The Global Gooner Passion series arrived in Finland in the form of an interview similar to what I did with Anna Lvova in 2012 when this all began. The Gunner who is the subject of the questions is Bureemi Mohamed known to many of us from Twitter and the Tollington as 'Bee'. After reading this, if you don’t follow her yet you will - of that I am certain @bureemi
GD66: Firstly can we get a feel for the popularity of the Premier League in Finland. Do most of the games get televised and do most Finnish football fans have an English team as well as a local side?
BM: Here in Finland, our nation is mostly known for the passionate ice hockey support and football only manages to come second. But with due progress, football has left a permanent mark here. We have pay-per-view television channels which do actually show the English Premier League and other leagues as well. The Champions League though, is shown for free once every week here; we do as well have sports pubs where we gather and watch games on a regular basis. So basically we don’t really miss a game, unless by personal choice.
"When I was a little girl I used to watch football games with my family and my first football memory is the 1994 World Cup"
Personally, I only support one team and that is THE ARSENAL! But I do go to live games of my local team - HJK Helsinki- who are well-known in Europe too; mostly for their attempts to qualify for the Champions League or Europa League. On this note, I do state with strong belief that a day will come when HJK will qualify for the Champions League. And when it does, we shall have a chance to see The Arsenal play in Helsinki against them.
I imagine not having had a Finnish player at the club in the past, Arsenal are not as well supported as say Liverpool who have had high profile Finns?
Unfortunately you are right, we’re yet to see a high-profile Finnish footballer playing for Arsenal. Apart from Carl Jenkinson, of course. It is an absolute pleasure to have a Finnish blood representing Arsenal. Sami Hyypia, one of the best Finns to have played the game, represented Liverpool and won the Champions League with them. This was an achievement that filled us with pride to know that a Finn had left his mark upon English football. There are great talents in Finland and I do believe that one day they will be making names in the Premier League, hopefully at Arsenal too. In sharing the Finnish fanb7ase for the English Premier League, Arsenal, Liverpool and Man United enjoy the largest numbers in Finland.
What is the affinity to Carl Jenkinson as a matter of interest?
I still remember the day Arsenal announced the signing of the relatively-unknown youngster and I was ecstatic, simply for the fact that he was Finnish! Carl has family and friends here in Finland and in an interview he once said that he used to come to Finland twice a year and even spent the Christmas periods here.
He was here recently and Finnish fans did recognise him and took pictures with him. It was lovely to hear! He also was with the team when Arsenal came over for their final pre-season game [last year] and you could see what it meant to him as well as the crowd. After the final whistle he clapped the crowds, traversing the entire stadium and even threw his shirt to us; he was the last man to depart.
A year or so back, Carl decided to represent England at international level and of course as much as I respect his decision, I really wish he had chosen to join our national team instead. Not only because the Finnish team could make use of a high-profile name, but also due to the fact that he could just have walked in at free will - but that won’t be the case for the English team due to all the competition. So for his career’s sake I wished he had chosen to play for Suomi, Finland.
Okay can you tell us a little about yourself? Nursing and Arsenal in that order I gather. And Bee, where and when did your love affair with the Arsenal begin? Was it a particular incident, match or player?
When I was a little girl I used to watch football games with my family and my first football memory is the 1994 World Cup. As a kid, I used to play football and was a big fan of the game from the early days. I have to mention that my shirt number was 14, just like that of my hero, Thierry Henry.
I used to watch him play for France and was sold from the moment I saw him in the 1998 World Cup. A year later he joined Arsenal and I fell in love with my team, and the rest, as the cliché goes, is history.
Henry is my all-time favourite Arsenal player so you can imagine my joy when we had him back at the club for a spell a couple of years ago. Of course not forgetting his comeback game and THAT goal against Leeds on his second debut. Could you believe it? Basically Henry is the reason I fell in love with and watched Arsenal but to be honest it was just a love story written in the stars.
I can’t imagine my life without Arsenal and for me supporting Arsenal is a way of life. No day passes by without me reading Arsenal-related news and checking Arsenal-related videos. I work as a nurse and I always schedule my work so I can watch our games. Thanks to my really understanding colleagues who get it that I would never want anything to get between me and my Arsenal.
I note there is a sanctioned fan club there www.arsenalfinland.net. Are you involved with them?
Yes I am involved. In fact I am a member of Arsenal Finland, a fan club for all the Finnish Gooners and it helps the fans to get tickets to matches. Arsenal Finland does get match ticket allocations from the club, making it somewhat easier for Finnish fans to get involved in cheering them on whenever they are able to. Not only this, the club’s outreach has been immensely impressive in making us feel a part of things. Take for instance when we made it to Wembley for the FA Cup final; the club shipped flyers to Helsinki to enable us show our support even from miles afar. I honestly doubt many teams do this.
Do they organise gatherings to watch games with like-minded fans or do you have your own group of Gunners where you live?
We do have our own Arsenal Finland Facebook group and always gather together to watch big matches in a sports pub located in Helsinki. We have non-stop conversations about club affairs and cheer together for the team. Basically, I’ve got to know so many Gooners from Finland through this fan club and I’ve made friends who I spend every weekend with watching Arsenal. It’s a really great opportunity for us as fans, and in a sparsely-populated country to have people around you with whom you share identical mindsets about a great football club.
Our latest memory is from the FA Cup final. Finnish Gooners across the country gathered together in a pub to watch the showdown at Wembley. What a memorable day it turned out to be! And I’m glad I had people around me who I could share the very special victory with.
I hear you have been seen at the Tollington on matchdays. How often are you able to get over to see Arsenal and did you catch the game in Finland last summer? Is it easy to get tickets or do you rely on friends through social media?
