Today, a unique “Five things”, focussing on the experience of my first ever Finland match.
Finland tickets are great value for money
Finland might have lost, but I walked away from the Olympic Stadium last Tuesday feeling satisfied with the entertainment that had been on show. And then I remembered how much – or rather, how little – I had paid for it. As I’m a student, my “season ticket” cost 57€ for five matches, or 11,40€ per match, including a free programme at every match. For the sake of comparison, that’s 0,60€ less than the cost of an admission to see a 3D film at Helsinki’s Kinopalatsi. It was also roughly 23€ less than the cost of watching England’s drab 0-0 draw with Montenegro in London. However, there might be a very good reason for the low cost, which is my next point…
The Olympic Stadium is really out of date
The first thing that struck me as I took my seat in the Olympic Stadium was actually the seat itself. As I expect many readers of this blog know, the seats are actually long benches, so that everyone’s seat is joined to the ones either side, with no gap. I saw many people bringing cushions or other padding to make sitting down more comfortable. Another thing that surprised me was the complete lack of executive boxes. Modern football stadiums are designed to maximise corporate revenue, and that means putting the best views of the pitch behind glass and then charging a fortune for them. The Olympiastadion, built in 1938, is definitely not a modern stadium.
The North Curve is the place to be
There was only one part of the crowd that was standing up for the whole match, initiating all the chants for the whole ground, and that was the Pohjoiskaarre, the North Curve. Everywhere else felt timid by comparison, only joining in occasionally. I wanted to be more active in showing my support, but I would have felt out of place in my location at the corner of the stadium. I saw one fan stand up and try to whip up the crowd, but he was largely ignored, which was a shame. The “twelfth man” can often be the difference between, for example, a 1-2 loss and a 1-1 draw.
I need to learn the national anthem
I’ve lived in Finland for two years but I still don’t know the words of the national anthem. That’s not really good enough. The programme contained the words, but I felt too embarrassed to read from it. And I wonder why nobody else in my area was singing? Compared to God Save the Queen, which I’ve never felt happy singing because I’m an atheist and a republican, Maamme is a tuneful and relatively stirring anthem. I’m determined to learn it before the San Marino match, so listen out for someone mispronouncing the words in a loud English accent!
Finnish people genuinely care about football
It might be unwise to draw any firm conclusions after one match, but I really got the impression last Tuesday that Finland really does care about the fortunes of its national football team. The attendance against Hungary was a shade under 20 000, which is only half the capacity of the Olympic Stadium, but still 5 000 more than against Wales in 2009, Finland’s last competitive match there. Many people may have booked before Finland’s losses against Moldova and Holland, but the emotions on show against Hungary – elation with the goal and incredible frustration at other times – were deep and genuine. Football might be a minority sport in Finland, but don’t let anyone tell you that Finns don’t care about it, because they do. And I’m delighted with that.
Finally, a question: how do you keep your feet warm at football matches in Finland during the winter? My toes were pretty much frozen by half-time, even with double socks, and it was somewhat painful to walk out of the ground at full-time. As it will be even colder by the time San Marino come to Helsinki, any tips would be appreciated!