Monday, November 21, 2011

From the deepest rocky European South a giant leap to the frozen North: 1976 provided some similarities between Cyprus and Finland. Lowly football, yes, and little known too. Cypriot footballers, at best, went to play in Greece – the Fins ventured further: there were professional players as far as France, but few and hardly remembered anyway. No Jari Litmanens among them. Politics affected Finish football as they did Cypriot football: after the split of Cyprus exile clubs emerged – best know those of Famagusta, who still play as exile clubs stationed in the Greek part of the island. Exile players like Kaiafas were also common. Finland suffered different, usually avoided by the political Left, exiles: those, who run away from territories swallowed by USSR after the Second World War. Among them was the oldest football club of Finland – Reipas was found in 1891 in Viipuri. In 1947 the town was no longer part of Finland and the club moved to Lahti. In Europe it was known as Reipas Lahti, although hit should have been only Reipas, but never mind: it was tough to remember them anyway. And it is even tougher now, for the club is no longer around – in 1996 Reipas merged with local rivals Kuusysi into brand new club FC Lahti. But it is still worth recalling old Reipas: Jari Litmanen started his career at 16, playing for Reipas from 1987 to 1990. In 1976 there was no Litmanen, but here was Finnish Cup:
Just like with Omonia, regretfully I am not certain of the proper spelling of the Cup winners: Standing, left to right: Sassila, Lampi, Saranen, Kanerva, Satala, Hoppi, Parkonen, Tupasela, Toikonen, Reppo, Kosonen.
Sitting: Hamalainen, Lindholm, Huka, M. Kautonen, Antunen, Virtanen, Nordlan, Sandberg, T. Kautonen, Hautemaa.
May be nothing in Europe, but Reipas was not nothing in Finland: this was their 4th consequent Cup they won since 1972 (omitting 1975, when no Cup tournament was staged). Cup specialists for sure – give them direct eliminations.
Champions became different guys:
Kuopion Palloseura from Kuopio, the 8th largest city of Finland (whatever that means in terms of ‘large’). They are commonly known as KuPS and are remarkable for something else than Reipas: KuPS holds the record of Most consequent seasons at top flight – from 1949 to 1992 they played First Division football. With some success as well: in 1976 they won their 5th title, after winning the championships in 1956, 1958, 1966, and 1974. However, it was their last win for the next 40 years… who could have envisioned that in the victorious year?