Kalle Koskinen Was Inspired By Finland's Very Special Religion
Life in Paimio was a peaceful one, outside of football. Away from the major cities of Finland, Paimio was a small town with not much to get excited about aside from sporting occasions. For myself, a man accustomed to being in the limelight for club and country as a player, it was the ideal place to settle in to a more permanent home that what he had been accustomed to in previous years.
Summer had arrived early in the Baltic country, with a warm sun heating Paimio to just under twenty degrees. A cool breeze drifted through the town, as small clumps of melting snow were still visible beneath the shade of the trees. The trees themselves seemed to dance to a silent tune only known to them, with the wind swaying them from one side to another. There was a harmony between nature and its residents, as the Paimio locals seemed to have an unspoken respect for the earth which they built their homes on. Admiration glistened in their eyes as they walked through the town. It was a town and a land they were proud of.
In the short time I had been a resident of the south-western town, I had become a part of the small family of Paimio. I was welcomed with open arms and shown kindness and respect for privacy in abundance. I wasn't the only new resident in Paimio either. A middle-aged Spaniard by the name of Rodrigo Soldado had moved into a house no more than thirty metres away from my own not so long after I had. He was a polite and friendly man, if not a little on the quiet side. When quizzed about his decision to move to Paimio, he offered the beauty of the Finnish nature, as well as the peace and quiet of Paimio, as valid reasons.
I considered Rodrigo to be a friend, but there was another person who I had grown much closer to during my time in Paimio. Elsa. She and I had shared many evenings together, both professionally and personally. Elsa had interviewed me a number of times since my arrival at Paimio but we also shared time together as good friends. We shared a number of similar interests, from a passion for sports to music, and more. She was a person who brought out the best in me, and I hoped I had brought out the best in her. While our friendship was purely platonic, I had secretly hoped that it could blossom into something more.
On that particular May evening, we met each other in Paimio, outside the local pub, to spend the evening together. She wore a skin-tight pair of faded blue jeans with an oversized Finnish ice hockey jersey wrapped around her body. Her long blonde hair flowed freely behind her shoulders with her face immaculately sculpted, unblemished by anything but a stain of bright-pink lipstick which covered her mouth.
We smiled and exchanged pleasantries upon seeing each other before embracing in a tight squeeze. A sweet piney scent wafted from her hair as hugged, heightening my senses. My only urge at that time was to hold that position forever. It was perfect. After what seemed to be a pleasant eternity, we removed each other from our warm embrace and smiled at each other once more, before making our way into the pub itself.
The pub was filled to the rafters with people. A major sporting occasion was about to get underway and there was an air of excitement brewing in the country. Finland faced arch-rivals Sweden in the quarter finals of the IIHF ice hockey world championships. It was a fixture which always generated much excitement all over the globe and an opportunity for both nations to get one over the other.
Ice hockey was more than just a sport in Finland. It was ultimately the meat and drink of any sports-related conversation in the country. For a country with only a few million people, ice hockey was a sport which united everybody together with one common goal. In that sense, it was far more important than football was in Finland. Football was only a sporting spectacle. For the people of Finland, ice hockey was a religion.
I admired how ice hockey was worshipped in the country. While football was the sport I truly loved, I had much respect for the fast-paced sport which Finland continued to produce much excitement for the people when playing. Each player was idolised as true legends, heroes of the people. Ice hockey in Finland had an air about it which I had hoped I would one day deliver to football. It was an ambitious aim, but one worth fighting for.
Elsa had a similar love for ice hockey. As we settled down into a booth, with pints in hands, our gaze was fixed on the large television monitor high in the corner of the room. A whole nation awaited the beginning of the spectacle. As the teams readied themselves in the rink, an eerie silence spread through the pub in Paimio, as it did all across the country. And then, suddenly, the ref dropped the puck down on centre-ice, and the greatest of sporting spectacles had begun.
Fascinated by what we were watching, Elsa and myself shared very few words. Instead, we shared emotions. I felt her excitement, and also her nerves, as she breathed heavily while watching the fixture. I was the same. Our nerves were settled quite quickly as Niko Mikkola raised an entire nation by netting the opening goal with just sixty seconds played. The pub erupted in a chorus of jubilant roars as Finland had taken an early lead. Elsa and myself had jumped to our feet and embraced in celebration. It was advantage Finland.
Our celebrations were shortlived, however. Just over a minute and a half later, Sweden equalised through John Klinberg and a Patric Hornqvist goal had put our bitter rivals ahead by the end of the first period. Jubilation turned into anxiety and dread as the lead had been surrendered and overturned.
The second period did not do much to calm the nerves. Sweden had scored a third with seconds on the clock through Elias Pettersson, before the Fins fought back with great courage. Petteri Lindbohm and Jani Hakanpaa were both on the score sheet to tie the game before the half-hour mark, returning a feeling or pride to us. However, that pride was taken away from us at the end of the second period as Erik Gustaffson scored late on to restore the Swedes' lead.
The goal did little to discourage the Finns watching the game. Despite the team trailing going into the third period, there was an optimism and a great sense of hope among those watching. There was a feeling that something special was about to happen, and everybody was gripped with excitement.
Out came the Finns into the third period, playing at a relentless pace unmatched by the Swedes. The puck moved from side-to-side, from back-to-front, at a frantic speed but despite the best efforts of the Leijonat, Henrik Lundqvist remained impenetrable in the Swedish goal.
With just minutes remaining in the game, and with the Swedes a goal to the good, out went Finland's goalkeeper for a sixth player. It was a great risk, but a necessary one. In the end, it was all worth it. Lundqvist saved shot-after-shot but with seconds remaining, the puck fell kindly to Finnish captain Marko Anttila, who squeezed the puck into the net from close range to send the game to overtime.
There was an incredible jubilation across Finland. The nation was not dead and buried yet. Despite all the odds being stacked against us, we rose and we fought. It was a miracle which had already written the game into history, against our major rival.
As overtime began, it was clear that the Finns were in the ascendancy. It was a matter of whoever scored the next goal would win the game, and the game was expected to be open with just four versus four on the ice. It took just ninety seven seconds for the game to end in overtime. Sakari Manninen moved the puck from back-to-front at pace and was allowed the space to fire a shot at goal, with the puck smacking off the inside of the post before settling into the back of the Swedish net.
There was pandemonium on the ice, in the stands, and all over Finland, as the goal was scored. In Paimio, the pub rocked as everybody jumped and roared in celebration. In the heat of the moment, Elsa and myself clung onto each other and rejoiced. Before I knew what was happening, as if by instinct, our lips locked and we were engaged in a passionate kiss, fueled by the heat of the moment. Lust filled my loins as I was given another reason to celebrate. The kiss lasted for minutes, with nobody else taking notice in the moment of celebration for the ice hockey.
"We've waited long enough, don't you think?" purred Elsa, as our lips broke contact for a brief, agonising moment.
We continued in our frenzy for some time after before slowly making our way towards the door in silent agreement. Once we had exited the pub, we rushed several hundred metres towards my home where we once again kissed in front of the house. Before long, we entered the front door in a passionate tangle of limbs, gleefully unaware of the presence of an onwatcher lurking in the shadows across from the street. In the presence of our lust and passion for each other, we were ignorant to the darkness which awaited us.
, a good results indeed! hehe Kalle will have something up his sleeve
, thank you!
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