The Finnish national passion is ice hockey, where unfortunately the team hasn’t been as successful as their fan involvement would warrant. The only world championship until last week’s victory was won in 1995, and the party then has become legendary.
I was finally able to experience that this week. People started to believe in the team after the victory over Russia in the semis, where Mikael Granlund’s lacrosse-style goal has become the centerpiece of many a highlight reel. Then, the final itself was a thriller: Sweden led the scoreboard until Finland tied at the end of the second period, showing a strength of mind that many of their predecessors lacked (the ignominious 5-6 of 2003 comes to mind) and then went on a roll to win the championship.
The celebrations in Helsinki were wild and kicked off on Sunday night. The reception of the champions was organised in the Market Square the day after, and over 100,000 people attended (the whole country has 5.3 million people, so one could say almost 2% of Finland was there to celebrate).
The only black spots were the obvious inebriation of many in the team and the not-very-child-friendly music selection for what was a very public party, but in the end it was a shot of self-esteem and unity Finland really needed.
P.S. I think they should use Antero Mertaranta for the listening portion of the Yleiskielentutkinto (the official Finnish language exam). That’d make it hard enough! 😀