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Toronto Star: Cathal Kelly - Soccer Columnist


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I can't say I was aware of this soccer columnist for the Toronto Star, Cathal Kelly, until a friend asked if I was the Shawn referred to in this article. I am! :D

Aki's response was actually from a question related to the Canada-Finland game a while ago.

The article is here: http://tinyurl.com/929rt but most likely requires registration (or Mozilla's BugMeNot). So I'll copy the text here.


Jul. 7, 2005. 10:39 AM

Aki's exit would be a shame

Finnish footballer gains cult status with column



As the major leagues across Europe got underway a year ago, all of football was buzzing about Aki Riihilahti's attack from behind.

"Someone tried to put his thumb in my arse last week," the Crystal Palace and Finland player wrote in his column for The Times of London. "He only laughed when I questioned was he attacking both ways."

The identity of the offender remains mysterious. That there's a mystery at all is testament to the power of a plodding midfielder from Helsinki to capture the imagination of footballing fans across Europe.

On his website, akiriihilahti.com, and in his Times column, the 28-year-old athlete/diarist has become a cult hero with his insider's view of the game and his outsider's view of life. His fame increased exponentially when Palace was promoted to the Premiership.

Sports heroes often write for newspapers. Many of those columns are ghostwritten or heavily rewritten by editors. Riihilahti's column, started in 2002, is all Riihilahti — with a little spell checking. And Riihilahti is funny, quirky and unafraid to say what he thinks.

On Crystal Palace: "All of our starting 11 together is worth one-fifth of (Chelsea striker) Didier Drogba. Basically, we equal his right leg."

On `Premiership' friends: "They call you out of the blue, tell how nice you are and ... more importantly, that they are free when you are playing against Arsenal."

On the opponents who have beaten him: "I remember all their names, faces and situations, those bastards."

On professional footballing perks: "`Don't you know who I am?' won't get you into nightclubs."

That he's a tradesman playing in a league full of artists adds to his everyman appeal. Another factor is his Finnish take on written English.

The arse incident is a "gruel attack." A letter to dad begins "Dear a father." Rather than slag your enemies, you "slugger" them.

In a response to a Canadian fan on his website, Riihilahti writes: "Hi Shawn, I try to keep Canada not to be left out in the future."

No, I don't know what that means either.

His posted list of hobbies includes watching women's long jump, chess and "maximizing the living." His favourite author is Dostoevsky. His favourite women are Halle Berry, Pippi Longstocking and "every woman that smiles."

In short, Aki Riihilahti is like you and me, though funnier, more talented and cooler. It almost makes you want to visit Helsinki. Almost.

His last column this year was his best thus far. Palace was eight minutes from safety in its last game of the season, when a late Charlton goal tied the game. The tie doomed the club to relegation.

Writing about the wrenching failure, Riihilahti didn't talk soccer at all. Instead, he wrote about his grandfather and about his grandmother's funeral.

"Sure I cry and feel pain about football results," Riihilahti wrote. "However, the view of an old man grieving next to his wife's coffin is real pain."

He ends it like this:

"For me, there has never been a footballer even half a man of my grandfather. ... I apologize even writing about him next to a football game."

It's the sort of thing that leaves the deepest cynic with a lump in their throat.

All last season, Aki Riihilahti was a constant source of amusement, wonder and joy. Little of that was supplied on the pitch. Should he leave England, as it is rumoured he might, and quit his Times column, it will carve a mighty hole in my Monday morning reading.

So here's my plea: Dear a Aki. Don't be gruel. Keep the columns not to be left out in the future. If you leave, we'll be forced to slugger you mercilessly.

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Yeah, I ripped him apart a couple of days ago in a post for his lack of Canadian soccer articles. No offense to Shawn, but on the eve of the Gold Cup the guy could have found a slightly more important topic to write about. I get the feeling he doesn't know anything about Canadian soccer.

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quote:Originally posted by Richard

Maybe his directive from his employer is to write about European soccer, we don't know do we?

That's possible but since his predecessor Norm Da Costa wrote regularly on Canadian soccer, I seriously doubt that's the case.

Whatever happened to Norm, anyway?

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