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Kalle Koskinen: The Iceman

Kalle Koskinen Challenges The World Of Football In This Tale
Started on 23 April 2019 by Justice
Latest Reply on 7 December 2019 by Griffo
Very very good Justice!
Such a bitterly disappointing way to lose out on a maiden qualification for a major tournament. I can imagine the pain Kalle and his teammates must have felt!
Justice's avatar Group Justice
1 yearEdited

Sie Sind Die Besten

Kalle Koskinen Recounts The Most Memorable Game Of His Playing Career


'Die Meister
Die Besten
Les grandes équipes
The champions'

The most iconic song in football. Possibly the most iconic song in the world. Lining up with my team mates and facing the Wembley crowd, with the choir singing that iconic anthem, that was when the magnitude of the event hit me. I was about to play the biggest game of my club career in what was set to be an all-time classic.

The lyrics of the anthem were sang in French, German and English. The trilogy of Europe's core languages. It was an all-German Champions League final as I lined up alongside my team mates in the red strip of Bayern Munich against the yellow strip of Borussia Dortmund. It was at Wembley, the home of English football. Franck Ribéry, our star player and the man selected as the one to watch for the final, completed the trinity of nationalities.

'Sie sind die Besten' - these are the best. We were the two best teams in the competition that year. The two German giants. We rocked Europe in our own unique variations. Nobody could stop us as we marched towards the final showpiece event, where dreams were made. Both teams deserved the trophy, but only one could take it home.

My club career had been lead me to this moment. I left HJK for the German giants in January 2010 for a fee of €2.5M and we lifted the Bundesliga title that season. It was very nearly a dream debut season for myself in the famous red strip, as we competed in a UEFA Champions League final. Inter Milan denied us club football's greatest prize, with a José Mourinho-lead team proving too much for us in Madrid.

We endured more heartbreak as we succumbed to a formidable Chelsea side the previous year. It was in the very same stage of the competition, the final, and in our own home. Didier Drogba was the hero of the night as he scored a dramatic late equaliser before scoring the decisive penalty. We were distraught.

My style of play had altered since arriving at the Bavarian club. I changed from becoming an all-action goal scoring midfielder to becoming a tenacious ball winner in the middle of the park. I was partnered alongside a less-mobile Bastian Schweinsteiger regularly, who I provided the energy for. I was Bayern's workhorse in midfield, while Bastian was the brain of the team.

We were a team with incredible quality in defence, with the best goalkeeper in the world in the form of Manuel Neuer between the sticks. Our skipper, Phillip Lahm, offered experience in a back line which included Boateng, Dante and Alaba. With myself and Schweinsteiger in midfield, we were a very solid back six when required.

It was our attacking flair which impressed so many. Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry were our star players going forward, but we had Thomas Müller, Mario Mandžukić, Mario Gómez, Claudio Pizarro and a young Xherdan Shaqiri providing the goals for us on a regular basis too, with the former two of those starting in the final.

We were very wary of our opposition, Borussia Dortmund, however. They had pipped us to the Bundesliga title in each of the last two seasons, albeit we did regain our spot as champions in the season just gone. With the likes of Mats Hummels, Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski in their team, we knew they had star quality.

Jürgen Klopp stood in their dugout. He was a very animated character, at the quietest of times. His belief in a high-energy game rubbed off on his players who were willing to die for their club. Him and Dortmund made an opposition which we battled hard against, but had a great respect for.

In our dugout was an elder statesman known as Jupp Heynckes. He was a manager loved by the fans and who had a fantastic CV to his name, having lifted the World Cup as a West Germany player before lifting the Champions League as Real Madrid manager. We had complete faith in a man who acted so much as our father throughout his time at the club. He was our general.

The relationship between Dortmund and ourselves was a tense one but we both respected each other's beliefs. 'Echte Liebe' was painted along banners and flags held by the Dortmund faithful. The phrase meant 'true love', which was exactly what they felt for their club.

