Midfielder Sami Ristilä is excited to be back at his hometown club, FC Haka, after concluding his second spell abroad, and noted: "Football in Finland has changed a lot. The game is much faster and tactics are far more important."
'Back at Haka'
Ristilä started his career with Valkeakoski-based Haka 18 years ago, and now – at 34 – is looking forward to embarking upon the next phase of his career after signing up for a third stint with the club. "I'm excited to be back at Haka," he told uefa.com. "We have had a positive start to this year and I am really looking forward to the upcoming season."
The player first moved abroad in 1996, spending two seasons in the Netherlands with FC Zwolle before returning home to play for Pallokerho-35, FC Jokerit, Myllykosken Pallo-47 and then, from 2002, Haka again. Fresh from winning the Finnish title with Haka in 2004, in 2005 he embarked upon a second spell abroad, joining the Republic of Ireland's Drogheda United FC.
In four seasons with Drogheda, he would win domestic league and cup titles, as well as taking over as coach of the club's Under-21 side. "It was a great period for me in Ireland," he said. "When I went to Drogheda nobody knew who we were. During my spell there we won the championship, the cup and played many good matches in European competitions."
However, it may be that his coaching role with Drogheda's youngsters was the most important feature of Ristilä's time in Ireland. "As a professional player you have time to also do something else," he explained. "I have always been interested in coaching and it is important to think what you are going to do after your playing career is over."
Ristilä is to continue coaching back at Haka, taking charge of their reserve team – Koskenpojat – who play in the Finnish fourth division. "We are strong enough to win promotion," he said of his new charges. "Football is a big thing for a little town like Valkeakoski and it is vital for football culture in the town to have second team at a higher level than the fourth division." With Haka fostering much closer ties with Valkeakosken Koskenpojat, young players will also have a chance to impress the first division side's coach Olli Huttunen. Who knows? The next Sami Ristilä may yet be waiting to be discovered.
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