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Veikkausliiga: Finland’s topflight where leaders are born

By William Strome, 12/14/20, 12:30PM PST


The top tier of Finnish soccer has produced some fine phenoms and global legends over the years, including one of Republic FC’s newest midfield signings.

When the Indomitable Club signed Petteri Pennanen last week, it knew the squad was gaining a proven winner and a natural leader. 

‘Pete’ has performed remarkably well during his 16 years of senior team service – spanning the countries of Finland, Poland, the Netherlands and Indonesia as well as competing for Finland’s youth and senior national sides. But of all the places he’s made a name for himself, the Finnish Veikkausliiga is where it all began for Pennanen and it’s where a number of other notable names in the beautiful game have launched their career as well. 

The Veikkausliiga was founded in 1990 and since its inception, some of Finland’s finest players have graced the league and have gone on to have illustrious careers on the European and international stages. The team that lifts the annual title earns qualification for the UEFA Champions League while the second through fourth place teams earn a spot in the UEFA Europa League. Helsinki’s top team – HJK Helsinki – is the lone Finnish club to claim a spot in the UCL group stages (1998-99) and has won the most domestic titles with 30 including nine league championships since 2009. 

Republic FC's newest signing - Petteri Pennanen - has logged minutes in both the UEFA Champions League and Europa League.

While HJK historically may dominate the league, quality players have risen through the ranks at a number of different Finnish clubs including Petteri Pennanen’s former club – Kuopion Palloseura, also known as KuPS – where ‘Pete’ was a two-time Midfielder of the Year.

Prior to Pete, prolific Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki performed well during his time in the Veikkausliiga before bagging goals in the top leagues in Germany, Scotland and England. Pukki scored more goals during his time with HJK but his professional journey began with FC KooTeePee – a Finnish club that ceased operations in 2013. 

Another former Veikkausliiga player still plying his trade remarkably well abroad is Lukas Hradecky – Bayer Leverkusen’s number one goalkeeper as well as the Finnish Men’s National Team GK. Hradecky’s first professional club was Turun Pallosseura before competing in Denmark and Germany’s top league. From 2016-2018, the Slovak-born Finnish goalkeeper was honored with the Finnish Footballer of the Year award. 

Former Veikkausliiga players Sami Hyypia and Jari Litmanen may not be lacing up their boots on the big stages anymore but they’re both two names that played for some of the world’s most famous clubs. Litmanen became a legend playing for Ajax, Barcelona and Liverpool while Hyypia also played for the Reds before finishing his career with Bayer Leverkusen. Hyypia spent the majority of his time in Finland with Myllykosken Pallo -47 (MyPa) as did Litmanen after he played for Reipas and HJK. 


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