'Mia San Mia' was our slogan, and we stood by it. 'We are who we are' was its translation and we played our own brand of football in our own way. We were unique and different to the world and that was what made us who we were. It was our mission statement, it was everything that defined our football club. We were determined to prove we could win the Champions League our way, having fallen short at the final hurdle three years previously, and one year previously. We were determined to prove our worth.

In the evening sun at London, both sets of players started at a scintillating pace. Dortmund made the earlier noises, in truth, cutting through myself and Schweinsteiger early on. Lewandowski forced an incredible save out of Neuer, with our number one then required to deny Błaszczykowski in the box.

Dortmund's 'heavy metal' brand of football had us on the back foot, and they were throwing everything at us. But we had class of our own, and both Mandžukić and myself came close with headers from inside the penalty area.

It was a very hot day in London and every single player was putting in an incredible shift. Both teams wanted the win and, on another day, both sides might have scored five or six each in what was an incredible first half football. It was the class of both teams in attack which shone through.

Dortmund could not sustain their incredible pace in the second half and we sensed an opportunity to take the game by the scruff of the neck. We took it. I played Robben into space in the box, who cut back for a free Mandžukić to give us the lead.

An İlkay Gündoğan penalty goal to tie the game was not enough for Dortmund as we continued to pounce on the space left by the tired Dortmund players. Alaba came close with a long-range drive, Mandžukić hit the side netting, Schweinsteiger had a long range strike parried and I slapped a shot against the top side of the bar as we looked to win the game.

It was our Dutch maestro who produced a moment of true magic in the box to win the game for us. With ninety seconds remaining, Robben dodged a number of desperate lunges in the box before sliding the ball beyond Weidenfeller and into the back of the net. We had won it.

Bayern Munich had won a fifth European Cup/Champions League, and it was my first and only time earning football's holy grail. The trophy I coveted so much as a child, and had missed out on in two previous finals, was finally in my hands.

I had achieved my one and only goal in football. I had reached the pinnacle. All of the pain from before had faded away momentarily. Two lost finals in recent previous seasons, being cheated out of European Championship qualification a number of years ago, the sadness which followed my family following my mother's passing. It all faded away.

I gave my medal to my father, who was in the crowd. Tears streamed down his face as we embraced. I felt his pride as we shared words. I would not have achieved the medal had my father, and my mother, not made the sacrifices they did for me. It was their medal, as much as it was mine. It was our special moment.

As I made my way towards the dressing room I felt a hand grip my shoulder and I turned around. A familiar giant stood before me. It was the Dortmund manager, Jürgen Klopp, gracious in defeat. He congratulated me and I offered him my respect for the battling performance his team produced.

"I read an article which reported how you spoke of dedicating everything you do to your mother, who passed when you were born, and your father who is always by your side, supporting you every day. Not a lot of people would wear their family colours on their sleeve like that. I admire this about you."

"Thank you, Jürgen. That means a lot to me."

"Thank you for being somebody who the children of this world can aspire to be like. I always read stories of the world that are not so nice and then to see a player who truly fights with their heart on their sleeve is refreshing. I can only ask of you, as one professional to another, to never change that about yourself."

"Never. I promise."

We embraced, as if we had known each other for an eternity, before making our seperate ways off the pitch. Moments like that were why I adored the opposition manager. He was a man of class. He was a football manager second, and a human first. A world class human. A hero. Somebody to aspire to be like.

In my greatest moment as a player, I had aspirations to become something else. Something better. I didn't want to be remembered for what I did on the pitch. I wanted to be somebody who could make a difference, but not just as a player or a manager. I wanted to be a person who could inspire those around me to be the best they could be. I wanted to be a hero."

Comment Section

Jopaaaa, thank you. I can only hope to not disappoint!
Jack, the heartbreak is something which shapes the character that Kalle becomes in this story, but there is plenty of more heartbreak to come!
Lil' Griff, thank you Lil' Griffy!
ScottT, it was a nightmare for them. So close, yet so far. It would have been a tournament to put Finland on the global football map. Some truly great players missed out that day.

