From "the field behind the church" to Anfield, perhaps
Lauri Dalla Valle
Lauri Dalla Valle has got quite a lot of skill packed into one 180cm frame.
Already at the tender age of 16 he has earned from football more or less the same amount in euros as the Finnish Champions Tampere United put into their annual player budget - and that’s all the players.
If this last paragraph sounds ridiculous, it sounds twice as bizarre when Dalla Valle shows off the pitch where he honed his skills with the ball.
The city of Joensuu (pop. c. 58,000) is in Northern Karelia. It has a church or two, of course, and behind one of them is a playing field that gets pretty chilly in the winters.
“Between 10 and 30 below”, Dalla Valle says.
“This is where I used to come as a kid for kickarounds and to practise by myself. A couple of years back I’d be here six hours a day. I still come down here”, he explains as we survey an open area that has a 5cm covering of snow, five goals still upright, and another three that have fallen over.
What’s this place called?
“Errr.. 'Behind the Church', I guess.”
Many of Dalla Valle’s early opponents were big, but rather clumsy and slow on the turn.
“If I was here on my own, I’d play one-on-one against the trees. I’d take them on attempt to turn them and dribble them”, he recalls, and at the same time he smoothly nutmegs four birches.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 8.12.2007
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