FILE – This file contains a photo of Finnish fans on November 18, 2019 their team applauded after the European Championship qualifier for Group J between Greece and Finland at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece.An outstanding soccer year 2019 in Finland should reach a new high in the 2020 season first major tournament and Finland should be owned by the European Championship in mid-June. (AP Photo / Thanassis Stavrakis)
GENEVA – An outstanding year 2019 for Finnish football should reach a new high in the 2020 season.
The national team qualified for their first major tournament last November, and Finland should be obsessed with the European Championship in mid-June.
Finland, another Nordic nation that made a long-term debut in blue and white, wanted to follow Iceland's inspiring run to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.
“It was really, really positive. The country has never been so enthusiastic, ”said Timo Marjamaa, CEO of the Finnish league, to The Associated Press about his home country, which is world champion in its top sport ice hockey.
The coronavirus pandemic postponed Euro 2020 – where Finland should play against high-ranking Belgium, Denmark and neighboring Russia – by one year.
On June 16, Finnish fans want to resume the national cup competition that was stopped in March instead of preparing for the Russians in nearby St. Petersburg.
July 1st is the start of the Veikkausliiga season with 12 teams until government approval. That's almost three months after the league's scheduled opening day and more than eight months since a memorable title was sealed for 2019.
The league cup won by KuPS in October was the team from Kuopios for the first in 43 years and the first to be decided after the regular season in a championship group with six teams.
The background was the expectation that Finland with group leader Italy would advance to Euro 2020 by winning their home games in October and November.
Star striker Teemu Pukki scored two goals in every 3-0 win against Armenia and Liechtenstein to seal the qualification with one game.
"It was the best situation I've ever had," said Marjamaa, who played in the league and Finnish national team 20 years ago. This era had stars like Jari Litmanen, a Champions League winner at Ajax, and Liverpool captain Sami Hyypia.
"Now it could be the worst," said the league official during a lengthy shutdown that has frozen the industry's income. "In the worst case, some of the clubs will be out of business if it takes a long time."
A typical Veikkausliiga club budget is around 1 million euros ($ 1.09 million). Around half could be earned on match days through ticket sales, sponsorship, groceries and goods.
"Game income is really very important," Marjamaa admitted, although he hopes empty stadiums can be avoided. A limit of 500 people could be allowed, and the league is working on plans to accommodate up to 400 fans.
Finland has earned a reputation for coping well with the health crisis. A government has been led by a 34-year-old woman, Prime Minister Sanna Marin, since December.
The nation of 5.5 million people had 306 deaths from COVID-19 by Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The football league is planning a late end on November 21 for such a cold northern climate.
Marjamaa said it could return to a regular season with only 22 games if game data was lost due to more waves of infections. Football players were not prioritized for testing by authorities
Delays in the game have an advantage for young Finnish players as they have extra time to impress coach Markku Kanerva for choosing Euro 2020.
"You have one year left to start your game," said Marjamaa.
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