Oh boy! The Tollington is the best place to be on matchdays. Being among people who love the same club and giving off the same vibes, it's pure paradise! I’ve also met some great people I know from Twitter. I was there when Arsenal played Manchester City and before the game we were all so nervous. After the game though, we were all buzzing because of the great football the boys showcased. The atmosphere all around was positive and I thoroughly enjoyed my time. I did make some new friends there as well.
"I’ve met some truly special people on Twitter who I can always rely on whenever I need a ticket for a certain block"
My first ever live Arsenal game was against Marseille a few years back. From the first moment I stepped into the Emirates I knew it was the place to be. The atmosphere there during the game was electrifying and I remember thinking, 'How on earth had I never come here way earlier?' I also have to mention that I met Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at that game. Nevertheless, I was just super happy that I’d finally made it! From that day on, I told myself that I will be there at every opportunity I got! At the very least two times a year. I had never witnessed anything as beautiful with the sort of magic and feelings only we as supporters can understand very well.
I’ve met some truly special people on Twitter who I can always rely on whenever I need a ticket for a certain block. In my case, the North Bank is the best part of the stadium! I always try to look for my tickets in the North Bank. I find the atmosphere there beautiful as we stand singing throughout the game. I am also a Red Member and it’s easy to get match tickets from there as well.
I still remember Arsenal coming to my home town last summer. I still remember how, on opening my mobile, I read that Arsenal were coming to Helsinki! How I jumped with extreme happiness! The fact that I was going to have a chance to see my club in my home town was amazing. The tickets to the Olympic Stadium for the Arsenal v Manchester City game were sold out in lightning-quick time. Our 3-1 win over City in that game saw the entire place erupt! The whole stadium was red and white. There were over 30,000 Arsenal fans there and it was a fanatic day. For some it was the first-ever Arsenal game they attended. Also there were people from Russia and other Nordic countries so you could tell that Arsenal connects people all over the world.
Has Twitter enhanced the feeling of being part of something much bigger? Have you made friends through Arsenal and Twitter who have become true friends?
Twitter has been incredible, a place where you can either be happy or sad with a set of fans that support the same club as me. It’s just amazing to have people with whom you can have conversations about The Arsenal day and night. Of course Twitter does have its downs too, but mainly I focus on the positive ones and hence have made real life friends through it. I always set dates with my Gooner followers I chat with on Twitter and meet them in real life as often as possible. Overall I’m really grateful for Twitter and for the lovely people I’ve met through it.
Do you have a favourite Arsenal match and a favourite player - past or present?
As I mentioned earlier, Thierry Henry is my favourite Arsenal player of all time. Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires from the Invincibles are close to my heart. Those players are part of our club’s great history and I don’t think we will ever get a privilege to see their kinds in our lifetimes. I have so many great Arsenal games in my memory bank and it’s impossible to choose one favourite.
"The wait was just too much but in the end it was worth it"
If I really have to tell you one then it has got to be Arsenal beating Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in 2006. It was a victory that probably nobody anticipated. Henry’s goal was incredible, too. Great history was made there as Arsenal became the first English team to defeat Real at the Bernabeu. And more recently, it’s got to be Arsenal’s historical win against Barcelona. An absolute dynamite of a game. The way we went 1-0 down only to score two beautiful goals that night was magical. I was over the moon after that match and it was one of the best Champions League games we’ve ever played. Also Arsenal’s two 5-2 wins against Spurs are ones that I will never forget.
Lastly who are the player or players you would like to see arrive this summer and what are your aspirations for Arsenal 2014/15?
I think we have had one great season behind us. It was a rollercoaster but one I’ve enjoyed so much. We started our campaign with a 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa, which was hard to take. To make matters worse, I was actually there! After that however, we signed Mesut Ozil and went on to be top of the league for the rest of the year. Some bad injuries got in the way and affected our season so badly that we ended up relinquishing our position - how painful! But we managed not to finish
the season empty handed, ending our tormenting trophy drought in spectacular fashion with that comeback at Wembley. That win meant the world to every Arsenal fan. The wait was just too much but in the end it was worth it.
My top 2013/2014 moments were the signing of Ozil, the FA Cup glory and Aaron Ramsey’s incredible form throughout the season. We also qualified for the Champions League for the 17th consecutive time. What a great achievement. Next season I expect us to compete just like last one. If we complete the needed signings to strengthen our squad and have better luck with injuries, we will be fine. First of all I think the most important thing is to keep our best players together.
Now that we’ve lost Bacary Sagna we need a right back to replace him. Carl Jenkinson is not entirely ready yet in my opinion, and we probably need two right backs anyway. We need to ensure that our squad has depth because the injuries will come during the season. I would rather strengthen our squad than keep replacing the players we lose. This is why I find it paramount for us to keep the players together.
Our squad last season was strong but only short of few more players. If I have to give you names of players I’d like to see us to sign then it would be Serge Aurier, the Ivorian full back who has been quite impressive recently season and proved to be strong going forward in his first game at the World Cup. He’s only 21-years-old so I trust that he would improve under Arsene Wenger. The only drawback in signing him would be him going off to the African Cup of Nations for a month every two years in January which is usually a crucial time for the Gunners. Seamus Coleman or Calum Chambers are also other options at right back.
Mario Balotelli would honestly be a dream signing; I know he’s had his issues in the past, but there’s no disputing his talent. Plus, if we can have Joel Campbell coming back from loan next season we only need one world-class striker.
Also with the departure of Lukasz Fabianski we need a back-up keeper for Wojciech Szczesny. I am hoping and keeping my fingers crossed that we would get to sign at least four quality players before the transfer window closes and with the World Cup being the focus of attention at the moment, it might just go down to the wire. I hope we wrap up our signings in good time.