So in my last column I said that I was going to go in-depth on how my life in Finland is since I moved here in January.
Firstly, I thought I was going to be prepared for the freezing cold weather but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I had packed a lot of warm clothes like Duffle coats, gloves, hats and extra underwear and socks etc so I believed that I was all set to take on the dreaded Finnish winter.
When I touched down on my flight into Tampere airport for the first time I had a glance outside my window and thought to myself: "Looks a little snowy, but that’s grand".
I was in for a rude awakening though as it was absolutely freezing outside and I had never in my life encountered weather so cold. All my petty complaints about how the Irish weather was too cold paled in comparison to how cold it was here. A temperature reading of -26 degrees on my iPhone a week later confirmed to me the reason why my nostril hairs had turned to icicles the second I stepped outside my front door!
Anyway I knew from the beginning that it wasn’t going to be like the Bahamas so I was finally just happy to be in Finland and looked forward to getting my first training session under my belt with my new team mates.
The first training session took place in our indoor hall and it is of a very high standard. It would accommodate a nine versus nine man game for sure and the artificial surface is one of the best
I’ve ever played on so I was really looking forward to getting my pre-season up and going.
As I had stated in my last column I was very impressed with how Sami (Sami Ristilä, FC Haka manager) likes the team to play and the training session was built around crisp passing and moving sessions and then followed by a eight versus eight game. All of my team mates were very welcoming and friendly and I was equally impressed with how technically gifted they were and immediately knew I had made the correct decision in moving to play for FC Haka. All the hard work put in to secure the move by my agent Andy Cousins over the Christmas period had paid off and I immediately expressed to him how happy I was to be here.
We spent the next few days playing in a tournament called the Lahti Cup which involved playing three games in as many days. Unfortunately the surface in that particular indoor hall was terrible. It was more like a concrete floor as a base that was covered by a hard carpet. Needless to say there were a few injuries and I was one of them that suffered. I managed to play 60 minutes in our first game against HJK and then I could only manage 45 minutes in the following fixture against FC Lahti as my toes had basically been torn asunder by the horrendous playing surface.
After recovering from my toe injuries it was back to pre-season business with League Cup action in a four team league format. In our group we had FC Inter, TPS, and MIFK. For our first game against MIFK we had to travel by boat as they are situated on a small island off of Sweden so it was a good opportunity to get to know my new team mates even more.
We won the game 1-0 but unfortunately we didn’t qualify out of our group as we played more top class opposition in the form of FC Inter and TPS. They are all of a similar standard to Karpaty Lviv of Ukraine that I had faced in the Europa League with St Pats the previous season so I know that every game this season will be extremely difficult but I’m confident with the squad we have assembled that we can have a successful season.
In the last few weeks we have won the first two rounds of the Suomi Cup beating 3rd Division opponents NoPS and Riverball respectively. The Suomi Cup is the main Finnish Cup that would be the equivalent to the FAI Cup in Ireland and the FA Cup in England. FC Haka have a proud tradition of winning the Suomi Cup and it is a big ambition for the team this season to go far in the competition and hopefully with a bit of luck along the way we will be lifting the trophy come the end of the season.
Also in my last column I briefly mentioned such events as shopping for condoms and lube in my local supermarket in a woman’s dress. Well this was all part of Finnish Football’s traditional Sarvisauna.
It’s an initiation process similar to the ones found in colleges in the US when new recruits are put through highly embarrassing situations to prove their worth and be accepted into their particular fraternity. Every team in the Veikkausliiga hold this event during pre-season and despite having to wear only a pink thong to face the challenges put forth by the more experienced players, it was a great day and after it was all finished the team spirit in the squad was excellent.
The more experienced players were seated wearing robes and conducted proceedings in a highly demanding but fun attitude whilst drinking and eating the food us peasants had provided for them earlier in the day. Hopefully next season I’ll be the one dishing out the orders and revelling in the humiliation of the new squad members! For anyone who would be inquisitive as to what my challenges were I’ll state them here in exact sequence.
First up was to deliver a dance/workout move to the song "Call on me" by Eric Prydz. I went for a rotating hip gyration that definitely would have looked well alongside the sexy “Call On Me” girls in the music video!
Next up was an individual musical performance which required us to create our own lyrics and sing in front of them as they sat like judges on the X-Factor. Unfortunately my lyrics and monotone singing performance to our national anthem Amhrán na bhFiann was deemed “lacklustre, mediocre and lacking passion", so I had to then partake with the other unsuccessful “artists” in a band performance in which my instrument was an air guitar. We were no ‘One Direction’ by any stretch of the imagination but we rocked our song and therefore progressed to the next stage of events.
As it was around the time of Valentine’s Day we were then assigned to make a Valentine’s Card for the experienced players; cue a ridiculous amount of love hearts, glitter and expressive colours that culminated in us all passing our challenge and onto the more embarrassing part of the day.
I’ll never forget the look on the face of an 80 year-old woman as I passed her on the way to the cash register in the shopping market - lube and condoms in hand - dressed as a woman with a baby’s nursery hat on my head before posing for a photo taken by the cashier with my IPhone.
Back to base then for our last challenge which was a drinking game in the form of a quiz with penalty shots given for incorrect answers. My team got most of the answers correct but on the ones we got wrong we had to drink shots of vodka in cups filled with slimy sausages and oily fish, amongst other atrocities. Then to complete the Sarvisauna my head was dyed purple and body painted with permanent marker in very X-rated words and drawings that declared I was a "male genitalia forehead" as we headed to a nightclub in Tampere.
God knows how I managed to pull that night. But I did.
A lot of other strange and wonderful events have happened since but I’ll leave them for another column. Our Veikkausliiga season starts this Sunday as we visit FC Lahti. With the Irish season already underway for more than a month now and from staying up to date with the Extratime Live Updates I’ve been very excited to finally get our season going. Hopefully we start off our campaign with a win.
In my next column I’ll give a background on my club FC Haka, detail my surroundings in Valkeakoski and describe how it feels chasing after the team bus with a mild panic attack after flushing the toilet. A long story!
This weeks #ShaneysShoutout is to my former Sporting Fingal team mate and all round top bloke Robbie Doyle who is promoting his 30th Charity Birthday Bash. If everyone could watch and share the video it would be brilliant as it’s for a great cause.
Thank You .