Date: 15th November 2019 at 9:54am
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Tonight’s the night for Finland as they bid to qualify for their first ever major competition, next summer’s European Championships (Euro 2020).

The Huuhkajat or Eagle Owls, as it translates into English, only have to beat Lichtenstein to confirm automatic qualification behind Italy for next summer’s tournament and one player in particular has been a big part of their success – Teemu Pukki.

The Norwich City striker has literally been in the form of his life in the last eighteen months or so and the Canaries’ top scorer has notched seven goals during the Finns’ Euro 2020 qualification campaign.

The Norwich City commercial department are rarely accused of missing an opportunity and tonight in Finland, an ambitious plan will swing into action.

In a Helsinki shopping centre, a pop-up shop with fifty grand’s worth of stock has already appeared, naturally including a large number of Pukki shirts.

City are also hosting a live showing of the Lichtenstein game to 500 guests and they will also host an official Pukki Party for 2,000 people at the Apollo nightclub in Helsinki’s central district – both are sold out. Computer games maker, EA Sports is also involved and they have provided games consoles to play the company’s much vaunted FIFA football game on, as well as offering invites to social media influencers (generally young people who make other young people buy things by going to events like this and wearing certain clothing, driving certain cars etc). There will be Norwich City branding everywhere, even down to Canary related cocktails at the bar.

City are deadly serious about tapping into the Finnish market, seeing as the Finn’s greatest current player is a Canary, plying his trade in the world’s biggest league, the Premier League. The club are filming everything and a film crew accompanied Pukki on his flight to Finland last Sunday.
English football is big business around the world and it has not gone unnoticed by the club that of the highlights and features on their official YouTube channel, Finland regularly features in the top three viewing countries behind the UK and Indonesia.

It also seems that Finland is commercially very viable too with shirt sales and retail income rapidly approaching £100k since the summer.

So, is this all a gimmick or is it worth doing?

The figures being generated suggest that it is indeed well worth doing. The Finnish national team are on the verge of an unprecedented sporting success for a country with a population of around only five and a half million people. Just qualifying for Euro 2020 will be seen as huge event and that’s before the squad have even started playing games at the tournament. The excitement around the group draw and the prospect of playing and possibly beating some of Europe’s superpowers will ensure that excitement levels will have reached fever pitch by the time that the tournament actually starts next summer.

Interestingly, the shirt sleeve sponsor that so many people moaned about, Best Fiends are a Finnish based company, so naturally they are also involved.

I don’t think that the club can afford to miss out on opportunities like this one. They are never likely to be as well supported around the world as Manchester United or Real Madrid are, so why not tap into a rich vein of support like Finland? In Teemu Pukki, Norwich City inadvertently signed a player who was about to become a superstar in his homeland and everybody wants a piece of the action. Give the people what they want I say.

Norwich City are struggling in the Premier League at the moment but the success of the commercial department in this and other ventures, such as the recent and upcoming summer concerts at Carrow Road, can only help to add more money to the pot for a self-styled, self-funded club, which is pretty much unheard of in the top flight in England.

If as a result of Pukki’s success at Norwich we become the favourite English club of a large number of Finnish football fans then that, I think, can only be a good thing.

I am though, getting ahead of myself. There is the small matter of a football match to play first, although the Eagle Owls’ opponents tonight do sit rock bottom of Group J on just 2 points with a -23 goal difference, having lost six of their eight games in qualifying so far.

There is, of course, the outside prospect of this all falling flat and Lichtenstein actually winning the game, however unlikely that may seem on paper or, I shudder to even mention it, Pukki suffers some sort of injury that means he has to go off early. If’s buts and maybes perhaps, so let’s just keep everything crossed eh?

In the meantime, if you want to watch what everyone in Finland hopes will be the Pukki Party to end them all, then you can catch the game live on Sky Sports at 5pm this (Friday) afternoon.


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