I had two reasons to choose Finland when I was playing Winning XI (today PES) against any opposition. Reasons that you can righteously call as legends.
One is probably the greatest Finnish football player, and I do not need to name him, do I?
The other one is not yet a legend, because he is still playing and he is only three goals short from that legend to become the topscorer of Huuhkajat (The Eagle-Owls, how the Finnish national team is known): Mikael Forssel, HJK Helsinki’s number 9 and flagship player.
I met Mikael after the friendly game against Flora in the new indoor facilities.
It is one of the many games that both clubs are playing to prepare to the new season (match report soon available here).
We start talking about the match.
The result is not important in his words, HJK workloads are probably heavier than Flora’s as the Finnish side pressure wears thin already after twenty minutes into first half: ‘We had a double session on Monday and Tuesday (the 10th and 11th of February, the two days ahead of the trip to Tallinn – A.P.)’ tells Mikael to RdS ‘it was a tough game. In first half we really didn’t know how to press. In the second we pressed much higher and it was much better for us because if we won the ball, we would have it already in Flora’s half’.
Regarding the few chances created by HJK, Forssell was quite honest: ‘the problem was that we couldn’t create any chance, it took some time for us to bring the ball into the box. Little bit too long’
He confirmed that the toughest preparation is certainly aimed at lasting longer especially having in mind the Champions League preliminaries in July: ‘during this time we’ve been training and playing a lot, our bodies are tired. These games obviously are not the target of our preparation. However, we need these games. Flora were very sharp, they surprised us in a good way’
Once talked about the game, we took a short dive with Forssell about his career. Being your columnist an Italian, he could not avoid asking him how it was working with them.
Vialli, Zola, Di Matteo, Ranieri, they were quite many actually. What you think about them as football people?
They are football crazy, obviously. It was such a pleasure to play with great Italians. For me, Zola was the best player and a wonderful, wonderful guy. Coach Ranieri was very prone to tactics. Vialli too even though he was a player-manager back then, this is not happening anymore. It was a time in football when it could be done, having a coach who was also a player. Wonderful people. In general I love Italian food and culture (smiles – A.P.)
Recently you had Tornaghi, an Italian goalkeeper, on trial at HJK. He is an Internazionale academy-grown. What you think about him? We haven’t seen him here in Tallinn, what is his situation?
Yes, he is not with us anymore. I don’t know 100% what is the situation. He was a good goalkeeper. I think he hadn’t been training for a couple of months so you could maybe see that a bit. I think he is a good guy and good keeper, but probably not good enough for us.
Going back to your career, at Chelsea you debuted against Oxford United and you scored two goal (it was an FA Cup game – A.P.). At that time you were 17. Vialli was your coach and a great striker of the recent past. What he told you before the game, do you still remember?
He told me to enjoy the game, don’t take any pressure. Before that game, I had been training very well, I think it was from 6 to 8 weeks. He saw me in training and told me I was ready to play. In first half I had a great one-on-one chance against the keeper but I didn’t score. During the break, in the dressing room, I was really upset about it. I apologized to everybody for having missed that chance. I said I would have scored in second half and everyone answered ‘of course you will!’ (laughs – A.P.) . And I scored two!
Did you have to do something when the game was over? Offer drinks or something?
I had to sing in front of all the squad and staff. It was horrible.
Which song did you choose?
It was an old Russian sauna song. I don’t know any Finnish one, I am terrible singer! (laughs loudly – A.P.)
You played in many great clubs, according to you, what was the coolest for environment, supporters, passion?
I loved everywhere I have been. I love the English football, with Chelsea was fantastic. We were right in the center of the city. We had Champions League success. I was there when we won the league. That was something very very special. But I have to say I played in Birmingham for a long time (at Birmingham City from 2003 to 2008 – A.P.). How fanatical can these people be towards their own club. Moreover, the rivalry with Aston Villa, the derbies were fantastic! Derbies had to be played 12 o’clock on a Sunday because otherwise people would have gotten drunk and fighted (laughs – A.P.). In Germany, there’s also fantastic football. They have all these flags at the stadium, the loud microphones, it was a bit different from England but I can say I was in many good places.
The national team. You are just 3 goals away from Litmanen, Finland’s top scorer of all times. You haven’t managed to score any goal at the end of last year and in the friendly game against Oman recently. Do you think you will make it?
It will be difficult. The problem is I need to be playing. Finland is playing with only one striker in front and the regular has been Teemu Pukki from Celtic at the moment. I need to prove myself, I need to be fit. Touching wood (he touches the back of his head actually – A.P.) everything goes well. However, I think I can do it if I play and obviously, I need to score those goals. However, if Jari will stay on top, he has deserved it.
Are you having jokes with Jari about this record?
Not yet, maybe if I get one goal short (laughs – A.P.).
Is he doing a bit of voodoo?
(Laughs – A.P.) Maybe! I shall do it back (makes the voodoo doll pinching gesture while laughing – A.P.)
Your contract with HJK is expiring at the end of 2014. What’s next? Are you going to continue playing? Will you coach instead? Or will you stay in the club with other roles?
I would love to play. I love playing...and touching wood once again (laughs and touches the back of his head again – A.P.) If my body stays fit I want to play as long as I can this is 100% my will.
However I have got the UEFA B licence, so if I want to start coaching I can definitely do it afterwards. I am in that stage now that I think about all the options, however football is everything to me. I eat, drink and sleep football.
One curiosity: on Twitter you always tweet about your passion for chocolate. Where this passion comes from?
I don’t know, but I sweat it all out! (laughs and show me the plentiful of sweat coming through his thin hairs – A.P.)
Thank you Mikael and good luck for the upcoming season and the Champions League. Who know, we might catch up in Tallinn again as Levadia will represent Estonia this time.
You can follow Mikael's update about football, chocolate and weather in Helsinki at @MikaelForssell. He is fun!
We wish to thank HJK Helsinki press office for the kind availability in 'lending' Mikael for 10 minutes for this interview just after the game.
Disappointed after losing 1-0 to FC Flora away in a friendly! But can not deny that some tax-free chocolate shopping is cheering me up...— Mikael Forssell (@MikaelForssell) February 12, 2014