Date: 7th October 2011
Match: Finland - Sweden 1-2 (EURO 2012 qualifier)
Attendance: 23 257
When it comes to ice-hockey Finland vs Sweden is a very big rivalry and over the years many memorable battles have been fought. With Sweden historically being the far better team in football the rivalry is not as strong in this sport. With two matches remaining in this qualifying campaign Sweden need three points in total to secure 2nd place (and six to finish as best runner-up). Since we are playing the mighty Netherlands in the last match the match in Helsinki was very important for us. Finland however would love to beat Sweden and prevent us from going to EURO 2012. Nowdays international matches are played on Friday nights but after some manouvering with my boss I managed to get the day off. I set off for the Finnish capital quite early, first stop was Copenhagen airport and my 10.05 flight to Helsinki. 1h 40 min. later my flight made a bumpy landing at Vantaa airport in Helsinki. I knew it was going to be a very windy afternoon/evening but prayed for the rain to stay away. I visited Helsinki last summer (2010) and decided to stay at the same hotel as I did then. Situated a 5-minute walk from the railway station Hotel Arthur is indeed a good place to stay at. Since the Swedish fans decided to use the square in front of the railway station as meet up place (and I had to go there to pick-up my ticket) I didn´t have much walking to do either. After picking up my ticket and register my presence, needed for the loyalty points, I walked around taking some pictures before heading towards a nearby restaurant for some drinks and food. It was by now quite cold and I was pleased to have brought my winter coat to Finland.
A couple of hours later I made my way to Olympiastadion. Having been there 15 months ago I didn´t have any problems finding the way. Olympiastadion in Helsinki was built for the 1940 Olympics and nowdays has a capacity of around 37 000. The stadium was opened in 1938 but the Olympics were for obvious reasons not held here until 1952. With wooden benches and and both curves being without roof I have to say the stadium feels old and is in a pretty poor condition. One interesting thing with the stadium is the viewing tower. It is 72,71 meters which is the distance of the winning javelin throw of Matti Järvinen in the 1932 Olympics. Outside the stadium there is also a statue of Finland´s greatest ever athlete, Paavo Nurmi. Paavo Nurmi won 9 Olympic gold medals in different running events during 3 Olympic games (1920 to 1928).
Even if it was very windy there was at least occasional sunshine and if the rain was to stay away it was not going to be too bad sitting/standing in the south curve. There was around 6 000 Swedish fans at Olympiastaion, many in home sections, and with three minutes played we could celebrate. Sebastian Larsson made it 1-0 to Sweden. At the same time it started to rain. It was heavy rain coming down and combined with the very strong winds, up to 20 m/s, conditions soon became really bad. Those without proper clothing were soon soaked. The weather forecasts I looked at didn´t say anything about rain but knowing my seat was uncovered I had packed rain clothes as well as my winter coat. A lot of others hadn´t though and at half-time, with Sweden being 1-0 up, plenty of fans left the ground heading to nearby pubs and hotels. I can honestly say this is the worst conditions I´ve experienced at a football match. UEFA have so many regulations for international matches but wooden benches and uncovered curves are obviously still allowed...
Anyway, the majority of fans stayed at the match and early in the second half we could celebrate again, Martin Olsson made it 2-0 to Sweden. Finland refused to give up though and were for most of the second half the better team. They pulled a goal back but couldn´t find the equaliser. 2-1 to Sweden and the wet and frozen Swedish fans were at least warmed by 3 points. This was a poor performance by Sweden though and if we don´t do better we are in for a hammering on Tuesday when we play the Netherlands at Råsunda.
Plenty of Swedish fans, myself included, got text messages from back home saying "Are you wet?", " I am sitting in my couch watching the match on TV, with a beer in my hand", "It is so warm here" etc
Evenings like this become legendary though and when I hear someone complain about the weather at a match in the future I can always say "Don´t complain. I was in Helsinki!"
The new Zlatan?
3 stadiums in 1 shot. Olympiastadion is bottom right
Statue of the great Paavo Nurmi
Rear of the South Stand
Waving the flag for Sweden
View of play
Fans and rain