this weekend. To buy cut-price tickets to the testimonial match go here, if you want to see Finland take on France then you should quickly head here to secure your place.

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6 Responses to “Cultural differences”

  1. Gavthechav Says:

    I sense football culture is growing in the south of Finland, as gravel turns to modern synthetic pitches, indoor winter facilities increase and futsal becomes more popular. More parents are choosing to send their kids to football instead of ice hockey (cheaper and easier to access). The future looks promising, keep it up and you may have a national team that is competitive in relation to population.

    In terms of a spectator sport, the battle is harder. Pay TV is full of English games and the other big footballing nations. What are the solutions for that? The 30,000 are going to watch France as they did to watch Holland last year. Charity matches never have the same appeal anywhere.

  2. Egan Richardson Says:

    Pay TV isn’t as big a problem as the awful facilities in which people huddle to watch their teams. Give people covered stands close to the pitch, refreshments and decent toilets and you have half a chance. Too many clubs don’t have that.

  3. Skip Says:

    I wouldn’t really go as far as saying that these 30k (almost 36k now) are going to attend the match solely because we are facing a top side. A few qually campaigns ago smaller teams only drew a few thousand to the stands while also these smaller teams now draw crowds around 15k despite playing in ‘bad’ conditions late into the autumn. People are getting more interested in the NT side and it’s great to see that the team is starting to be a known brand (huuhkajat).

    Another thing that is developing is the supporter culture. About 1000 season tickets have been sold to the northerb section (pohjoiskaarre) and it’s more or less sold out. To this match France are getting under 100 supporters and I bet Finland will have more supporters during any away match in this campaign. Even in Georgia or Belarus.

    The football federation blew it big time with the charity happening. The tickets were over priced and they are now trying to get people there by literally spewing tickets at people – not very nice to people who paid big money to see the match. Ok it’s charity so it’s not wasted money, but the FA really screwed up here with both the pricing and the PR for this, what could have been a nice thingg for the old players.

    Good story Egan, looking forward to the pieces about the France match and the Respect-happening.

  4. Egan Richardson Says:

    Yeah, they did blow it. Testimonials should always be cheap, and no matter how low the crowd is the organisers should always be happy that many people turned up. Otherwise it begins to look undignified.

    And you’re spot on about the other stuff! People love team sport and will turn up to feel part of something so long as you get certain basics right. Finland is getting there, no need to fret.

    I will be working at the France match, follow me on Twitter if for some reason you want to read what I write there:

  5. Skip Says:

    Yeah I follow you on twitter already! :)

    Currently on the train to Helsinki. We are reaching Tampere and the train is FULL of people going to the match and most are wearing SMJK scarves. It’s really amazing to see.

    Indeed. Those happenings should be cheap. You’d think the FA would have learned a thing or to from the hockey association and their debacle last spring, but no.

  6. Jon Burklo Says:

    Egan, I’m doing very well thanks for asking. I’ve moved on from my playing career and now coach full-time as a juniors director of coaching.

    Attempting to move into senior coaching now that I have completed my USSF A Coaching License which is our highest license.

    I find it very curious that Finland’s junior system resembles the US so much. We have very little choice in the matter as the way things are set up do not allow for clubs to receive transfer fees for youth players so the only way to generate money to pay for coaches, fields, equipment etc is to charge.

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