Ode to My Finspång 2000-2001

A couple of reasons why I’m typing something like this right now.. First and foremost, I really want to reflect back on one of the best years/seasons of my life. Secondly, I guess it’s alright to write things down when you’re still young enough to remember something. So I am partly writing for myself.  And also, with this post I want to name a few important people. People who I met along the way, who might not have been a part of my life for more than a year, but still made a huge impact, and made me feel at home back then.

So, this post only about one season. The team of Finspångs IBK, and it’s first season in the Swedish elite league. A post about the small idyllic town, its people, and life there in general.


It was a chilly day in Porvoo, probably around the end of February 2000, more than 15 years ago. We were out in the woods with my wife, taking our dog for a run. I can’t remember how the conversation started, but the the last comment my wife said is still clear. ‘Just call him and ask for the guys number!’

‘Him’ was of course a legendary Finnish player, a dude who a few years earlier scored a sudden death goal in Game 5 giving us The gold in the Finnish league. After that he went on to play in Sweden and win a few WC medals also. Mr. Raine Laine. Raine then provided me with ‘the guys’ number. The guy, the agent,  Mr. Mats Johansson answered. I pretty much asked straight up if he could fix us a team from Sweden. No problem.

The wheels started rolling, and after a few weeks I was on the phone with Finspångs manager. I remember writing an e-mail address with my finger in the snow outside a cabin in Lapland, during my skiing vacation, just hoping it was right. It was.

The World Championships in Norway were approaching. Straight from a national team training camp, I picked up my wife in Helsinki and we drove straight on to a ferry to Sweden. The next morning we took the E4 from Stockholm and headed south.  A couple of hours and we were almost there. About 20 km off the E4, and , like Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber.. ‘We’re there!’

You know how sometimes in life you meet people who just have that certain way about themselves. People you know you can trust, look up to. People who will go the extra mile to make sure everything is fine with you. Mr. Lars-Eric Ramlöv, the man who came to meet us, the chief of FiBK, is one of those people. After one day in Finspång, having a nice lunch, looking at a couple of apartments, visiting the clubs office, we were very surprised that suddenly leaving home and heading for something totally new, would not seem like that big a deal. There was no doubt in our minds, if there ever was a time for a move like this, it was now. And that this was the right place.

So after a handshake, it was all clear. Finspång would be our home for at least a year, most likely the next two years. We were excited, of course, driving back to the harbor of Stockholm. So excited that I drove off the E4 a couple of exits too soon, and suddenly we were in a bit of a hurry. 15 minutes until the boat would leave, I asked for directions. The answer was not what I was hoping for. ‘You’re not gonna make it..’  A few minutes later we were on the right track, and I was using all the Finnish formula driving skills I had. That was when I gave my first interview.

I can’t remember if it was Norrköpings Tidningars Fredrik or Folkbladets Nils-Ove, sports journalists both, who called me. Later we did many interviews but this first one was special. My phone rang with 5 minutes before the gates were going to close, and we still had some driving to do. Not sure what kind of first impression they got, but I was trying to calmly answer questions, while my wife, not so calmly, made sure I didn’t forget our primary mission. Still, it seemed to be my day in the end. We were the last car to make it, the gates closed seconds after, and soon we were on the deck enjoying a sparkling drink to celebrate. The adventure was on.


Moving forward a few months.. By July, a moving companys truck as outside our house. Somehow we had decided to all our shit with us, something that was possible back then. We filled up the truck with a couple of hired guys that came from Sweden to help us move. Then I jumped along, and we headed for Turku, and the next morning it was a freighter from Turku to Stockholm that took us our neighboring countrys capital. My wife and dog were left behind, I had about a weeks time to furnish our new home just a few hundred meters from our teams arena.

The beginning was not as easy as it could’ve been. We arrived in Finspång at around 8 PM, and Mr. Jörgen Valfridsson, a really nice dude, who had already helped us a lot, was supposed to meet us outside our home with the keys. He was there right on time, and after the moving professionals skillfully drove the truck right outside our apartments door, we went in. The place was supposed to be ready after some renovations but that would’ve been too easy. Wallpapers partly torn, buckets of paint, tools, some undone electric work etc etc. Our first thoughts were, that no way this place is ready to be lived in now, in a week, maybe.

