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On May 18, 2012, Justin Stone embarked to Scandinavia to meet with every SSM client located in Finland and Sweden and to meet with various clubs.  Finnish football expert Sami Salonen welcomed Justin and assisted with the precise itinerary that allowed attendance at seven matches and participating in ten club management meetings.  

The Scandinavian market has been a great platform for SSM clients to acclimate to European football and a new culture.  SSM clients have also had success earning starting roles and valuable playing time to put themselves in prime position for transfers similar to Tomer Chencinski's move from VPS to Orebro SK.


After a long flight that arrived at 7 A.M. local time, Justin took a bus from Arland airport into downtown Stockholm prior to Sami Salonen's arrival. 


They were soon joined by former Swedish international Bosse Anderson and spent lunch in Stockholm Square.  The group then went to meet Sirius IK representatives before watching a Swedish 3rd division match between BK Forward vs. Vasby United.  The level showed that many USL Pro and NASL players could play in this league.



The group returned to Stockholm near the hotel and got ready for the UEFA Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea.  Ironically, the chosen venue for the match was O'Brien's American Sports Bar.  Everyone was glued to the televisions with the audio encompassing the large restaurant.  


Interestingly, the group was joined by a former NFL Europe Executive.  After a great match, Chelsea were crowned European Champions!



On May 20, 2012, Justin and Sami then took the train up to Orebro in time to meet with club members prior to their league match against Syrianska and to meet with SSM client Tomer Chencinski.  Orebro was extremely welcoming providing a facility tour and to discuss future collaboration. 


Orebro pregame


The level would be the best on the trip with several players making impacts on the match.  There were many introductions with Orebro club personnel and other agents in the press box at halftime and post-game. The match finished 1-0 in favor of the visitors.


Justin, Sami and Tomer met after the match for dinner in one of the town squares to round out the evening.  Surprisingly after dinner, one of the local pubs was showing an MLS game (Philadelphia Union vs. FC Dallas).  

MLS Orebro

The next day we took the train back to Stockholm to fly into Helsinki and then on to FC Hameenlinna to see a Ykonnen match with FC Hameenlinna vs. Seniajoki (SJK) to see Justin Moose in action.  We met with FC Hameenlinna coach Jussi Lempinen in the clubhouse.  

FCH Offices


Earlier that day, former New England Revolution and Toronto FC Pat Phelan arrived but unfortunately could not play due to his yet to be transferred ITC.  The field conditions were quite poor but that did not stop SJK from scoring a couple of goals in a 2-0 win.  Justin Moose played well in midfield and was able to visit with him after the match.


Justin x2


Sami saw a few familiar faces who were former teammates in attendance and met with the owner.  We then returned to Sami's home in Tampere.  Justin would wake up at 530 A.M. local time to watch the San Jose Earthquakes take on the LA Galaxy to watch SSM client Sercan Guvenisik's first MLS start.


The next day we remained in Tampere to have lunch with former Finnish International and current youth coach for the Finnish FA Jarrko Weiss at a Nepalese restaurant and then traveled to Helsinki to first meet with PK-35 head coach Pasi Pihamaa before meeting with Finnish Champions HJK and their technical director Tuomo Saarnio.  The meeting took place in one of the suites that overlooked the stadium where a couple youth clubs were practicing.  


HJK TrainingHJK trophies


An unknown surprise occurred as a U18 friendly between Finland and France took place on an auxiliary field.  France had several quality players that resulted in a 5-0 dismantling of Finland who were without their best players since they competed in the day before in Veikkausliiga competition.  During the game, Justin and Sami met with several Finnish Premier league coaches who were in attendance.  The Veikkausliiga league offices were also located at HJK stadium.




Justin and Sami then met up with HJK striker Juho Makela who Justin assisted in placing Makela on loan from Sydney FC the prior season with offers from an MLS and an NASL club but neither opportunity materialized.  Ironically, dinner took place at Chico's, an American burger restaurant. 


On May 23, 2012, Justin played Helsinki tourist until it was time to meet with Ari Masalin from Honka FC to discuss FInnish football and their club philosophy reluctant to sacrifice their playing style for results.  That evening Justin and Sami met with SJK part owner and General Manager Janne Kotamki. The rest of the day continued as a Helsinki tourist.


The next day we were off to Vaasa to see a clash between two of the top Veikkausliiga teams HJK and VPS. 

VPS game

HJK were the reigning league champions who will be participating in UEFA Champions League.  SSM client GK Bouna Coundoul was up to the task and posted a clean sheet with impressive saves and distribution blanking HJK 1-0.  The home crowd was ecstatic. This would be Bouna's first shutout and would go onto have seven additional clean sheets in the next ten matches.  Justin and Sami had dinner with Bouna Coundoul and Denis Abdulahi at a local restaurant to finish out the evening.  The next morning Justin and Sami met with VPS Head Coach Olli Huttunen and VPS GK Coach Esa Karki at the train station before traveling to the next destination.

         Bouna KickJustin Bouna_Sami

The next day the two traveled to Seniajoki to take in training and to meet club owners.  SJK has an impressive set up with a state of the art indoor facility that hosts one of the region's best pre-season tournaments with clubs from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe attending.  SJK has a lot of ambition looking to get promotion to the Veikkausliiga with great facilities and committed ownership.  The club had an impressive world record winning streak at 44 games at the time of our arrival. 


         SeniajokiSena Indoor

Justin spent the next day visiting with Justin Moose and his wife Natalia who were soon expecting their first child.  Natalia's mother was also visiting in preparation for the birth.  Justin watched SJK train and then visited the indoor arena.  The Mooses and Justin traveled to Vaasa to play tourist for a few hours before returning to Seinajoki.


The next morning Justin traveled on a train to Kokkola where he would meet back up with Sami to watch two SSM clients take on each other with Mason Trafford lining up for IFK Mariehamn and Mike Banner for Jaro FF. 

Jaro booklet


First, the two met with Jaro FF General Manager Niklas Storbacka.  This match was played in Kokkola home of Ykonnen club KPV as Jaro FF plays a few matches at this venue each season to brand their club.  The game was quite entertaining but eventually IFK Mariehman proved to be the better side winning 3-0.  Both SSM clients had strong games at their left back positions.  Justin and Sami met with Trafford and Banner after the game where both had to return to their buses and head back to their respective cities.

     Justin Mason

 Justin Banner


After spending the night in Kokkola, Justin took a one-way flight to Stockholm to rest up before his early morning flight back to the United States.  The trip was very eventful meeting many people for the first time or those who had previously been in contact by phone or email only.  It was great too to catch up with SSM clients and better understand their environments.  Justin looks forward to a return trip and following these players for the rest of the season and careers.

Stone Sports Management LLC
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Columbus, OH 43215 USA
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