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Finland has waited so long for this: at Euro 2020, it’s our turn at last | Euro 2020

Supporting the Finland nationwide crew has hardly ever been a cushty and pleasant pastime. Last-minute fluked personal objectives and year-long winless droughts have all helped form the picture of an unfortunate and unsuccessful nation.

Now we have actually had some sensible particular person gamers and the occasional excessive however they’ve typically been overshadowed by the crew’s incapacity to qualify for a significant match. Each different summer season we’ve watched in disbelief when our Nordic counterparts are having the time of their lives at a World Cup or a European Championship whereas we’re pressured to observe the entire thing on TV. Each different summer season we’ve bitterly requested ourselves: “When is it going to be our turn?”

I used to be 13 years previous once I attended my first Finland sport. I had taken break day college to journey right down to Helsinki, with my dad and his mates for the World Cup qualifier towards England in 2000. Jari Litmanen, Sami Hyypiä, Paul Scholes, Teddy Sheringham and all the opposite gamers I had long-admired have been now right here. I used to be mesmerised by the Olympic Stadium with its floodlights and 35,000 football-crazy spectators. The sport ended 0-0 in a tedious affair however that was fully irrelevant. The 13-year-old me was impressed and I instructed myself that at some point I’d be on the market taking part in for my nation.

I used to be a tall and lanky child with progress spurt issues and subsequently a critical lack of coordination. “Bambi on ice” my coaches referred to as me. Regardless of the bodily challenges I confronted they might additionally see a self-aware boy with a burning want to enhance. Behind the delicate exterior they noticed my potential once I had a troublesome time seeing it myself.

My dream of turning into an expert, and representing my nation, would come true. I performed for my nation in each age-group and I captained our under-21 facet within the European Championships in Sweden in 2009. I made my full worldwide debut the identical 12 months and have become an integral a part of the Finland crew for the following decade.

I ought to have been pleased and happy with what I had achieved however I wasn’t. I used to be 32 years previous within the spring of 2019 and my beloved Finland was nonetheless one of many few nations who had not certified for a significant match. Different nations who shared our frustrations have been, for instance, Luxembourg, Faroe Island and San Marino. Time was ticking for me and my ageing teammates. If we needed to do one thing extraordinary, if we needed to put in writing ourselves into the historical past books, then we must do it now.

Italy, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Armenia and Liechtenstein was our qualifying group for the Euro 2020. The 2 greatest groups would qualify immediately for the match and since Italy are, frankly, actually good, it was as much as the remainder of us to battle it out for the opposite spot.

We performed properly all through the qualifying marketing campaign. We have been stable and strong defensively and lethal on transitions. We had a peaceful presence in Lukas Hradecky in purpose, a dynamic Glen Kamara in midfield, Robin Lod creating possibilities and Teemu Pukki in distinctive goalscoring kind. We have been robust, aggressive and organised, like each Finland crew ought to be, however we had added a contact of worldwide aptitude. A contemporary crew was taking form.

Tim Sparv, Paulus Arajuuri and Lukas Hradecky lead the celebrations
Tim Sparv, Paulus Arajuuri and Lukas Hradecky lead the celebrations. {Photograph}: Kalle Parkkinen/SIPA/Shutterstock

On 15 November 2019, we have been taking part in Liechtenstein at dwelling in what was to change into one of the memorable days in Finnish soccer historical past. Because of a 3-0 win we secured our place in a significant males’s match for the primary time.

I nonetheless bear in mind the pitch invasion after the ultimate whistle and the way me and my teammates have been lifted up within the air by ecstatic followers. I nonetheless bear in mind singing Finnish pop songs within the dressing room and pouring champagne down my throat. And I nonetheless bear in mind us gamers sitting within the sauna, laughing and joking, when any individual all of the sudden mentioned: “Boys, what the fuck have we simply executed?”

The historical past of Finnish soccer is just not the rosiest one, however neither is the historical past of our nation. Residing with hardship is a part of a Finn’s DNA. Regardless of wars, monetary recessions and famines we’re nonetheless standing tall. Regardless of last-minute defeats and years of underachievement, gamers and followers alike didn’t give in. We’re a resilient bunch of individuals, on and off the pitch.

{That a} pandemic would postpone our massive day within the highlight suits the narrative. It isn’t meant to be simple and easy supporting Finland. Uncomfortable surprises are all the time behind the nook and maybe that may be a motive why we are likely to have a good time the nice days somewhat bit extra.

It was the proper name to postpone the match however there may be nonetheless that sense of disbelief and dark-humoured acceptance amongst these of us who’ve lived via so a lot adversity to get thus far. In fact there’s a lethal pandemic that prompts Uefa to delay the beginning of the Euro 2020 when Finland is about to participate for the primary time of their long historical past.

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Impatient Finns can now say “that is our turn”, the ready is over. Finland is a participant at the Euro 2020 and that makes me extraordinarily proud. I’m pleased for my teammates and our workers, however I’m even happier for our supporters who’ve waited so long for this present day to return. They deserve somewhat little bit of luck after many years of supporting a crew who appeared destined to be unfortunate. They deserve their second within the solar. Let’s hope that is the beginning of a extra promising future for Finland’s nationwide crew.

Tim Sparv is captain of Finland and performs for Larissa within the Greek Tremendous League

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