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Tampere United

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Unread postby finnfan » Tue May 17, 2011 6:05:01 pm

Many of you have probably read my posts in the complaint and praise threads about the recent developments with my club over here in Finland. Long story short, a club that used to consistently field one of the best teams in Finland and won three Finnish titles and one Finnish cup title in the 2000s is playing recreational football this season. I decided this is the right time to start a dedicated topic for it.

Tampere United was originally started in 1998 as a fusion of two clubs in Tampere. One of these clubs was Ilves, the club that I had supported for my whole life, but that had dropped into the second division after the 1996 season. The other one, Tampereen pallo-veikot (TPV), ended up withdrawing from the merger when they gained promotion to the top flight for 1999. (They ended up getting relegated after that first season and are today down in the third division.) This made the merger essentially just a rebranding with a new name and new colors. I felt like I had lost my club.

Come 1999 I decided to give the new club a chance. I started going to games, after all, I lived just a few blocks from the stadium. After many miserable years with my former club, it was great to follow a winning team. The club had been able to gather most of the best local players, so there was enough familiarity and continuity from the previous club. In the end the team earned promotion and even beat the local rival and top flight club Haka in the Finnish Cup. I had been won over.

In the next ten years I would get to experience so much more:
- Finnish titles in 2001, 2006, and 2007
- Finnish Cup title in 2007
- Participation in various European competitions every year in 2002-2008, beating some far superior teams (Levski Sofia was the biggest one) and getting to play against famous clubs such as Lazio, Bordeaux, and Rosenborg and dreaming about so much more
- And lots of smaller things

The supporter scene at the beginning was at its infancy in Finland. There was a small group started in the early years, but after it changed its name to Sinikaarti (translation: Blue Brigade) in 2003, things started happening. It soon became the best group in Finland and a big part of my life.

Trouble started emerging in 2008. Long story short, a combination of bad performances on the field, bad management and the global economic downturn meant that the club was soon in trouble. Supporters of the club started a supporters trust with the purpose of supporting the club by buying stocks of the club. The financial effect was of course very modest, but it was a symbolic gesture that got media attention that we hoped would be more helpful than the small amounts of money that we were able to collect from ordinary supporters.

In the following years there was lots of drama and changes in management, and everything culminated to the fall 2010 when the club had simply ran out of money. It is impossible to write about what happened without including a lot of my own interpretation. Long story short, the club ended up taking a significant amount of money from a Singaporean company that was later connected with match fixing and gambling. The plan had been for the Singaporeans to provide players (mainly from Africa and South America), and then they would make money by selling them for a higher price after a few years at Tampere United. Arguably the deal was too sweet to be honest. Developing players in Finland to be sold for profit is an unlikely scenario, so of course the suspicion was that these players would be used to fix games. No wrong doing was ever proven, but despite of this the Finnish FA decided to ban Tampere United from all competitions in 2011. This likely means that Tampere United in its current form is done. They have ran out of money, and they have no players under contract as all players were released and signed by other clubs on a free transfer (I believe there has never been a transfer fee payed for a transfer inside Finland).

In my opinion the punishment was way too harsh. The only legitimate reason for punishment is that the club broke the FIFA rule that forbids third party control. Arguably the Singaporeans had gained control of the club, because a draft agreement betwenn the club and them said that they can withdraw their money if their players do not get enough playing time. It was really vaguely stated like that, so it is open to interpretation. Regardless, the punishment seems fit for a club that has actually been systematically involved in match-fixing, not for a club that is suspected to be involved in match-fixing in the future. Compare for example with the Italian Calciopole in 2006, where clubs were proven to have fixed matches. The worst punishment was for Juventus, who got relegated to Serie B. Other clubs were merely punished by point-deductions in the next Serie A season.

The common feeling among supporters was that Tampere United is the only club that they will be able to support. For me personally I had transferred my loyalties about ten years ago from one club to another, and there was no way I was going to be able to do it again after all that I had experienced together with my club. That was simply not an option. Therefore the supporters trust (most members are also Sinikaarti members) decided to restart the club. This had to happen in a hurry, because the 2011 season was about to start regardless of which division we would enter. In the end it was decided that a recreational league was the best option for 2011. This enables us to use players that play for other teams that participate in competitional divisions in the official Finnish pyramid, which was crucial so that we could find enough players for the team from supporters and their friends. The name that we picked for the team was TamU-k. TamU is the commonly used abbreviation for Tampere United, and the k is added for trademark reasons. It stands for the word "kannattajat", which is Finnish for "supporters".

In 2012 we will assess our situation again. The most likely decision is to enter the seventh division of the Finnish football pyramid. However, there is a whole story of the 2011 season to tell first.
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Unread postby tallguy » Tue May 17, 2011 6:20:04 pm

good luck, buddy! here's hoping you guys are competing in the top flight again less than a decade from now. let us know how things go this season. i know i'm looking forward to hearing!
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Unread postby finnfan » Tue May 17, 2011 6:56:32 pm

The first match of the restarted TamU was played on Monday May 16th against FC Paiste. The venue was a gravel field in the Peltolammi suburb of Tampere. The playing time in this league is 2x30 min and it is 11v11 on the field.

The most important thing I got from the day was a confirmation of my belief that the passion does not depend on the level of the league. The experience among Sinikaarti was just like it had always been supporting the club when it played in the top flight. Of course we did not have quite as many supporters and we did not sing quite as frequently, but that is not the point. The point was that winning was as important as it has always been. Actually it was more important than on average: this was the first match, and you only get one chance at winning the first match im your club's history. I had a lot of the same feeling as in the inaugural game of the MLS Sounders in 2009.

