“My father told me to play football instead of ice hockey” – The remarkable story of Finnish-Malaysian prodigy Nooa Laine

Attacking midfielder Nooa Laine is expected to make his Finnish debut this year, and he still fondly remembers his last visit to Malaysia.

Finland’s top tier, Veikkausliiga, may not be as well known to Malaysian fans as his brighter counterparts on mainland Europe. But it was no small feat for Finnish-Malaysian attacking midfielder Nooa Laine to secure a stint at a top club; Seinäjoen Jalkapallokerho (SJK) just months after turning 18, having cut his teeth playing in the lower ranks for the past three seasons.

According to his representative, Laine will train with the SJK first team, with the former champion Veikkausliiga described as the club with the best facilities in Finland.

It was a journey that started since he was a boy, the teenager said in a video interview with Goal Wednesday.

“I started [training] when I was six, with a summer team in the municipality of Jyväskylä where I was born. Small children in Finland start training in sports or football clubs at this age, and I was no different. Around that age, I also played with a few summer teams this summer.

“I switched to another team when I was 12, still in Jyväskylä. It was around this time that I started to want to do it more seriously. When I was 16, I signed with HJK (Helsingin Jalkapalloklubi), and now I’m at SJK, ”he explained.

Laine’s first senior goal, scored for Jyväskylän Jalkapalloklubi in 2018

The second child of five siblings spoke briefly about the role his Malaysian father played in shaping his fledgling career (Laine’s father refused to be identified by name for this story).

“My dad is the one who always pushed me to play football, instead of ice hockey, floorball and bandy which are also popular here. He is passionate about football and gave me that love. And those father-son things tend to stick with you when they start early in life.

“He comes from a small village called Batu Laut (in Selangor). I’ve been there three times actually, the first two times I was too small to remember, but I remember our last visit vividly as it was during the World Cup days 2010! It was really cool and I had a great time, ”Laine noted.

His Malaysian connection is something he’s keenly aware of, and it’s something he admittedly discussed with his father.

“My dad showed me things about Malaysia’s biggest club, JDT (Johor Darul Ta’zim) and we talked a bit about the possibility of representing Malaysia, but it’s nothing concrete.

“In football, in life, you never know what’s going to happen, you know?” replied the admitted fan of Christiano Ronaldo to Goalthe installer.

But talks about Malaysia’s representation may be premature, as Laine has regularly played for Finland’s U-16 and U-17 teams. And it is perhaps worth mentioning that the Finnish national team qualified for their very first European Championship, a feat that saw them climb to 54th place in the FIFA rankings.

“I played in ten matches with them, in non-competitive tournaments. I also attended two training camps with the U-18 team last year, but no games were played because of Covid-19. ”

Laine plays for Finland U-16 in 2017

The immediate goal of the teenager who has made a total of 15 full-team league appearances and scored five goals is his responsibilities to the club he just signed with earlier this month.

“I want to use my strength to get far at the club,” Laine said. “I like having the ball, I think I’m good enough at decision making, dribbling and passing, and I’m able to shoot well with both feet. For now, I want to be in the starting XI regularly for SJK.

“And then of course when that happens I have to start thinking about playing abroad. But you have to start by working hard to become a regular starter here. ”