It’s been a tense week, but we did alright. Two games and two draws against teams at the top of the table. We didn’t necessarily play well for large parts of either game, but then again we rarely play well for large parts of a game and we’re 2nd in the table so it clearly works for us. Remember that fighting spirit I was talking about? It was on full display in these last two games. Teams that were picked to finish in the medals this year against a team predicted to be fighting relegation. When the dust settled, we’re still above both of them.
Soccer wasn’t the only thing on the agenda this week though. I, along with the rest of the team, visited the VPS juniors facility and watched the kids play. A few of the players were coaches, so they were busy boasting about how much their team was gonna outplay the other player’s team and so forth. I enjoyed getting out in the community because in general I don’t really do anything. I train, then go home and either blog, play Playstation or watch Youtube/Netflix. It can get pretty boring, so it’s nice to do something actually useful in the city. Also, seeing the kids play brought back a bunch of good memories of playing for fun. Being a pro is the best job ever, but it’s still a job. For me, it has carried with it the stresses of a job for probably the last 10 years or so. When I was young my teams all depended on me and now my job has taken me to a foreign country to a town I’d never heard of two years ago. So it’s refreshing to see a ball roll directly past a kid because he’s more interested in looking at the sky because he heard an airplane. I miss that! J
On Tuesday, it was my turn to answer questions on the facebook chat session that VPS hosts each week. If you don’t know about it just add VPS as a facebook friend and the information should be there somewhere. You can actually go there now and see the Q&A session, since I won’t rehash it. The chat was fun and there were a lot more questions than I expected. There was mention of my nickname among some fans being, “The Predator”, but I’m really pushing for “Jordan Seabrohimovic”. I think you have to actually be good to compare yourself to Zlatan though, especially in Scandinavia.
I really hate talking about the games because anyone who cares already knows. With the games coming so close though there’s really not much else going on. The TPS game was incredibly boring and doesn’t deserve more mention than this one line. The Honka game however was ridiculous and deserves to be talked about a bit.
Honka is a really good team. They have signed 4-5 top-level talents for this league and have been storming through the league since about round 5. How a team that lives in the shadow of a much bigger club and that couldn’t pay its players last year is able to go on a spending spree a few months later is open to speculation, but ultimately beside the point. They dominated the first half, really giving us problems with their counterattacking style. I can see why they have been so successful: They have a strong backline that allows them to confidently counter in numbers. Some teams counterattack with 3-4 players, but Honka was having counter moves of 6 or 7 guys running in all directions. It was difficult for us to get a handle on, even though we enjoyed more possession.
The second half was very different from the first. Honka predictably ran out of gas to play such an up-tempo counter game, so what in the first half was useless possession by us followed by a dangerous counterattack by them became just a ton of possession for us. With that possession, and the arrivals of me and Grant Kerr to bring fresh legs and a different approach, we were able to be dangerous. That pressure finally paid off with our one clear chance and Sebastian made no mistake. We tied 1-1 for those who didn’t know. The real story of the second half though, was the referee.
Now people who read this blog regularly know that I have a bit of a problem with the referees in this league. Every game I get called for fouls that would never be whistled in America. Things that I think are just not fouls at all. Against Honka though our ref took things to a new level. Not only did he blow his whistle every single time a Honka player fell for any reason (which was suspiciously often, almost like they were…GASP…diving?), but he didn’t call any fouls in our favor. The papers mentioned two penalty kick claims that he missed in the second half, but in my opinion it was three. The handball was obvious. It wasn’t intentional by the defender, but his hands were away from his body so it has to be called. It’s not even up to the ref to decide. It’s as simple a decision as the ball rolling out of bounds. It doesn’t matter how it got there, the call is ironclad. The trip of Jarno was also obvious, but the ref was too scared to call a penalty in stoppage time. The third incident actually happened against me. Grant played me a great lofted ball into the box and as I chested it, I was clattered into by some defender. It was as obvious a penalty as you’ll ever see and makes me wonder if perhaps I have somehow gained a reputation in this league as a diver? I’ve never dove in my life (well……..at least not recently), yet I can’t seem to get a call in this league. I’ll been elbowed in the face twice (things that would get players red carded in America) without a call. I’ve been tripped dozens of times this season with no call all while being whistled for 2-3 fouls a game. Enough of my little rant though, I just wanted to mention something that I did that might make our fans feel a little bit better about the ref. When Sebastar scored, I high fived him but ran in the opposite direction of the celebration. I tried to get the ball to give myself a logical reason of being next to the ref, but Honka immediately kicked it to midfield. Regardless, I ran to the referee and essentially asked if he was enjoying Finnish summer, but with a bunch of American curse words he may have thought that I was insulting him and his performance. Not that I would do something like that J. If you’re someone at the Veikkausliiga office who has the ability to fine players, then I’m sure I remember just asking him about the weather, nothing else!
It’s midsummer today or tomorrow or both, I’m not really sure. I find it weird that Scandinavian people celebrate this holiday, but then again Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo by dressing in borderline-racist costumes and drinking Mexican beer made in Texas, so I guess I shouldn’t be throwing stones. Our next game is against RoPS and Anthony is suspended so he doesn’t have to go. He couldn’t be happier about it either, though he’ll miss us while we’re gone. Until then though we have a few days off so I’m gonna go enjoy Vaasa!