The worst thing a football fan can ever experience is to witness their club go bust. For most supporters that feeling is best described as losing a part of yourself.
But what if your club could be brought back to life one day? What if you had the chance to live and breath your club’s colour’s again?
This is the story of Myllykosken Pallo (MYPA), a club from a small town of 6000 people in Finland, who will return to competitive football this year after a two-year absence.
MYPA, formed in 1947 by the town’s paper factory workers, achieved 24 seasons (1975 & 1992-2014) in the Finnish top flight, a record only bettered by the country’s biggest club HJK.
Success followed MYPA soon after their second promotion to the top tier in 1991. They won the Finnish Cup in 1992, 1995 and 2004 and finished second on five occasions from 1993 to 1996 and in 2002.
The club also contributed to producing the likes of Jari Litmanen, Sami Hyypiä and Joonas Kolkka, who all went on to become legends of Finnish football.
MYPA’s only league title came in 2005 after a 3-0 win over Tampere United in front of a sold-out home crowd. This achievement marked several years of hard work from the Myllykoski community.
The club also had its fair share of moments in Europe where they have played the likes of PSV Eindhoven (1995), Liverpool (1996) and Blackburn Rovers (2007).
In 2005 they came incredibly close to reaching the UEFA Cup group stages after sensationally knocking out Dundee United on away goals. The first leg ended 0-0 in Finland before MYPA came from two goals down to draw 2-2 in Scotland.
The final qualification round ended in disappointment for the Finnish minnows as they crashed out 4-1 on aggregate to Swiss side Grasshoppers.
But medals and European nights were short-lived as the club failed to build on their domestic and continental success. Lower mid-table finishes followed and things got even worse behind the scenes.
MYPA’s largest shareholder, Myllykosken Oy, began slicing the club’s budget due to their own financial difficulties and by 2011 the paper factory had been bought out by United Paper Mills.
The club attempted to stay afloat with the resources they were left with but their fight came to an after the 2014 season when the FA refused to grant them a Veikkausliiga license for the following year.
The FA eventually offered them a First Division license but the board felt it would be unwise to keep the club running and decided to file for bankruptcy on February 20 2015.
MYPA’s academy and junior structures were kept in place following the collapse and that has given this club the chance of returning to first team football. Now, two years later, which would be the club’s 70th anniversary, we will see Myllykosken Pallo playing competitive football again.
MYPA were granted a place in the southeastern conference of the Finnish third division at the end of last year after local neighbours Inkeroisten Purha pulled out of the league.
The club’s junior organisation then hosted open trials before Christmas and selected a total of 30 players, some of whom had been part of the youth system. One of the selections was 34-year-old midfielder Heikki Pulkkinen, who played for the club from 2006 to 2008.
MYPA’s first competitive match will take place on April 8 against Union Plaani in the Regions Cup before the league season begins.
The Finnish third division may not have the same glamour as the Veikkausliiga or UEFA Cup, but it is a good place to start and build something special again for the people of Myllykoski.
Stay tuned for more news regarding MYPA and its former players