Summer Spectator Sports in Seinäjoki
In my previous post I took you to some of Seinäjoki’s bigger festivals but, if the party season is not for you, maybe live sport is more up your street. There are a few options for professional sport during the summer and it’s more varied than you might think.
Football – SJK Seinäjoki
Naturally, I have to start here. As a Brit living overseas football was the way I made friends in Finland, some of these friendships that have endured for 9 years and counting. When I first arrived in Seinäjoki, I was invited to watch the local club, Seinäjoen Jalkapallokerho or SJK, who were then playing in the Finnish 3rd division. The standard was not great, but I met a couple of other Brits who were part of the Klopit (SJK’s supporters group) and were singing and dancing their way through each game. ‘That’ll do for me’ I thought and whenever I got to attended a match I would join-in with the Klopit, gradually learning the words (or at least the sounds) of the songs.
Over the past few years, the club has developed beyond recognition. SJK is now well established in the Veikkausliiga (Finnish Premier League), which they won in 2015, and has a few international players in the squad. As we’re talking about the spectator experience, though, the highlight has to be their new home, the impressive OmaSp Stadion (Pronounced: Oma-Ass-Peh, and named after a local bank Oma Säästöpankki). That experience starts as you walk through the turnstiles into the ground, you’ll find yourself walking on a carpet of artificial turf, you’re only a few metres from the pitch, but you have the sensation of the field underfoot. This purpose-built all-seater arena holds 5876 spectators and includes safe standing at each end, helping Klopit create the atmosphere. There is the 500 capacity Carlsberg Bar which is a great place to meet before and after the game. You’ll find it in the Pääkatsomo (main stand) but it’s accessible to all spectators.
I usually take up my position behind the home goal standing naturally, and spend the entire game clapping, singing and occasionally dancing (you can see me in the photo above). I can’t help myself, singing at football is in my blood and I feel like I’m playing my part in the game – my body certainly FEELS like it at the end of each match. If you check out the matchday teamsheet, you’ll see: No.12 Klopit, so I guess the club feels the same. Tickets start at 10€ for adults and kids, you can buy tickets from the SJK webshop. If you come along to the game, come find me and tell me you read this blog.
Pesäpallo (Finnish baseball) – JymyJussit & Seinäjoen Maila-Jussit
Don’t be fooled that, if you know American baseball, then you know the Finnish version. They may share a common ancestry but evolution has taken them in different directions. There are a couple of useful links below in English which will help you understand the rules, but my favourite is that the outfield is not enclosed. This means that a ball can run along the ground, off the playing field and is still ‘in play’. I’ve seen games where the ball has rolled out of the ground, across a parking lot and into someone’s front garden. All the while being frantically chased by the fielding team, as the batting team rack-up a few valuable runs.
There are a couple of top-level teams to watch in Seinäjoki; the men’s team JymyJussit and the women’s team Seinäjoen Maila-Jussit or SMJ. Both teams play games at the Ilkka Areena in Seinäjoki, approx 2 km from the town centre, with tickets prices starting at 14€. This imposing, concrete stadium stands tall in the local skyline and gives a great view of the game while you’re trying to figure out what exactly is going on out on the field. My neighbour, Tommi Veistola, took me to my first game and had a list of baseball terms with English translations so he could explain more easily. Maybe you could find yourself a Finn to do the same thing for your first game?
YouTube search results: Finnish baseball, English
American Football – Seinäjoki Crocodiles
Now this IS more like the traditional American game. American Football in Finland does not attract huge crowds, but there are almost 40 teams in almost as many towns, from Rovaniemi in Lapland to Turku in the South. There may be only seven teams in the semi-professional, top-level Maple League, but there are a couple of reasons to highlight the Crocodiles. Firstly, the men’s team now plays home games at OmaSp Stadion, so the matchday experience is now improved, and tickets start at 10€ or 30€ for a six-game season ticket (Crocodiles ticket shop). The women’s team plays at the nearby Jouppilanvuoren tekonurmi. Secondly, Crocodiles have a thriving youth set-up for boys and girls, a great summer activity for the ice hockey players. You’ll be sure to see the bright green logo around town on the future generation of ‘Crocodiles’.
This post’s title song:
Soccer Fan by Real Sounds of Africa
Explore Finland Radio Show