The first Pukki Party

The announcer was drinking beer, drunken spectators were pushed out of the way of a bomb, and a future minister was floundering in his efforts to keep order – Helsingin Sanomat found a historic photo of the debut match of Teemu Pukki.

Julkaistu: , Päivitetty:

June 23, 2005 is a date that has a special place in Finnish football history. It was on that day that the Third Division Helsinki team SAPA met the Kotka team KooTeePee of the Finnish Football League Association (Veikkausliiga).

The match also marked SAPA’s 35th anniversary, and most important, it was the first major senior side match for Teemu Pukki, who is currently scoring goals in Norwich, and for the Finnish national team, popularly known as Huuhkajat, or “Eagle Owls”.

Pukki was 15 years old at the time.

The Kotka team, which included many substitute players at the match in Helsinki, managed to offer most of its young players minutes on the pitch in a top-ranked team, which is a good thing from the point of view of the future”, wrote Antti Tiainen in the sports magazine Veikkaaja on June 28, 2005.

Helsingin Sanomat got access to photographs of the match, and many of the pictures featured SAPA fans. One of the pictures features the young Pukki.

We will get back to Pukki later, because the actual match proved to be an exceptional event.


 

”Smoke was billowing as the match was getting started, and the atmosphere was magnificent.”

“I remember that match well. It was played at the Kumpulanlaakso arena. Torches and smoke bombs are banned there, but there were SAPA supporters in the park on the other side of the fence”, says Janne Hyppönen, who was the manager of KooTeePee at the time.

“Smoke was billowing as the match was getting started, and the atmosphere was magnificent.”

SAPA’s third goalkeeper Paavo Arhinmäki (who would later be elected to Parliament and serve as a government minister) was helping keep order at the match. He points out that it was two days before Midsummer, which was another reason for the high spirits. However, the disciplinary committee of the Football Association of Finland wanted to impose a fine because of the torches and bombs.

In a report on the incident, referee Tommi Grönman wrote:

Supporters of the home team shot fireworks from the park area, and some of them flew onto the pitch as the match was in progress. Fortunately, these rockets did not endanger the teams on the pitch. The supervisors made no attempt to prevent the supporters from shooting fireworks. Two rolls of toilet paper were also thrown onto the pitch as the match was ongoing.


 

“According to the referees’ report, alcohol had been consumed in the stands, which was naturally quite surprising on the day before Midsummer Eve.”

Arhinmäki sent a rebuttal to the Football Association.

“I wrote a rebuttal noting that we are unable to intervene with anything that was happening on the other side of the pedestrian and bicycle path. I also noted that the Football Association had given us an arena with pedestrian and bicycle paths on both sides and we could not block traffic or oversee what was happening in the park area”, Arhinmäki says by telephone, seemingly with a smile.

The fine was ultimately cancelled, but consumption of alcohol did bring a reprimand.

“According to the referees’ report, alcohol had been consumed in the stands, which was naturally quite surprising on the day before Midsummer Eve”, Arhinmäki adds with a laugh.

The announcer of the match had been drinking beer between announcements and he had also supported the use of flares.


 

”A SAPA player was dribbling, but the loud explosion startled him so badly that he lost control of the ball.”

In addition to conventional flares and smoke bombs, supporters outside the match area had a bigger blast in store to mark any goals by SAPA. Arhinmäki observes: “I have let it be understood that this was the case”.

“As it turned out, no such goal was ever scored [the final score in the match was 0-4]. The supporters decided to set it off anyway.”

At this point Arhinmäki’s recollections of the event really take off, leaving it to the readers to draw their own conclusions.

“A SAPA player was dribbling, but the loud explosion startled him so badly that he lost control of the ball.”

And that’s not all. Arhinmäki’s recollections of the event have taken on the character of an urban legend:

“At the same time, another match was being played at Ravis [the former trot racing track in Käpylä]. People there thought that SAPA must have scored a goal because the explosion could be heard all the way to Ravis.”

Although Arhinmäki definitely had no advance knowledge of the bomb, he had somehow managed to see the instructions for it, according to which an adequate safety zone had to be kept around the device.

“Then we moved some of the local boozers out of the way.”

In the middle of the match, SAPA supporters started chanting: “Kinnunen out! Kinnunen out!” The chanters were referring to the SAPA manager Jari Kinnunen.

SAPA supporters were upset because their favourite player was not in the starting eleven, but the shouting was not actually serious, and neither was the “Kinnunen out” banner that was unfurled in the stands.

“It was all just insider fun”, Arhinmäki says.

Arhinmäki says that SAPA fans were also taking the piss out of KooTeePee supporters who showed up.



All in all, many of those who had been at the event emphasised in their comments to Helsingin Sanomat that the atmosphere at the match had been amazing.

The match also had the character of a media event because a camera crew from a sports programme of the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE was there, and because the media personality Riku Riihilahti was seen running around in a SAPA shirt.


 

“Teme was a frail guy with curly hair who thought that playing football was fun.”

The match left an impression on the minds of those who were there for the reasons mentioned above, but it has also gone down in Finnish football history because Pukki was one of the players. Pukki is not listed as a member of the KooTeePee line-up in the handout for the match because he was not a regular player on the main team.

Arhinmäki’s humorous recollections continue:

“When the SAPA supporters learned that there was such a talented player on the opposing team, all those things [the bombs and the smoke] focused on that fact alone.”

A more truthful version would probably be this:

Tomi Tyysteri, the current news editor at Helsingin Sanomat, says that nobody had even heard about Pukki back then.

“But in retrospect we have been wild about being on the team that Pukki played against his debut match.”

Pukki came onto the pitch in the 66th minute of the match with the number 15 on his jersey. He was not yet a master goal-scorer at that time.

“Teme [Pukki] was training with the senior team, but normally he played on the B-juniors [under 16 youth team]”, Hyppönen says.

Hyppönen stresses that this was a controlled transition onto the main team. As part of the Finnish Football League Association, the KooTeePee was very young and very local at the time. In the 2006 season, when Pukki made his debut in the Finnish Football League Association with KooTeePee, 18 of the 24 players were from Kotka.

“Teme was a frail guy with curly hair who thought that playing football was fun.”

By fun, Hyppönen meant that no goals were set for the long-term, and that the focus was on doing something for the day. Hyppönen feels that people today are far too preoccupied with where they will be in five years.

“If the focus is on present day, it might actually be possible to achieve something later on.”

Hyppönen, who now works as a teacher, is enthusiastically following Pukki’s current success.

“I could say that I am actually following his career with pride, and after his recent matches I do feel a little bit dazzled.”

Translation: Kimmo Wilska
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