Thursday, August 02, 2007

Finland & Estonia June 2007

Helsinki is a relatively quiet capital city. In early June on a bright summers' day walking towards the Olympic Stadium, amongst the Goths enjoying a rock concert in the central park, life is pleasant enough.

If so inclined the experience can be somewhat enhanced by a refreshing gin long drink or very enhanced by the dark Czech beer Velkopopovicky Kozel.

For an enthusiast the stroll to the stadium evokes memories of past Finnish sporting heroes & in particular their athletes. Near the entrance is an impressive statue to the most eminent (Nurmi)
Inside you can visualize that epic finish to the 1971 European Championships 10,000m when Vaatainen overcame Haase & Sharafetdinov as the crowd roared them on to a sub-54 secs last lap. Whilst in the nearby museum you can simulate running against Lasse Viren during his famous win in the Montreal Olympics 5000m.

Finland's footballers playing and losing 0-2 to Serbia somehow doesn't provide the same level of spine tingling memory. The biggest cheer being reserved for the entry of 36 year old substitute Jari Litmanen, who still looked the most competent Finnish player on show.

Close by the old Olympic stadium is the neat, modern Finnair stadium where , on another day, I saw a low key 2nd level game between HJK's 'reserves' (Klub '04) and KPV before around 250 spectators.

From central Helsinki its an easy stroll to the harbour & the ferry terminal for the trip over to Tallinn. The Nordic Jet ferry takes around 1hr 40 mins to cross the Baltic.
Once there the nicely preserved Old Town offers an attractive location in the June sunshine for both the cruise ship tour groups & the increasing numbers of England supporters getting in the mood for the European Championships qualifying game against Estonia.

That match gave some encouragement to your correspondent as England secured a comfortable 3-0 victory albeit against very limited opposition watched by 11,000 in the Le Coq Arena.

I returned to the same city & the same stadium a couple of days later to see Flora Tallinn beat Ajax some 11-0 before somewhat less people. Because of the convenient kick-off scheduling (presumably to increase the attendances ?!) it was possible to stroll across town & watch TVMK Tallinn play Vaprus later in the afternoon (just the 9-0 win this time).
Total crowd for the two games... 140 & that included other England supporters - but there were plenty of goals.

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