There are an increasing number of Trinidadian footballers flocking over to the bitterly cold shores of Finland, not least national midfielder Ataullah Guerra. Rich Nelson writes…
For Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Ataullah “Gera” Guerra (see above), the week in which he signed for Finnish club RoPS (based in the Arctic town of Rovaniemi) was a big turning point in his life. Not only was he making his first steps into European football, but on his first Sunday in the country, he received a tragic phonecall.
His elder brother Marvin, who had coached and encouraged him as a child, was shot and killed in their hometown. This wasn’t the first sibling bereavement Ataullah had suffered, as another brother (Mark) had been murdered ten years previously, and was involved in gangs.
In Finland, Gera is adjusting to a completely different way of life. RoPS has gained some popularity on the Internet as the coldest top division club in the world, and it was their promotion to the top division (Veikkausliiga) which gave Guerra his chance.
He’s still adjusting to the cold Finnish weather, it’s a completely different way of life
He had been invited to a training camp in Turkey, where scouts from European clubs were looking at players to trial and sign, and Ataullah impressed. It was Marvin who did the research on the club, and his words convinced him to sign: “Marvin told me to take up the challenge,” he said. “Gera, you have to open this door, because it may be a small step forward towards the dream.”
Once he arrived, he certainly found a different style of football. In March he said: “It is very physical and more direct here and most teams play counter-attacking football. Almost all the passes are forward passes and it is plenty of running. It is a great challenge for me to improve my game.” Having been signed to play as a number ten, he may find his game altered more than he’d bargained.
His first taste of Finland was an international between the two nations last year in Port Of Spain, where the Finns won 3-2. Gera recalls: “They ran all the time, and surrounded me every time I got the ball”. Guerra missed the recent T&T friendlies against Belize and Peru due to the processing of his move to Rovaniemi, but he’s back in the squad for the upcoming games in Romania and Estonia.
Guerra’s brother Marvin, who tragically died, advised him to join RoPS
Guerra’s start with RoPS has been eventful – he’s started every league game so far for RoPS, scoring one of the goals of the season against VPS last week. His side are also through to the the quarter-finals of the Cup, defeating champions HJK in the last round.
His loan from Caledonia AIA (see above) is initially for six months, but he’s very much in the shop window. On the prospect of one day turning out in a big European league, Ataullah says: “I owe it to all who have helped me, but especially for Marvin. Marvin led me to this point, now I will continue without him. I’ve come too far to turn back. Hello Spain, hello England, I’m coming!”
It was Marvin who urged the six year old Ataullah to train with a tennis ball. “If that ball obeys you, the bigger ball will be fine.” Guerra won outstanding midfielder of the year in his native homeland for 2011/12, and there is some stiff competition in his new home. Former Tottenham and Ajax midfielder Teemu Tainio has returned to Finland this year (with HJK), yet he has already met Gera and lost. He won’t be the only one.
In the shop window, Guerra dreams of featuring in one of the big European leagues
There is quite the Caribbean flavour in the Veikkausliiga this year. Trinidad midfielder Densill Theobald couldn’t agree terms with KuPS, while young striker (and one-time Celtic target) Shahdon Winchester (see above) – once described by the great former national team attacking maestro Russell Latapy as a “fantastic young talent, a real little star” – is at Jaro, and is looking quite the prospect. Jamaicans Dever Orgill and Alonzo Adlam, meanwhile, are at IFK Mariehamn.
By Rich Nelson
Thank you for reading! Feel free to leave any constructive feedback in the comments box below. You can check out Rich’s Finnish football website at http://www.escapetosuomi.com/ Meanwhile, you can get in touch with me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.