The moving guys started to look at their watches.. it’s getting late, we have a truck full of shit that has to be stored somewhere, because they’d need an empty truck the next day. Luckily Mr. Rickard Harryson showed up, a member of the teams management. His apartment was for sale, and already emptied. Well, we didn’t buy it, but I was allowed to use his place, and move again (sigh) in a week.

At around 1-2 AM, I was alone in Rickards house, with nearly all my shit. A sofa, a mattress, the computer, and TV, all I needed to survive for a week. The rest of the stuff, well, I’ll deal with them in a week. The TV on, a little snack, then maybe a little sleep.

The next morning the doorbell rang, and after a slight ‘whattafuck..? where the hell am I..?’ – moment, I opened the door for Mr. Henrik Lindberg, our head coach, and we went to get some breakfast. A very nice hour or two in a cozy café downtown. We talked about the team, his plans for the season and about life in general. Seemed like a very pleasant person, a wise, calm man, with humane leadership qualities. No doubt, I liked him right from the start.

Later that day, it was raining like hell, as always in Finspång.  My first practice. I had already met a few of the guys. Jimmy Gustafsson, Kalle Ramlöv, Peter Scherman. Local guys, local heroes. Kalle and Jimmy I met on our previous visit, when they joined us for lunch at Finspångs famous Golf course. I think it was famous, that’s what they tod me.. J  Jimmy was the captain, and he certainly lived up to that role.  A leader, a friend, pushing his teammates on, but never forgetting the humor that should be involved with everything we do.  If the rest of the team was anything like these two guys.. I thought.. Things were looking good. If I recall correctly I met Peter briefly the first night when we were more focused on where I was going to sleep. People told me that he was a bit of a clown, a player, a joker with constant pranks in mind. Later turned out that he was, I think, one of the nicest people I have ever met.

The practice then, tough, physical, running the track in different ways for an hour. After the travelling, the fuss last night, the general excitement,  and not that much sleep, I was almost dead. But then, the 45 minutes of soccer, with the rain coming down on the fantastic grass field.. I forgot everything else and just had fun with all these new guys. Amazing.

The next day or the day after, I asked if the arena was open. I  might just go there and shoot some goals with my zorro-stick made by Mr. Tähkä. Sure no prob. Thought I would be there alone, but around 15 people turned up, some from the womens team, and a game was quickly on.  

The guys decided to make me feel at home by coming to pick me up from Rickards place. What’s up dudes? Ok, we’ll drive to Norrköping and catch a movie. Along was also last years hero, Mr. Fredrik ‘Tuppen’ Johansson. He was THE MAN, after scoring the decisive goal in last seasons final game. 7 seconds into overtime he made the Aluceum arena explode, and took FiBK in to the elite league. Also a great guy, a young talent, and a guy who later would work at the same place with me, Mr. Assan Mbye came along. Can’t remember the film, but I enjoyed hanging with these guys, even though my Swedish totally sucked at the time.


The weekend was coming up soon. My wife and our mothers were coming soon, and the team would be headed for Båstad for an outdoor tournament. Luckily our apartment was ready. With some help from ur team we managed to get all my stuff to the apartment. Mr. Jonas Daneborn helped a lot. A great personality, a guy who had some issues, ‘hurting inside’.. :) .  Everything was pretty much in place, when we were set leave for Båstad.

I jumped into our assistant coaches car. Henrik was not coming so Mr. Patrik Johansson was in charge. As you would expect, Patrik was also a great guy, a good coach, a good person, very likeable. After arriving in Båstad we took our stuff to a small school hall.

Now, details are a little unclear about the weekend and the games in Båstad, but here are a few main points.

The first night. I was on the phone with our other Finnish player, a defender Mr. Juha-Matti Sepponen ‘Sepi’ or ‘Seppo’ as they would call him. At the same time another huge personality, and a huge talent, Mr. Erik Hallin had his own show going on. He seemed to have the gift of entertaining also. He had found a piano. Playing, singing, apparently making up his own lyrics, and telling jokes along the way. Just totally ‘taking the crowd’.  I said to ‘Seppo’ ‘this is a fuckin’ crazy bunch of guys, in a positive way. I think you’ll like it here’.

