HJK’s Nikolai Alho, 27, got to play in Huuhkaji for a long time this autumn. In September, Alho played a full 90 minutes in the League of Nations against Ireland and also in the October practice match in Poland.
He made his home debut in Huuhkaji last week when he got on the field for three minutes against Bulgaria. The atmosphere of the Olympic Stadium makes Alho even more excited.
– It was absolutely awesome and a really great honor. Great stadium, renovations are top notch.
Alho made his A national team debut in Oman in January 2014. He was the first dark-skinned player on the A national team at the time.
– I didn’t think about it terribly then. Now I think it’s a great honor. It’s nice that internationalization is visible in the Owls.
Alho does not want to call himself a role model or role model. However, he believes that the internationalization of Owls is an important sign for children and young people.
– It certainly creates faith for boys and girls with a foreign background that anything is possible. I have a Finnish passport as well as others. Skin color, culture, and background don’t matter. Displays in the field indicate.
Alho was born to a Finnish mother and a Ghanaian father in March 1993. She was taken to an orphanage at only ten days old.
Laitapakki was adopted into an Anglo-Finnish family and attended an international school throughout his childhood. Racism has been difficult to understand.
– In the early 1990s, there was a lot of racism in Finland. At that time, they were not terribly dark-skinned. It was a new thing and for some even scary.
– My father is from Kauhava, where there were no foreigners at all in the early 1990s. There I experienced a certain kind of racism when people looked and stared.
Alho believes that no one is born a racist, but is, for example, the experiences and ways of thinking learned from one’s own parents.
– Racism is rarely outright anger. It is ignorance and fear of certain cultures. Then let’s start teaching the wrong things or lies to the younger generations. Some religion or culture is supposed to be wrong. Lies come true.
Since the spring, the Black Lives Matter movement has also been prominently displayed in Finland. Alho thinks it is important to talk openly about anti-racism work.
There is a long way to go in the world to prevent racism. According to the HJK captain, things have gone better in football and especially among young people.
– Young people are influenced especially by dark-skinned cultures. I haven’t really seen racism among young people in a long time.
– I believe that older people have lived in their own ideology for a really long time, so it may be difficult to change them. It is important that the new generation receives information and understands cultural differences. They then teach to their own children.
Mixu was right
Oman 2014 was a turning point in Alho’s career, even though he didn’t know it himself at the time. The then head coach of the national team, Mixu Paatelainen, said that he believed that the young promise would make “the toughest actions of his career in the role of the outskirts”.
Alho was playing as a winger at the time and was left wondering Paatelainen’s words. He played for the under-21 national team as a side-pack for a few games, but changing the venue didn’t seem timely.
Last year, the sled turned when Alho made a follow-up deal with HJK and promised the then head coach To Mika Lehkosuo serious transition to a defender.
– It suited me really well. I gladly accepted the challenge. Mixu was right then, Alho laughs now.
Alho finds the change of place in HJK very painless. In HJK, wing defenders come in with attacks, which was already familiar. Defensive play had to be sharpened.
– When I played in a more offensive role, I was always Conscientious to defend. I was never a modern pier scoring 10 to 20 goals a year. I always roll more on the edge and not on the paint.
– In the end, the plot of the side deck is my own, and that’s where my features come out best.
A child is the best thing
Alho is in a hurry, as HJK has only three matches left without playing in the Veikkausliiga regular season. After that, if the corona situation allows, a simple championship series of six teams will begin, at the end of which the Finnish champion will be crowned.
There is also momentum at home, as the family of a football player and this wife is cooled by a one-year-old daughter.
– There is enough hustle and bustle. The daughter is really lively. He doesn’t want to be still, but would like to play all the time, Alho laughs.
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The firstborn, born in August last year, also made Alho think more deeply about his own childhood.
– My childhood has been completely different from our daughter. I want him to grow up in a good environment and a safe family.
– A child is the best thing that has happened to our family. Even if it’s a little worse for the day, it’s best to come home when you see him.
HJK is currently at the top of the series, but tied with reigning champion KuPS. The teams have been fighting hard throughout the season.
Alho believes in championship.
– The unity and spirit of the team is on a completely different level than for many years. That, I think, is the biggest reason we lead the series and have been able to turn difficult games into victories.
– At this point, we don’t start doing magic tricks. If we stick to our own thing, we have really good seams to win the Veikkausliiga.
HJK – HIFK on Sunday at 16.00.