Friday, February 17, 2012

Expensive Burgers and Boston Pubs

February 16:

Today was just a recovery day and there is nothing at all interesting to talk about soccer-wise, so I’ll give you a little information on Jakobstad and FF Jaro!
I’m not going to give you a history lesson on Jakobstad because I don’t know its history and honestly if you really cared Wikipedia is just a click away you lazy bum.  Jakobstad is a city on the western coast of Finland on the Gulf of Bothnia.  From Helsinki, it’s about 3-4 hours northwest in a car.  Maybe more.  Jakobstad is a small town about the same size as Valkeakoski.  However, so far this city feels just a little bit bigger.  I think that’s in part due to the fact that this town has a much more vibrant downtown area.  Also, there are actually places that are open past 9pm!  Nothing says big city like being able to walk around at 10pm and not feel like you’re in an episode of The Walking Dead.  I even almost bought a burger today, but the one I wanted was 8.80 euros.  That price is just for the burger.  No fries, no soda, no nothing.  Just burger, bun, lettuce, tomato.  Maybe one day I’ll summon up the courage to pay $11.25 for a burger but today is not that day.

Of course I haven’t been able to see it for myself yet, but I hear that the summers here are crazy.  Apparently, we’re far enough north that the sun doesn’t hardly set at all and apparently that’s a cue for the locals to go wild.  As I understand it, everyone seems to have small summer homes on the coastline about 5 miles from the city center and in the summer they go there and drink and party.  At any of these parties Jaro players are the main attraction.  I would really like to stay here and play I think.  The city sounds like a really fun place to be and I get along great with the guys.  I also like the coach and the way the club treats the players.

An interesting aspect of this FF Jaro is their relationship with O’Leary’s, a Boston-style Irish Sports Pub that is big around Scandinavia.  I first saw an O’Leary’s when I visited Stockholm last year.  I was just walking down the street and noticed that one of the signs in a row of bars was completely in english and had Boston Celtic and Red Sox apparel everywhere.  Once you get over the inherit weirdness of a Boston-style Irish Sports Pub in a part of the world that has no Irish people or US sport affiliations, O’Leary’s is a pretty cool place.  It’s the only sports bar in town that I know of, so it’s always pretty crowded whenever there’s any sort of sporting event, or so that’s what I hear.  Anyway, Jaro has actually arranged for the players to have a free lunch there every day if we so choose.  If I end up playing here, I will definitely take advantage of this perk, since I’m always lazy after training and never want to cook lunch.  Players can also get a free dinner any day, but this is limited to a meal known as “Jaro Noodles”.  This is a huge plate of noodles with a white sauce of some sort and slices of ham.  All of that is doused in some sort of pepper and served.  It doesn’t sound great, but you can’t beat the price and it’s actually really good.  I can honestly see myself eating this meal 3-4 times a week indefinitely.

I talk about O’Leary’s mostly to make a point.  In Europe, most of the teams have no more money than a USL or NASL franchise.  The salaries of the vast majority of professional players in Europe are similar to the bottom end of MLS.  From what I can tell, you’d be hard pressed to find a player in the Veikkausliiga that’s bringing home more than 8-10k euros a month.  After taxation that’s similar to making about $150k in the US.  Most players in Finland make far less.  I’d be stunned if I learned any player at Haka made more than 4k euros a month.  For this reason it is really helpful that Jaro has taken the step to provide its players with lunch and dinner any day they want it.  Of course, this doesn’t only benefit the players.  In a small town where Jaro is the biggest thing going, I would guess that it helps O’Leary’s business tremendously to have the club’s players regularly going there.

There’s not much more at the moment.  I know many of my posts have been relatively drab accounts of tedious day-to-day stuff, but once I sign a contract and settle somewhere I’ll have more days where I can let my personality show a bit and write about some fun stuff, rather than just recount how a match went.  Hopefully I can stay in Jakobstad with Jaro and write about the good times here!

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