Today’s interview in Plano Tatico is with a young finnish, that is an escandinavian wonderkid. Toni Kolehmainen, 21 years old, already played in Blackburn Rovers, and got a national title in Eredivisie, with AZ Alkmaar. In your homeland, played in AC Oulu, where he is considered a local hero.
In his answers he talks about varied stuffs, like the actual situation of finnish football, his future outside AZ, that will go to Champions League next year.
Before playing professionally in Finland, you were in the youth team of Blackburn Rovers, in England. How revelant has been this period in English football? Tell us about this days and if were something that made you didn’t go to the first team.
The period is spent with Blackburn Rovers was and still is very important to me. I learned a lot there during that time and i grew a lot mentally as a person and as a player aswell. But to be honest i also had some difficulties being so far from friends and family and that’s the biggest reason i decided to terminate my contract and return to finland. I have no regrets about my time in england. Now looking back at it it was an experience that made mentally a lot stronger.
If it is possible, say some players that worked there if you and today are playing in some football team.
First in my mind comes Matt Derbyshire and Keith Tracey, who both are first team players for Rovers nowadays.
About the style of the game, there are some differences between english style and finnish?
Obviusly the tempo of the game in England is a lot higher that in Finland. The simple reason for that is the better quality of the players.
After this season in England, you returned to OLS Oulu, club of your city of birth. There is a rivalry among OLS Oulu and AC Oulu because of they are localized in the same city?
For sure there is rivalry between the clubs especially when they both played finnish first division. But the football culture in finland in my opinion is not to be compared to the top leagues in Europe but it’s slowly growing.
Despite of your first team had been OLS Oulu, you only became famous in the other team of the city, AC Oulu, after helping them to promote to Veikkausliiga. Which was your sensation of knowing about the interest of AZ Alkmaar?
I was impressed when AZ contacted me ofcourse.They had seen me playing with finland youth national team and called me up for a week to see me in action. The tryout went well and AZ offered me a contract which i decided to take.
Your adaptation in Holand passed by any problem?
I settled well to Holland. Big reason for that is that they also signed a good friend of mine Joona Toivio at the same time. Also theres not big differences between the cultures so i had no problems adapting there.
How about your first season in AZ? Had some opportunity in the first team?
During my first season i didn’t get a chance with first team which was disapointing but that only made me work even harder.
In last season (08/09), you were part of the team that became champion of Eredivisie, a achievement that wasn’t possible since 1981. It was a outstanding accomplishment, or in the club everybody had some confidence that the title might come?
Yes, that was an amazing accomplishment! We started the season poorly but after the first 2 games we played very well trough to the end of the season ending up winning the title.
Unfortunately, you won’t stay with the team for the new season when they will take part on UEFA Champions League. What motivated your departure?
The biggest reason for me not wanting to sign my 3-year option was that i wasn’t playing on my own position at the midfield but right defender. I felt that i need to keep playing on midfield to become a better player and i don’t see myself as a defender.
About your future, do you know where are you going to play in this season? Is there any Finnish club approach looking for your return?
Where i play this season is still open. There have been a few finnish veikkausliiga clubs who have shown interest in me but the decision to play in finland or some other country is yet to be made.
You are a very respected player at Oulu and a reference for the youth. Is there still the possibility of playing again for AC Oulu in this year?
To be honest the odds for me playing in ac oulu this season are very small.
When you played in Holland, did you still managed to follow AC Oulu’s results?
Yes, I followed AC Oulus performaces weekly. And now during my vacation i’ve also been training with them sometimes and watched ac oulus home games.
Your relationships seem to be friendly not only with the supporter but with all those who work at AC Oulu. Are you friend of the Brazilian goalkeeper Dennys?
Yes, I have a lot of friends in ac oulu including Dennys “papi” Rodrigues. Im in contact with Dennys and a few other players from AC Oulu almost daily.
Talking about Finnish footballers, Jari Litmanen maybe one of the greatest references ever for the Finnish players. Do you follow (or have even followed) his steps or his playing style in your career? Have you ever met him?
I’ve read a his book and admire him very much. I’ve never personally met him,but if i decide to play in veikkausliiga this season that fact might change.
How do you see the current progress of the Finnish national squad in the World Cup Quals and UEFA Championship Quals last time? Although the team have great players, what does the squad lack to reach their finals one day?
It’s difficult to name reasons the squad might be lacking when differences between national teams are very small nowadays. But our national team is definitely going forward and the former U21 team is a great prove of that making it to the Euro Championships held in Sweden 2009.
Do you have any knowledge about Brazilian football and its players and clubs? If possible, would you like to play for a Brazilian club?
I know a lot of brazilian players not only from finnish competitions but also from holland. Last year we had 3 brazilian players in AZ organisation. I admire how brazilian people are very positive and happy.
What’s your favorite Brazilian footballer?
Diego and the guy from Fiorentina.
Both Veikkausliga and Ykkönen have lots of Brazilian players in their clubs. In your opinion, do foreign players – especially Brazilian ones – help in the country’s football development?
It has a lot to do with the quality of the player. but most of the brazilian players who play finnish competitions are in leading roles in their teams and in my opinion it makes our leagues better and brings more competition between players so yes its a good thing.
Talking about the escandinavian football in general. Do you think that some country could repeat the success of Denmark in World Cup’98 soon?
Everything is possible of course but i wouldnt bet my money on that at least not yet.
The actual coach of national finnish team shows his predilection by “international” players. By the way, in the last call-up, only two players play in Finland, Jari Litmanen and Kasper Hämäläinen. What is your opinion about this? Do you think that national players should have more opportunities?
If they have enough quality then yes.but the cold fact is that the best finnish players play in better competitions than veikkausliiga.