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Football coach slammed by anti-racist campaigners

A Finnish football coach has been criticised by an anti-racist NGO after he made controversial comments claiming his team was the ”most Finnish” in the Veikkausliiga top flight.

Ropsin valmentaja Juha Malinen
Juha Malinen Image: Raimo Torikka/Yle

RoPS coach Juha Malinen told Iltalehti on Sunday that he was pleased his team is ”the most Finnish” in the league.

"Just a few years back RoPS had thirteen black men," Malinen told Iltalehti. "We’ve managed to put that completely behind us. We have recruited players with names that get pronounced correctly and the Finns know them. And followers of the Finnish national football team in particular will know these names and their potential."

Malinen's club was the centre of a match-fixing scandal in 2011 when nine RoPS players--all foreigners, the majority from Zambia--were convicted of taking bribes to fix games. Since then the club has reduced recruitment from abroad.

Anti-racist organisation Liikkukaa asked in a statement whether Malinen’s comments represented official policy, or widespread prejudice in the Finnish game.

"We are concerned that these remarks indicate that Malinen’s club has a deliberate colour bar in its recruiting policy, and whether this is a generally accepted policy in Finnish football. We believe that Malinen is reducing the pool of potential talent to choose from and thereby putting his club at a disadvantage, and he is discriminating against black people with non-Finnish names by turning away players who would otherwise get hired on their playing skills."

When asked by Ilta-Sanomat if he regretted his comments, Malinen was non-committal.

"I’m sorry if I offended anyone," said the coach. "I get along with all nationalities. It’s one reason I’ve had such a long career."

The controversy has been reported by European football’s anti-racist body Football Against Racism in Europe and by the British campaigning group Kick It Out.

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