The second day. It as clear to see why they spoke warmly of this event, this place. It was like being in Spain or Greece. The beaches, the bars, the atmosphere.. people enjoying themselves. And at the tennis arenas, floorball players battling. Taking it seriously of course, but also remembering that the main reason for this is to get a nice start for the season, and uniting as a team. I think we managed with that. We won a couple of games in the beginning. Then it started raining a bit, so our game against elite team Fornudden was played in a reserve inside hall. For me that went…ok. We won 2-0, so a shutout, a saved penalty, and actually scoring one of the goals. Got the ball, saw one of our forwards running up, and naturally thought to throw the ball to him, maybe get an assist. The throw was close to perfect, but our forward totally missed the ball when trying to hit it in. That confused the goalie, who tried to secure the ball, but only managed to fumble it in his own net. So, against an elite team, no goals allowed, a saved penalty shot, and 1+0. Hey, this guy is not bad! J

The second night. It was our night out. We were of course told to take it easy, because if Coach Lindberg was here, we wouldn’t be allowed to drink at all. So a couple beers and some music back at our ‘camp’. That evening I bonded with our other goalkeeper, a fantastic dude Mr. Daniel Johansson. He told me he thought he would meet with a serious dude, someone who just runs like mad man, trains and nothing else. He was surprised to see a rather laid back guy with a sense of humor. Daniels English was about a hundred times better than my Swedish, so we talked a lot that night and later in the season also. We had a great night, I liked him. I think we got along really well, even thought he probably hated me little whenever  I played a good game. As a competitive goalie should. He had all the qualities for a great goalie.

That night in Båstad was warm, wet (when it comes to drinks, no rain) and fun. Sitting around a big table at Pepes Bodega (does that exist anymore?) Talking, laughing, telling stories, enjoying the night. I can’t remember the scores of the games. I’m pretty sure we didn’t win the tournament, but I’m also sure that did not really matter.

Certain things, certain moments in life you remember and hold important. This night was one for me. Coming into a new team, a new country. Feeling a bit nervous, almost scared at times, some might say. But this evening, this night, I felt relaxed, free, ready to take on the league, with my new team, my new team mates! Thanx guys!

A few weeks later, we were in Jönköping. A training camp. We were setting goals for our team. We were a bit too modest I think. Almost everyone thought that keeping the team up in the elite league was enough. 16 teams, bottom 2 would be relegated, while the top 8 would make the playoffs. Definitely our goal should be the top 8! Once again, I can’t remember how that debate ended. I do remember us winning a training match, then going to the city center with Seppo for a few relaxing beers, against the coaches orders, I think..

As we were preparing for the season, things went nicely also workwise. I started at KL Industri, building electric booths/cabins/houses.. not sure what to call them. Later Seppo would join us, but he had luxury of living a real professionals life for the first few months. I enjoyed working there. Our teams leader at work was Samuel. He guided and helped us, and I can’t recall him ever losing his temper, even if I sometimes didn’t understand the simplest order.

Assan also started working there, though he sometimes ‘forgot’ to come to work. A sign of a professional? Also a couple of more dudes from the team, Henrik Johansson and Jimmy Hultin worked at KL Industri. It was a pleasure being at the same job with these guys.


So, it was time. Friends from home came for a visit, and saw our opening in Stockholm. They naturally wanted to see me play but I had inured my knee in our last training tournament, so I took the role of a spectator, and saw Finspång and Daniel play an excellent game, losing in overtime and grabbing an opening eliteserie point in FiBKs history. Our hope premiere, and my knee was a bit better. Still thought it was a good idea to rest and let one of last years heroes Daniel start at home also. Halfway through the match we were leading against Dalen, but eventually fell a little short, 3-7 was the result.

My optimism was too much I guess. In Innebandymagazinet, 14 out of 16 teams tipped us to be either in 15th or 16th place. It was us and one other team, that thought we could make it past the bottom two. The following games proved their points. Though we were a group of talented young players, the level of play and quality of players in other teams was even more better than I excepted. My first games against Pibo and Warberg weren’t much to write home about. Our first wins away against Sjöstad and Västerås were a bit better. But soon we played against Kista/Järfälla at home, took a sudden death win, and I managed to play a supergood game. Suddenly it felt like we could get away with this. My secret dreams about the playoffs reappeared.

A couple of losses came, but soon it was time for another great weekend. I took over 30 saves against Växjö, and we won 2-7, but the next game was even better. Away against Jönköping. When they presented the teams, Jönköpings goalie, Mr. Zebban Momen, walked towards the net, put up both arms towards the roof, and just stood there, looking confident, like a boxer trying to take the mental overhand in weighing. Zebban had his arms still up, looking like a winner, as I went to the goal, thinking, shiiiit, I gotta break this dude..  and I did. Again around 30 saves, some with considerable luck. Made a huge legend, Mr. Daniel Calebsson miss a penalty, got an assist. 2-5 we won, that was one of my best matches ever.

