Originally published on the 23rd of June 2014
Updated on the 11th of July 2014
Last season they created a shock when they kicked out Finnish Champions HJK Helsinki, managing to pass a European leg for the very first time.
After that they were eliminated by Viktoria Plzen.
However, it only meant they could access the Europa League play-offs (lost to Juande Ramos’ Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk).
This season they return to the Europa League first qualifying round after losing to Dinaburg (LVA – 2009-10) FC Honka (FIN – 2011-12) and Khazar Lankaran (AZR – 2012-13) in the previous occasions.
Overcoming FRAM Reykjavik presented some problems, especially in the return game in Tallinn. Notwithstanding the 1-0 advantage accumulated in Iceland, Kalju managed to complicate their lives when they let FRAM pulle level (2-2) and suffered a final siege in the box. If FRAM had scored, the 3-3 on aggregate would have qualified the Icelandic club from Reykjavik.
There have been changes almost in every line at Kalju compared to season 2013 which saw them runners-up behind Levadia.
In the defence, Mikk Reintam (Estonian international) joined the club after his period in Finland ended. He immediately formed a solid pair of central defenders together with another international, Alo Bärengrub. Kalju account for the second best defence this season, 6 goals suffered.
In the midfield, there was a total makeover. With Eino Puri emigrated to Romania (FC Botosani) and Gambia Yankuba Ceesay in Finland second tier (Ykkonen), Nõmme Kalju brought in new foreign signings: Brazilian Fabio Prates (read an interview with him here) and French Reginald (another Lille output as Allan Kimbaloula). However, the greatest addition in the line was the 63-time Estonian international Martin Vunk who left Sillamäe to return to a Tallinn (in the past he was at Flora).
After the departure of Premium Liiga 2014 top-scorer, Vladimir Voskoboinikov (on loan to a China lower league club), they have not signed anyone up front entrusting Tarmo Neemelo, the other striker at the club.
However, 'The Bison', will be injured for two months: he missed the double leg with FRAM and will also mis the confrontation against Lech Poznan.
The Italian striker, Damiano Quintieri (three goals in the Champions League games last season, a brace scored against Viktoria Plzen) has fully recovered from the injury to the knee and has recently returned to the pitch and scored also a goal. In the return game in Tallinn against FRAM, he hit the woodwork and showed great initiative. Fielded first as left flanker, he was then moved up front to replace Brazilian Felipe Nunes, out for a minor injury. The Brazilian was a legend at the club in past season before leaving for Levadia (another Tallinn's club) and then Estonia. He returned to Kalju and professional football after a break.
Another chance up front shall be new signing, Jarmo Ahjupera. The former international returned from an unlucky spell in Hungary (Gyor ETO) where he played little and suffered from injury.
A player that will miss on Kalju's left flank is Allan Kimbaloula, a French-Congolese talent that has been shining most both in the domestic and European games last season. He hit the headlines in July 2013 after rumours were spread that AS Roma was after him. In winter he was on trial at Slask Wroclaw. Now he will be out for 5 months due to bad knee injury that will also block his transfer (Belgium or back to France were the rumoured destinations).
The striking force of Kalju is completed by Japanese trequartista Hidetoshi Wakui (who became world famous for the ten-pin celebration - check video below) and right flanker, Janar Toomet. In defence the right full-back position is covered by Tihhon Śiśov and Ken Kallaste. Ken is more offensive than Tihhon as the latter is endowed with more defensive attitude and not with great crossing skills. Ken can instead produce sharp assists both on the run and on set-pieces (he is the corner-kicks taker).
Śiśov suffered an ankle twist in the domestic league (Premium Liiga) and might miss the double confrontation. In his place, against FRAM, played French midfielder Reginald.
The goalkeeper, Vitali Teleś, is very confident both inside the box and in the aerial game accounting also for Kalju’s solidity in the back. During this season he commited only one considerable mistake and it was in the return game against FRAM when he mismanaged the timing of his aerial catch allowing FRAM to pull level (2-2). In domestic league he has been beaten only 6 times.
Europa League, 1st qualifier
FRAM Reykjavik vs. Nõmme Kalju 0-1 (Fabio Prates)
Nõmme Kalju vs. FRAM Reykjavik 2-2 (Felipe Nunes, Hidetoshi Wakui) match report here
Coach Igor Prins (a former defender and international) has fielded a 4-2-3-1 almost in each game played this season. Last season he managed to get the most out of the 4-4-1-1 with Quintieri behind Voskoboinikov up front. After the latter left for China and the former got injured, he opted for three men behind the only striker (usually it was Neemelo). If Ahjupera will be employed, he might opt for returning to the 4-4-1-1 however, the new formation has boosted Wakui’s netting skills: already 11 goals, 4 short of his record in Premium Liiga. The formation has worked well and this might suggest Prins not to make any revolution on the eve of the European challenge. He has also tried Quintieri up front in place of Neemelo however the solution did not work well as Quintieri is more of a second striker than a pure centre forward. Same goes with Nunes up front.
Streak in Europe
It took three campaigns for Kalju to taste the first European win ever: the 2-1 in Tallinn against HJK that gave the ‘Pink Panthers’ the win on aggregate.
This was the first and only win. The other 13 games (including current season) account for 1 win 5 draws and 7 losses.
Kalju debut season in Europe was in 2009-10.
The club rose in the last 6 years to the riches of the Estonian football marking a 10-year growth that brought them from the abysses of Estonian amateur leagues, to the first title ever (2012).
A brief story of the club is available here.
· The first European goal was scored by Mikk Haavistu againsy FC Dinaburg (2009-10) in the return leg in Tallinn lost 1-2
· The nickname ‘Pink Panthers’ comes from the original kit displayed by Kalju and supplied by Lotto on the same model of US Palermo.
· The right full-back, Ken Kallaste, is the son of legendary Risto Kallaste, the flip throw-in performer of the Estonia national team of the 90’s
· The assistant coach is Getulio Fredo, Brazilian with Finnish passport. At the club he is also youth coach, women's team coach and goalkeepers coach.
· When they won the title in 2012, they were the first to celebrate in Tallinn’s streets on an open bus
· Kalju’s home stadium is Hiiu Stadium, however, due to capacity reason and acclimatization to the European campaign, they move to Kadriorg Park Stadium as soon as the grass pitch is accessible. In case they will progress to third round, they will move to A.LeCoq Arena
· Kalju belongs geographically to the Tallinn city district of Nõmme where Finnish legend, Jari Litmanen, has set his home together with his Estonian wife. Jari’s kids are regulars at youth trainings at Kalju and in the past there was a rumour he might end his career with the ‘Pink Panthers’
· Kalju in Estonian means ‘rock’
Guide to Tallinn city (ENG)
Nõmme Kalju on Rumori di Spogliatoio
Match reports from 2014 season (from older to newer)