Previous Update: #3 - Bem-vindo ao Estádio do Dragão
Next Update: #5 - The Iceman
Everytime I open this story I start singing Vanilla Ice in my head... #chuckliddellwantshisnicknameback
I can only imagine how it feels to lift the CL title. Great writing, again.

PS: That Borussia boss seems like a lovely guy, if only he'd become manager of Liverpool one day ;) .
Another excellent piece of writing from you. I have to mention that, purely because of how breath-taking it is, as always. Every small detail is written to perfection and I love that. I have to say, congratulations to Kalle for capturing the Champions League. The sheer elation he must feel after all the short-comings he has had in his career up to that point is something to note. Jurgen's attitude is something extremely admirable, as is Kalle's for that matter.

I continue to look forward to the next update.
Justice's avatar Group Justice
1 yearEdited

The Iceman

Kalle Koskinen Recounts The Game Which Gave Him The Nickname 'The Iceman'


"You murdered your mom! You murdered your mom! When you were born, you murdered your mom!"

The chanting had begun in the early stages of the first half, following a heavy tackle I committed, fairly, on Arsenal's Jack Wilshere. The Englishman was left on the ground in a heap, with Mathieu Flamini and Laurent Koscielny outraged that the referee, Nicola Rizzoli, had not awarded a foul. It wasn't a foul, I had gotten the ball.

Arsenal Football Club had fans who so often spoke with pride of how their club was one with true class. Their chanting of my mother's death proved otherwise. It was a cowardly answer by a group of the fans to the superiority that was on display by myself and the rest of Pep Guardiola's evolved Bayern Munich side.

Following our Champions League victory the previous season, Jupp Heynckes had stepped away from his role to allow for the induction of former Barcelona player and manager Pep Guardiola. The Spaniard was regarded as one of the greatest managers of the modern era and he brought him with ideas that evolved the way we played. He seemed to get an extra fifteen percent out of us in every single training session, and in every single game. We felt invincible.

I did not feel invincible in that moment of time. English was not my first language but one I spoke and understood with a reasonable amount of fluency. The chant hurt. Upon hearing the words spoken by the Arsenal faithful, I realised I had reached the lowest point of my life. The weight on my shoulders tripled.

Pep was fuming on the sideline, protesting furiously about the Arsenal fans to the fourth official. The fourth official insisted that the incident would be reported to UEFA but nothing more could be done at the time. Pep, instead, turned to Wenger. The Spaniard was loyal to his players, one of his greatest traits, and he pleaded with his opposite number to do something. Wenger was unmoved. The veil of class which Wenger was so often perceived to hold in high regard was nothing more than a shroud of lies. He was just as shallow as those speaking ill of my mother.

I saw a figure of darkness and looked it in the eye. The pain was almost unbearable, but I would not be defeated. I clenched my jaw and breathed deeply. My father used to tell me that pain was inevitable, but suffering was an option. I held on to that thought and used the pain to fuel my desire to win.

We were superior to a fragile Arsenal outfit. Just like the fans who spoke ill, this team lacked spine. They were a team that could play anybody off the pitch but nobody feared playing against them. A team of true technical quality but no meaningful desire to do the necessary to win.

But still, we were wasteful. Their shot stopper, Wojciech Szczesny, had been red carded for a foul on Robben inside the area. Alaba had missed from the spot. Robben, Kroos and my midfield partner for the evening, Thiago, all came close with long range and close range efforts but we failed to score.

As half-time was signaled by the referee, I walked down the tunnel with a grimace on my face. The chants had continued all the way through the first half. I was further insulted by Arsenal fans near the tunnel, with a number of plastic bottles thrown in my direction. I took no notice as I made my way to the locker room.

Pep, still in an almost-uncontrollable state of anger over what had happened, quickly made his way to me inside the dressing room, where I was sat stooped over. Worry was plastered all over his face and he made an offer for the team to walk away from the second half, should I wish so.

"No. That won't stop the chanting, it will just let those who sing have the victory. Let's go out there and show them that we are stronger than their words."

