FC Inter Turku have become a familiar name in European competition in recent seasons, and this week could dump FC Twente out of the UEFA Europa League.
A 1-1 draw in the Netherlands last week gave the Finnish side a great chance in the second qualifying round return this Thursday. "Defensively, that was the best game we have played in my time here," said the club's 57-year-old coach, Dutchman Job Dragtsma said. "We got a great result against a very good team."
The club was formed in 1990, not from a merger or from the ashes of a bankrupt side, but virtually out of nothing. Legend has it that Stefan Håkans, still chairman today, decided to form a club of his own when his son Patrik could not find a senior team. Both the name and the club colours were adopted from FC Internazionale Milano, and having initially been a youth development team, they entered the senior Finnish third division in 1992 and were in the top-flight within four years.
Relegated in 1997, Inter bounced back and the ambitious outfit were soon regularly in the top six, but the real breakthrough was still to come. A tenth-place finish in 2006 prompted the decision to hire Dragtsma, and this proved to be a masterstroke.
After a year getting to know Finnish football, Dragtsma led Inter to the title in 2008 and his side have remained near the top ever since, taking the 2009 Finnish Cup and finishing second last year. They had to rebuild after their championship success, when several players left – notably centre-back Joos Hooiveld, now with Southampton FC in the English Premier League – but Dragtsma's sides have learned to deal with that kind of turnover. Even losing last season's top scorer Timo Furuholm to Fortuna Düsseldorf was no major blow, with Inter currently leading the table ahead of the side that has taken the last three Finnish titles, HJK Helsinki.
A tie against FK Mladá Boleslav or Thór Akureyri would be the reward for Inter if they can outmuscle Twente, but former FC Volendam coach and AZ Alkmaar assistant Dragtsma is well aware of the strength of his countrymen. "Twente are still the favorites," he said. "But we showed that on our best day we can give them a game and fight for a place in the next round too."
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