The day began, as always, in gathering for a few prematch pints in our pub in downtown Tampere. About 15 people showed up, some of them players, some of them supporters. And some were supporters who brought their playing gear just in case the team was short on players. Even the coach showed up, and revealed the tentative starting lineup to the eagerly awaiting supporters. About 50 minutes before kick-off it was time to go and catch the city bus to the suburb. More supporters joined the group on the bus.

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In the end 16 players and 22 supporters showed up. Just before kick-off some flares were lit, and we sung one of our standard songs that has a first line that translates to "the Blueshirts are here again". No other song would have been more fitting. Of course 22 supporters is not that big of a number, but it is along the lines of some of our smaller away trips from previous seasons. Moreover, there are many top flight clubs in Finland who have fewer singing supporters in their home games, so we definitely have nothing to shame for in a recreational league.

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Otherwise too we sang all our normal songs. We sang the song that says there's no better team in the world. We sang the song that says that Haka or HJK, our biggest rivals from the top flight, cannot win us (technically true this season). And we sang many more, including our version of Horto Magico.



As you can see from the video, the Sinikaarti banner was hung between two birch trees behind us.

The first goal was scored by TamU early in the first half. A great cross from a free kick and a headed finish. It happened in the opposite end from the supporters. Celebrations were mild to our standards. The 2-0 goal was scored in the second half right in front of us. Everybody went bonkers as the goal scorer ran to the supporters and a huge dancing pile of supporters and players just happened.

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FC Paiste did not give up. They soon scored the 2-1 goal, and about three minutes before the final whistle they equalized. It seemed that we were done. However, a last minute play resulted in a pass to a great position at the 18 yard line. A great move took the defender out and a great shot put the ball in the bottom right corner. Madness ensued, and after the restart we did not have to wait for long for the final whistle. After a shake of hands with the opponents the supporters called the players to celebrate together in the same way the ECS celebrates with the Sounders after a win.

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Now this is no modern football. This is a community event par none. Of course our community is pretty small right now, but it will hopefully grow. Of course it is not even certain that the supporters will stick with this even for the entire duration of the 2011 season (nine more games), but I have a pretty good feeling about this. There is an incredible amount of enthusiasm in the air. Of course if we enter the seventh division of the official pyramid, we have a whole new set of issues that we will need to solve. I think I'll write about those plans separately.

Lastly, this is the first official team picture. For now the players can just wear any blue shirt that they happen to have. For many it is a Tampere United replica shirt that they had bought when the club played in the top flight, or some other Tampere United shirt that they had bought. We might get unified jerseys later on this season, but everything has happened so quickly that we simply have not had the time to take care of such things yet.

Image[/quote]
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Unread postby CursedFrogurt » Tue May 17, 2011 7:13:17 pm

That is simply awesome, thanks for sharing it.
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Unread postby CursedFrogurt » Tue May 17, 2011 7:15:05 pm

Also, what's the transfer window like? Brandon might let some ECS FC players go for a modest fee... :D
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Unread postby delmundo » Tue May 17, 2011 7:21:16 pm

Never give up.
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Unread postby Framlingham » Tue May 17, 2011 7:34:40 pm

Any particular reason the "k" in TamU-k isn't capitalized? Great writeup Finn!
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Unread postby gbherron » Tue May 17, 2011 7:35:28 pm

I remember briefly seeing a small article on the Singaporeans' involvement with Tampere, but couldn't remember if that was the club you supported or not.

Great to hear. You should talk to the UltrasWorldwide guy about posting something. This is truly special.
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Unread postby finnfan » Tue May 17, 2011 7:37:04 pm

CursedFrogurt wrote:Also, what's the transfer window like? Brandon might let some ECS FC players go for a modest fee... :D

This season, as far as I understand, anybody can just show up at any game and is eligible to play. I'm sure any ECS FC player who comes for a summer holiday in Finland could find some playing time in TamU.

After our first match the manager asked if any of the supporters had some money on them for the referee fee, so I think our ability to pay transfer fees might be limited right now.
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Unread postby Ultra666 » Tue May 17, 2011 7:40:00 pm

Thank you for sharing.
Much respect to you and the rest of the Sinikaarti.
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Unread postby finnfan » Tue May 17, 2011 7:44:03 pm

Framlingham wrote:Any particular reason the "k" in TamU-k isn't capitalized? Great writeup Finn!

I've seen it capitalized and not capitalized. We don't really have a standard way of writing it as of yet. We should have our web page opening soon, so maybe that provides an answer which it is. I think usually in similar name constructs the letter at that position is not capitalized. In Finnish capitalization conventions are different from English. For example, you wouldn't capitalize the C and S in Emerald City Supporters if it was in Finnish. However, the English capitalization convention is creeping into the Finnish usage.
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Unread postby C.How » Tue May 17, 2011 7:50:57 pm

I love that last pic. Enjoy every minute!
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Unread postby yoakster314 » Tue May 17, 2011 10:27:35 pm

Man this was fun to read, and I look forward to following this along with you Finn. Thanks for taking the time to share with everyone!
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Unread postby ProdigalReality » Tue May 17, 2011 10:48:49 pm

Tam U vs ECS FC. Get it done!
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Unread postby SteelReserve » Tue May 17, 2011 10:51:51 pm

Watching the video of you and your 21 other supporters continue singing in the same way you always have after facing such devastating adversity was truly inspiring. The best of luck to you, the Sinikaarti and most importantly your club.
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