Published on Saturday, 17 January 2015

news 20150117Jari LITMANEN: "I will never get sick of football!"

The participation of team Finland in XXIII Commonwealth Cup has brought a great surprise. The one of the most known and respected strikers of Europe of the last two decades – Jari Litmanen came within the official delegation of Suomi. On 90s and 00s the name of Litmanen highlighted the football of Europe thanks to his glare play for Netherlands Ajax and national team of Finland (137 matches and 32 scored goals – absolute record of Finnish football!). Only in legendary Barcelona and famous Liverpool Jari has lost his luck – during his career in Spain and England he has being injured all the time...

Jari spoke about his unique career in length of 25 years, the secrets of extraordinary skill to be in a good form, undoubting usefulness of Commonwealth Cup and his endless love to football in his interview to tournament press-service.

news 20150117 3– Jari, that is a big joy to see you here in Peterburgsky SCC on Commonwealth Cup. Because some of us right at school and university were your personal fans – the leader of that very Ajax that won 4 great titles – Champions League, Intercontinental Cup and Netherlands Championship and UEFA Super Cup.

– Thank you. That is so nice to remind those great times. Well, it was the best time in my football life.

– We will talk about Ajax further, but now we would like to know how this not really football country Finland gave to the world such a great player? Why did hockey let you go? You've played it all the childhood.

– Not only in a childhood, but in my teenage period, till I was 14 I've played both. On spring, summer and autumn I played with a ball, on winter I skipped to puck. When I've started to achieve some results and trainings became more severe I needed to choose. I have chosen football and never regret about it.

– When football specialists just started to talk about young Litmanen, he was drafted into the army. Why no one had set you free from conscription?

– Had never thought about that. That time it was common that the young guy is obliged to serve in army for his country. So, I've marched with a gun as everyone had to. Still, I had some privileges as a football player. They could send me out to football specialists abroad for a week. I've visited Barcelona right from barracks and a couple of different clubs, going back to barracks. At the end I moved not Spain but Amsterdam Ajax, a bit later.

news 20150117 4– The time to talk about Ajax. Ioannis Goumas who has visited St. Petersburg within Granatkin Memorial-2015 reminded an interesting topic. He recalled that his Panathinaikos sensationally reached semifinals of Champions League 95/96 and Athens players swore to go off to final, but... «when during the decisional game in Athens Litmanen by his own scored two goals» - Goumas confessed dejectedly.

– Oh, I remember that game! That was something extraordinary! Fully crowded Athens stadium was so noisy that I could hear nothing. Then I felt the contrast of silence when I scored at the very beginning of the game – the chances got equal. I could hear only our fans' happiness. The second half I managed to score again and at the very end Ajax scored once more – and we got to final. That were the best years in my career – the mid 90s... We became Champions three times in a row, two times got to the Champion's League final, but failed to win one of them. That Ajax was extraordinary powerful and severe with his known «football sense» and a great team spirit.

news 20150117 6– In Barcelona you were not managed to play referring to the injuries...

– Not only in Barcelona where I was more to recover than play, but in Liverpool also. There in England I needed to be in a form to concur for my position. But I got injured again... When I decided to leave Liverpool and got back to Ajax they didn't want to let me go! But I wanted to play so hard (like even I do now), but my practice in Liverpool was poor. Thus, I came back to Ajax, spent 2 more seasons with a talented youth – Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Cristian Chivu and others...

– Jari, your career lasted for a very long time – till your 40, and not only in clubs, but in national team of Finland also. How did you manage to keep motivation for a quarter of century to get up early, to train hard for million times?

– These trainings are not a hard work for me – that is my passion. I like to train to prepare my body. I like playing football – and I would never sick of it. That's my way of life.

news 20150117 2– That is very interesting to know your opinion about current Commonwealth Cup – is it useful for young players from all the teams?

– I feel comfort being here in St. Petersburg and I like the tournament. That is not a common phrases – the Cup is very useful for such a young players. Not only for receiving a great international experience playing with so different and far countries, but it is very important to play with other national teams, playing different manners, to take a chance to realize their own skills and football capabilities. 5-6 games for that week and a half are great experience. We don't have 4 players from the main lineup, still guys from the reserve have a chance.

– I would like to ask facetious question. The greatest football player of Finland is Jari Litmanen. The greatest hockey player of Finland is Jari Kurri. What a magic is hiding in Finnish name Jari?

– (laughs) No, that's just a coincidence. However the name Jari is lucky for sports – our known ski jumper, Olympic champion - Jari Puikkonen. He is from my hometown Lahti, by the way.

– Jari Kurri and you are good friends. Have you ever concurred with him on ice and pitch?

– Of course, not at once. Elder Jari is still the best on ice. But in football I am the one who wins. But we need to count that I've played hockey till I was 14 while Kurri played twice less. We are rarely to concur we usually play in one team.

news 20150117 5– With times passing Kurri became bigger. You look just as you always were!

– Don't forget that Jari is 10 years older. That is significant. As for me, I train a lot and still play football. By the way, I play on the stadiums all over the world. For the last half a year I've played in Netherlands, England, Singapore, Bangkok. Football is a sense of my life; I am not going to change a thing.


Interviewed by Alexander Kuzmin and Timur Mamonov.


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