We took our game to a whole new level in the second half. The fans' chanting had continued once we stepped out of the locker room but we were defiant. We were better than that. There was purpose in our play and heart in our work. We followed the code of the club; 'Mia San Mia' - we are who we are.

It took less than ten minutes for us to find the breakthrough goal in the second half. Toni Kroos picked up the ball twenty-five yards from goal before curling an impeccable effort in to the top right corner of the goal. It silenced the Arsenal fans and motivated ours. We were firmly in the ascendancy.

We made sure the Arsenal players knew they were in a game against real men. Their players left battered and bruised, with Kieran Gibbs first making way and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain soon following suit. They were physically and mentally beaten by us. We were not going to be stopped by a lack of class from a select few of their fans.

The latter few minutes of the game presented me my moment. David Alaba had worked his way down the left flank for us and fizzed in a curling cross at head-height. I ran onto the ball and, without leaping from the ground, I planted a header into the far corner. Game over.

I didn't celebrate. I didn't even change my expression. The Arsenal fans booed me but I was defiant. I would not show weakness in the face of such evil. I made my way back to our own half in anticipation of Arsenal kicking off and play continuing, unaware of the media's interpretation of my reaction to scoring.

My coolness and my calmness in the aftermath of scoring, having been barraged with insults and demeaning chants for an entire game, had lead to the media comparing me to an ice-cold assassin. The nickname 'The Iceman' was coined by a Sky Sports presenter known as Harry Redknapp, who spoke highly of my reaction to the abuse.

I enjoyed the nickname. It was a representation of what I needed to be at the time. Was I an unemotional person? No. At the time I just needed to be more than a person. I needed to be a warrior who wouldn't be phased by what I had experienced. I needed to wear a mask which would help me in battle. With that mask, I was what Bayern Munich needed me to be. I was what I needed to be. I was The Iceman."

Comment Section

Lil' Griff, no.
Jopaaaa, the dream would be for Klopp to become Liverpool manager ;)
ScottT, detail is something which has been important to me and I thank you for noticing that. Hopefully you enjoyed this update too :P

Previous Update: #4 - Sie Sind Die Besten
Next Update: #6 - Koti On Sydämen Kanssa
No no no... he just stole the nickname from Chuck Liddell... we have been through this!
I can feel your love towards Arsenal, Justice :P . Good update again !
Great Update once again! Typical Arsenal with that sort of abuse but Kalle shows just how much better he is compared to them!
Beautiful piece of writing. I would have loved to see ArsenalFanTV's reaction to your goal after the game :)) Really love the character development from just a football player into a man having to deal with a barrage of bad luck and sick chanting and turning both experiences into a positive shift in character. Really starting to see who Kalle Koskinen really is now and I can't wait for more.
I bet Redknapp thought Kalle played a triffic game.
Justice's avatar Group Justice
1 yearEdited

Koti On Sydämen Kanssa

Kalle Koskinen Details The Final Few Years Of His Playing Career


The game at the Emirates was a real eye-opener for me. I had many ups and downs as a player but it was the first time I had knowingly become a victim of unwarranted abuse from anybody. Of course I blamed my birth for my mother's death, it was what killed her. But could I have done anything to save her? Absolutely not.

To add insult to injury, UEFA did not press charges against Arsenal Football Club, or those responsible, and instead fined Pep Guardiola for his protests on the touchline. It was an unsurprising moment in football which shone a bad light on the hierarchy. The etiquite of the 'beautiful' game had been compromised once more, so that the toes of a major football club, Arsenal, were not stepped on.

The injustice shown by European football's governing body hurt me more than the incident itself. I no longer wished to be a representative of the corruption and the moronic behaviour of the power-drunk few who spoiled the game for so many. I was not the only one unhappy with the decision.

Medgar Evers wrote 'you can kill a man but you can't kill an idea'. The idea in question with the situation I found myself in was a need for transparency in football's governing bodies. I wasn't a man interested in politics, nor did I have any place in such an area, but I was saddened by the impotence displayed by those in charge with regards to penalising the very few people who ruined a game of football for so many. It disgusted me. The dirty secrets of UEFA were, quite simply put, swept under the carpet.

