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Goalkeeper Hradecky named Finland's sportsperson of the year

The Bayer Leverkusen man has played 64 times for Finland.

Lukas Hradecky often leads celebrations with the fans after Finland victories. Image: Tomi Hänninen

Finland goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky was named sportsperson of the year on Thursday night at Finland's annual sports gala.

The award is voted for by members of Finland's sports journalists' association, and Hradecky was picked in first place by 132 voters. Overall he received 2,768 points.

Golfer Sami Välimäki was second in the voting after finishing 2020 ranked as the 69th best male golfer in the world by the PGA.

Hradecky had a strong year for his club side, Bayer Leverkusen, who play in Germany's Bundesliga, who finished fifth in the league and qualified for the Europa League.

He also helped the national team to a runners-up spot in their Nations League group.

First of a kind

The Bratislava-born custodian delivered his victory speech by video call from Germany, thanking his parents first, name-checking the suburb where he grew up and expressing pride at being one of the first immigrants, if not the first, to win the award.

"That makes this even more special," said Hradecky. "Although the roots are elsewhere, and although it is now a little weathered, this tree was grown in Turku. So thank you to that supportive and educational environment."

He thanked his club side Bayer Leverkusen for helping his career develop.

"And above all the Eagle Owls [the Finnish national team's nickname], who have really become my support and safety net as we conquer the world," said Hradecky. "I can't wait to see how the story continues in 2021!"

Finland are to compete in their first ever major championships this year, when the postponed 2020 European Championships take place.

He is known for a strong relationship with supporters of the national team, and once bought a crate of beer for a supporter whose drink he had pilfered during post-match celebrations at Ratina Stadium in Tampere after a 2-0 victory over Belarus.

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