Sally Shipard goes one-on-one with Canberra United teammate Jenni Bisset, who is now plying her trade with PK-35 in Finland.
1. Firstly, You met Marta. How was that? Did you get to play against her?
It was amazing to hear I'd be playing opposite a team with Marta, the world's best women's player in it, but she was sick (or so they say). Fortunately, she went to sign autographs in the crowd after the game and I snuck up behind her and asked for a picture with our team photographer. That's how that amazing moment of my meeting her got cemented in photo forever! We didn't actually speak, apart from me saying, "Hi, Marta. Can I please have a photo?" and her saying, "Yes." Still a great memory.
I also saw from your photos that you played in a big indoor shed? This must be protecting you from the constant snow. How cold is it?
The shed-like building from the photo is called a bubble, and they have a lot around Helsinki. It's meant to protect from the snow and cold, but in that instance, it was colder on the inside than out. The shed-bubble acted more like a fridge, with the snow clinging to the outside. After training in there (and doing a few coaching gigs with small children for a bit of extra pocket money) I went out and bought the warmest jacket I now own.
How long are you actually over there for? Long enough for the snow to melt? Does it even melt?
So far I've been away from Australia for over two weeks. On the 12th of March it'll be a month. In the end I will have been away for 8 months. It's the longest I've been away from home, but I haven't gotten homesick as yet. The people here are generally extremely friendly, they're just shy about speaking English. People start learning English here from year 1 or 2, and they're all pretty smart and sophisticated. My first impression of Finland was - "This looks like a snowier version of Canberra." All the populated areas are spread out, but once you get into the suburbs, it's all very quaint or filled with apartments (houses are so expensive). There are some great views and a lot of places to go skiing and ice skating. The coldest it's been so far is -15 celsius. It's snowed and been windy and sunny at times, but not too overwhelming so far.
What was going through your head when you first stepped off the plane?
When I first stepped off the plane, I kept asking myself why on Earth I decided to go to Finland, but at the same time I was proud of myself for doing something on my own and going out to see the world.
Why did you want to play overseas? Did someone or something inspire you or was it something you-ve always wanted to do?
I wanted to go overseas because I had just completed my university degree (Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Chinese, minoring in English and French), and I hadn't taken a gap year yet to go traveling. PK-35 paid for the flight, and I would be going over to play soccer, which is a dream combination. I couldn't have done any of it without the help of the Canberra United coaches and I would never have imagined it possible without the likes of yourself and others who paved the way before me.
Have you played any games yet? When does your official season begin?
So far I've played two games, but the official season doesn't start till the 23rd of March. I played against Thereso and a Danish team, although I don't remember their name, like a lot of names around here.
Whats is your training venue like?
Our training and game venue is called Myyrmäki Hall. It has an indoor pitch and outdoor pitch, both synthetic. At first, I found it difficult to play on this ground because of the faster pace of the ball and the hard surface. I found my muscles getting really tight. However, I'm starting to get used to the way things are and hopefully I will be able to play to the best of my ability once the season starts.
Are you struggling with the cold? When I was abroad in Germany, I couldn-t feel my feet for weeks.
I haven't struggled with the cold as much as I thought I would. Some days I definitely didn't wear enough, but now I think I have the measure of what's needed to stay warm. I bought a big jacket and warm, sturdy shoes. I guess the main problem I've had is dealing with slipping around on the ice.
What do you miss about home?
I miss Milo and different spreads for toast in the morning. They like cheese and ham on bread, all the time, over here, which I just can't stomach at 8am. I do enjoy their chocolate and tea and dairy products and bread, though.
How are you finding the language barrier? Are they coaching you in English or Finnish?
I have learnt to say several Finnish words since coming here, from the basics such as hello, good bye, thank you and sorry, to soccer terms, such as, "turn!" and "man on!". Everyone speaks at least a little English here, so it's been pretty easy navigating my way around the place.
Away from the football, do you have time to explore your surrounds?
I don't have much to do during the day, so I definitely have had time to see a few things already. I've been to Downtown - which is what they call the city central of Helsinki - and I've seen port areas, nice restaurants, big shopping malls and a boat cafe, where I enjoyed hot chocolate while rocking on the waves. My favourite place so far has been an indoor market place, the name of which I've both forgotten and can't pronounce as usual, where I encountered salmon soup, a whole range of fresh vegetables and meats. The place had an amazing atmosphere and I will definitely going back to try a few more cafes.
What-;s your house like whilst you are abroad? Are you comfortable?
I am very comfortable in my house. I like with the Alin family, Mum - Teija, Dad - J.P., Daughter - Martta. They are extremely friendly and kind people, so I'm very grateful to have been allowed to stay with them.
What is the biggest difference in comparison to the culture, football and day to day life?
In all honesty, I think the reason I've found it so easy to cope with a sudden relocation to the snow, is that that things aren't so different here as you might expect compared to Australia. In terms of culture, I guess one of the main differences is that cars and petrol are so extremely expensive (100 Euros in some cases to fill a tank) that most people take public transport everywhere. Football-wise, I find their game a lot faster than the Aussie game, because (1) the pitch is so flat and quick, and (2) that's just how they play. I guess the slower fields and heat in Australia make our game a little different, so it would be interesting to see how the players here would cope with that. In day to day life, normal working hours here are from 8am to 4pm and school hours vary from an early age. By that I mean, instead of 9am to 3pm everyday from primary school to high school, sometimes my host sister starts at 8:30am and finishes at 1pm. Other days she'll start at 9am and finish at 2pm. I actually really like this system, because when you're that young (8 years), you don't want to be sat around all day in a classroom getting gradually more tired and bored!
You-ve mentioned the Sauna to me before in amongst our correspondence... Surely you use these to heat up?
Every house I've been to here so far has had a sauna. Even the apartments. I've been to it once, but found it really hot and hard to breath. I asked my host family why people like them here so much, and they said it was a way to relax, especially after a cold day outside where sometimes a worker won't see the sun, having left home in the dark of the morning and returned in the dark of the night.
How are you finding the level of football in comparison to the W-League?
I think after this trip I will definitely have become a better footballer. I can hopefully bring the pace of the game over here back home, as well as the good touch needed to control a speeding ball. I think the level here is the same as back home, because it's all relative to the pitch and the climate. Although, I think here I might become a little fitter.