A few years later I met Zebban at a youth camp in Jönköping, and noticed that he was not only an excellent goalkeeper but also a really really nice guy. Not at all what I expected. :)

The autumn went by quickly. We lost a few games during November, and it was clear that the playoffs were not our primary goal anymore. One of autumns highlights was our home game against AIK Stockholm.  The legendary team came for a visit and our small arena had extra stands so we could fit in almost a thousand spectators. That was not bad during that time, and for a town of less than 15000 people. We fought, and managed a 3-3 tie. The atmosphere was one of the best I have ever experienced.

Early December, and another game which I would include as TOP5 performances in my career. Nerike away. Around 40 saves, 1 assist, 1 saved penalty, and a 3-5 victory. Seppo managed to score a beautiful goal, just reaching out his stick and guiding a low shot right into the top corner. Too bad it was against me. That was his second of the year, first one came after a shot from a another Swedish legend, Martin Olofsson. He would have missed the net by a meter, but Seppo was there in time to steer it in. Sepponen was great guy, and he got over those in a second, smiling and saying something like: ‘Jupu, be ready goddammit!!’

Otherwise life was nice. Seppo as a young single man had a couple more partys with the guys than me. Occasionally we would pick up Seppo and drive to Linköping or Norrköping for a visit. Training at Aluceum arena was nice. It took me 5 minutes by bicycle to get there. Still I think I used a car most of the time. I trained well, but that didn’t take away the ‘lazy’ out of me..

Early in 2001 we got our asses kicked a couple of times, and after a total destruction against Warberg, we had a little ‘crisis meeting’ at our hotel in Göteborg. The next days game against a tough Pixbo was not gonna be easy. After clearing the air, things seemed better. So Seppo and I decided, of course against our coaches wishes, to go out to the town for a walk. And a couple of drinks. J  Nothing overdramatic, we wanted still to be at least almost professionals about this, but we had a nice evening, with 3-4 beers/ciders, and were ready to fight the next day.

As said, most details about matches, and hell, the entire year, are a bit skechty, but one that I remember clearly was the beginning of this game. About 10 seconds and Pixbo was leading after I let in one of the easiest goals ever. Was last night a good idea after all? Yes, we were in good spirits, I, and the whole team, played an excellent game and we won in overtime. Away at Pixbo, not many teams could achieve that back then.

Between the end of January and early March we took a couple of severe ass-kickings, and it was around that time when I gave a frustrated interview to our web pages. Basicly calling our coaches incapable and saying that we have only a couple of players who deserve to play at this level. I’m not sure how the players reacted, some said that everything I said was absolutely correct, but I guess most players thought that I was an arrogant asshole. I did say afterwards, that it was a mistake to say anything during that time, being frustraded about playing badly myself, and about the losses of the team. I hope I’m not judged by those comments. I was wrong and out of line. I played badly. We played badly as a team. I took it out on others.

In the end, we had no trouble staying ahead of Västerås and Växjö. But we would’ve needed 5 more points stay in the league without qualifying matches. The playoff line was 16 points away, so my optimism before the season was a bit too much.

So it was time for the crucial qualifying matches. I was able play some good games at this important time, and we didn’t lose any of those games. After an away win at Storvreta it was time for celebrations. For Finspångs town, for the team and for us players this actually felt like winning the trophy. A tiny town, first season in the elite, and practically everyone tipping that we were going down for sure, this felt so good!

So off we went to Norrköpings nightlife, a little late for the districts floorball Gala, but that didn’t matter. We had a great time, a party well deserved.


After the game I told Mr. Ramlöv that we would be heading back to Finland after this season. After careful thought, knowing that we had our first born on the way, we wanted to be in Finland for her birth. This did feel like the right decision, even though we would’ve loved to stay in Finspång.

I stayed at KL Industri until June, we had a nice ending party with the team and a few other evenings together, but eventually it was time for goodbyes.  A couple of guys helping us pack the car, and soon the moving truck headed back, as did we. Leaving behind a pack of great guys, teammates, friends.

Now, almost 15 years later, that year still brings back great memories. Becoming a member of such a great team and the community meant the world to me, and I do want to thank everyone again for making us feel at home there. Thanks! We’ll see you soon, ok? :)