It was clear to me that UEFA was not going to change its stance at the time and so I felt obliged to take action in the only way I could. In a major public gesture, I retired from international football, and from playing in UEFA competition at club level. I was not prepared to indirectly represent UEFA as a player for Finland. It was not a question of national loyalty, but to what competition I would be playing in. The same principle applied to my club involvement. I targeted UEFA in a scathing public attack.

My contract with Bayern Munich was set to expire at the end of the 2013/2014 season. I had made the decision to leave the club upon its expiration, which I explained to Pep Guardiola. He was puzzled with my decision and pleaded for an explanation.

"When I was debating leaving HJK to join Bayern Munich several years ago, my father once told me 'koti on sydämen kanssa'. It is a saying in Finnish which translates to 'home is where the heart is'. At the time, my heart was here in Bayern where I could achieve what I wished to achieve in football. But now, my heart is no longer here. I still love this club but in light of what has happened, I feel as though I must return to Finland, my home."

The gaffer was disappointed but, at the same time, he understood. He showed compassion and offered me his gratitude for my work at Bayern to date. He was a man of real class and a dependable figure inside and outside of the football world.

The timing of my departure coincided with Toni Kroos' move to Real Madrid. It opened the door for a certain Xabi Alonso to arrive in Munich, to a fantastic reception. A serial title winner and a modern-day legend of the game, Xabi Alonso filled into the gap left by Kroos and myself and transformed the team into something new.

Within a week of my departure from Bayern Munich, I had returned to playing for HJK. The club's manager, Mika Lehkosuo was adamant that the club could not match the wage I was earning at Bayern Munich but I assured him that I did not return to HJK for the money, accepting a significant wage cut in the process.

I was reunited with a former Finland midfield partner in Markus Heikkinen, who was midway through his thirties and coming towards the end of his playing career at the time. Together, we immediately helped lead HJK to a dominant Veikkausliiga title victory, topping the table by a clear thirteen points. We also bagged the Suomen Cup following a penalty shootout victory over FC Inter in the final.

The following season was a somewhat disappointing one as we finished in third place in third place in the league, just two points from the top of the table. A Liigacup victory helped make ammends for a season which also saw us reach the UEFA Europa League playoffs, but Russian outfit Krasnodar proved too strong over the two legs.

The 2016 season was to be my last as a player. It was a season of more heartbreak on the pitch for me as we finnished as runners-up in the Veikkausliiga and suffered a penalty shootout defeat in the final of the Suomen Cup. Disappointing campaigns in the Liigacup and in the UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds capped off a year to forget as I hung up my boots.

The reason I cut my playing career short was because of an opportunity that had presented itself to me, which I felt obliged to take. Aleksander Čeferin had become the latest president of UEFA in September and he had contacted me in the hope that I could play a part in improving the difficult situation in football regarding crowd chanting. Čeferin highlighted the chanting made towards myself by Arsenal supporters in 2014 and suggested that I was the right person to bring about a system which would penalise those responsible.

Once again, the darkness of my past looked me in the eye. This time I did not blink. I was prepared to fight the monsters in football head-on to make the game, and the world, a better place for all those who have seen darkness in their lives. I was prepared to pull on the mask which I wore once before. As a representative of a new-age of UEFA, I was prepared to become the man that football needed me to be in order to right the wrongs of my predecessors. I was The Iceman.

Comment Section

Lil' Griff, Chuck stole it from Kalle!
Jopaaaa, oh yeah, I love Arsenal.....
TheLFCFan, fam blud fam blud
Jack, there's still plenty more to see!
Scoot, so did his tax-dog

Previous Update: #5 -The Iceman
Next Update: #7 - The Next Chapter
As always, setting the standard for all of us, another great update!
Great update once again. I am a fan of Kalle's decision to help lead a new revolution as part of UEFA, to tackle the deep-rooted problems ongoing within football. As somebody who experienced it first hand, I am confident that he will be able to make a difference.

You are reading "Kalle Koskinen: The Iceman".

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