Outside the HTUM federation, few HT-managers will probably have heard of Nurmiksen Pojat, the youth academy of the Klaukkala Bears (Finland). Within the federation, this Finnish squad has become a synonym for success at YA-level, having taken the HTUM youth leagues by storm. Since the inception of these leagues, three seasons ago, the top division has known but a single winner. Many have tried to topple the team from its position at the very top of the tables, but to this day none have succeeded. What is it that makes Nurmiksen Pojat a collector of trophies and such a hard team to beat? A HTUM-fed blog-reporter met up with Lupachuk, the man responsible for the team’s success.
Lupachuk, first of all I would like to thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for the HTUM fed-blog and to congratulate you on the success of your YA these last seasons. I’m sure our readers would like to know a bit more about you, outside of HT.
“The person behind manager Lupachuk is a 19-year-old Finnish lad from Southern Finland. I have played Hattrick since 2005 and this is my third team. The first team went bankrupt and the second was closed in 2009. My fellow friend (also a HT-manager, called Alokas) introduced me to the game back in 2005 and since then the game has been part of my life. There have been some periods when I was less active but I never considered quitting the game.
I’m a passionate friend of sports. I’m not only a huge fan of soccer and Liverpool FC but also really keen on watching tennis and ice hockey. Finland is quite a ‘big’ country in javelin and that’s why I follow athletics pretty much also. For leisure I do all kinds of stuff with friends: playing Playstation, going out to play some soccer as well as playing ice hockey in winter. I also play badminton twice a week either with my dad or my friend Alokas.”
You currently live in Uusimaa. Is there anything particular about the region, something you would recommend people to see/visit? What would you recommend people to eat and drink when visiting Uusimaa?
“The capital of Finland, Helsinki, is located in Uusimaa. There’s a lot you can go to see: the Olympia stadium (where the upcoming European Championship in athletics will be held), the Opera House and much more. Ah, and not to forget the Parliament of the Republic of Finland. And if you want to go outside of the capital there’s the house of Finnish national writer, Aleksis Kivi, which is a museum nowadays. Ouch, sorry I almost forget: You have to visit Suomenlinna which is the biggest fortress of Finland. It’s located on an island near Helsinki. A must see!
And if you want to eat something, Finland is known for its fish. I would recommend every tourist to taste Finnish Salmon and other fish. We eat mämmi every Easter. Not everyone likes it, which is obvious because it’s so different compared to other food, but I personally do like it. It belongs to Easter and it’s what I want to eat every Easter for the rest of my life!”
Tiera Kontkanen sounds like a really interesting young player. Can you tell us something more about him and his chances of making the Finland U20 team?
“He just turned 16 a couple of weeks ago and his potential in playmaking is excellent. He has also inadequate defending. There’s no guarantee he will get into the U20 program after promoting to the A-team, but let’s wait and see. He is already the all-time best player in the YA so it would be awesome if he would get there. He has played greatly since joining the YA but there’s a still a lot of training ahead of him. I believe he has a really good chance to become a U20 player and a regular in the starting eleven in the future”.
Several other players of your YA are also integrated into your A-team or placed on the transfer list. How do you manage to stay competitive in the youth league AND still produce quality players for your own or other teams?
“I think I answered this question a while ago: I’ll try to get two players for each position to avoid the headache when players get promoted to the A-team. Moreover, I’ve been a bit lucky as I have many 15-16 years old players in the YA and that’s why I haven’t had to think about getting a replacement for them. Of course the day will come when key players are at that age when they can be promoted to the A-team and that day will get closer and closer. However, I have some players who can replace them after they are gone so I’m pretty happy with the team’s situation right now. Besides, I’m a really competitive manager so I tend to spend some time on tactics to get the best out of the team”.
How much time on average would you say you spent setting up your YA team and scouting the opponent for a HTUM league game? How would you rate yourself tactically against the other managers of YA-teams in the top division?
“It depends on who we will face and our history against that particular team. Usually it takes 30-60 minutes but when it’s difficult to decide between two or more tactics it can take a whole day – but there hasn’t been that kind of situation for a long time. I think I’m OK with tactics, learning all the time, but I also think there’s much better tacticians than I am in our fed. I just try to do my best every time and it gives me confidence when I see the tactic has been successful and it gives me more encouragement to try something new the next time. I’m more an attack-minded manager than defensive so I always try to win, but I have learnt that sometimes you have to be clever and put a bit more defensive line-up on the pitch to avoid getting beaten big time. But mostly, I want to win every game – no matter whether it is the A-team or YA!”
How would you rate the HTUM youth league system in general? Your YA is winning everything, but which other YA in the fed would you rate high?
“I think it’s great! There are two 8-team leagues and in both very competitive teams are involved. In the end, the success depends on very little things: how you build your team for the second half of the campaign, how your tactics works out, etc. I have been lucky enough to be competitive during the whole season, while some of the teams have been struggling at some point. In the first season, the gap between the winner and runner-up (SMS Karpaty Krosno of Poland) was only one point, and last season I only managed to win on goal difference against FC Sliver Junior (Czech Republic). That’s not much, but that only shows that every point can be a lifesaver in the end.
The HTUM Youth League system has given me a lot of excitement and I can’t wait for the upcoming ones! There are some teams with high potential in the fed. Manse JR (Finland) has done a great job during the first two seasons despite dropping to 5th place in the final standings last season. Falcon Fledglings (Czech Republic) are also looking very competitive and are no doubt one of the title contenders. I think there is also one very impressive team outside the HTUM Youth Leagues: Cuomos’ The F YoungstarZ (Denmark). They look very strong and competitive and I think they would be a close contender for winning the HTUM U18 Championships if one day they decided to join. I hope there will be many seasons and years to come for these marvellous leagues and the fed!”
What are your plans for Nurmiksen Pojat and the Klaukkala Bears in the long run? What would you like to achieve with your team?
“I don’t have any long term plans but I want to achieve as much as possible with Nurmiksen Pojat and the Klaukkala Bears. It has been a great two seasons with Pojat and I hope that the fairytale will continue. The boys want to get their third title and that’s what we are trying to do with the team. We have an awesome team spirit and everyone in the team is getting along well with each other. There are many talented youngsters that will join the A-team this season and looks like some of them will get into the starting eleven in two to four seasons. Everyone in the fed undoubtedly remembers Aarno Ranta-Pere, the most talented player in Nurmiksen Pojat at a time. He is now making great progress in training and it seems like he will become the mainstay of the Bears’ defence in the future.
If we talk about KB’s success I must admit I would like to get to Mestaruussarja (the top league in Finland) and of course compete in the Hattrick Masters. It will be a long way ahead of us but that’s something we are dreaming about and hopefully we will get there one day”.
Thank you very much for the interview and best of luck to both Nurmiksen Pojat and the Klaukkala Bears!