European football mourns Pertti Alaja

Pertti Alaja, president of the Football Association of Finland and a devoted servant to football, both as a fine player and outstanding administrator, has passed away at the age of 65.

Pertti Alaja addressed the Ordinary UEFA Congress in Helsinki in April
Pertti Alaja addressed the Ordinary UEFA Congress in Helsinki in April ©UEFA

Finland, UEFA and European football are mourning the loss of Pertti Alaja, the president of the Football Association of Finland (SPL-FBF), who has passed away at the age of 65. UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin described him as “a great man and a dear friend”.

Born in the Finnish capital Helsinki on 18 February 1952, Pertti Alaja was a vastly respected figure in football not only in his native country, but also within the international football community.

He served the game both as a player and administrator, and was a key figure in the development of Finnish football. "He was a sportsman by birth – football was especially close to his heart," said the Finnish FA in a statement.

A goalkeeper in his playing days in the 1970s and 1980s, he won 29 full caps for Finland, and also played in Sweden, Denmark and Canada.

After finishing his playing career, Pertti Alaja soon assumed both coaching and administrative tasks within the game. He worked as general secretary of the Finnish FA between 1990 and 2000.

In 2003, he was elected as the association’s vice-president, and held the post until 2006. He became Finnish FA president in 2012, and was re-elected for a second four-year term in April 2016.

Pertti Alaja served as tournament director for the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa. In April this year, he headed the Finnish FA’s team that were outstanding hosts of the 41st Ordinary UEFA Congress in Helsinki. He played a full role in UEFA’s activities as a member of various committees and panels, and was currently serving as deputy chairman of the UEFA HatTrick Committee.

While renowned most of all for his achievements in football, he was also known as a poet, and his first collection of poems was published in 2007.

Aleksander Čeferin paid a warm tribute to Pertti Alaja.

"Today, football has lost a great man and we have lost a dear friend,” he said. “Pertti was incredibly passionate about football, and worked tirelessly to promote and develop the game throughout his life.”

“From his days as an outstanding goalkeeper to the time he spent at the Football Association of Finland, he was always dedicated and hard-working.”

“Our thoughts are with Pertti’s family and everyone at the Finnish FA, to whom we send our sincere condolences,” Mr Čeferin added.