The Finnish community of the Costa del Sol is enjoying a year of celebrations to commemorate the centenary of Finland’s Declaration of Independence. Under the banner of ‘Finland: 100 years on the Costa del Sol of Spain’, several cultural and sporting events have been organised at different locations along the coast.
One of these is the forthcoming pesäpallo tournament, or Finnish baseball, as it is also known.
The tournament, which is sponsored by the Fuengirola town hall, has been organised by The Finnish Pesäpallo Federation - similar to the NBA in America - and Superpesis, the Finnish Premier League.
Pesäpallo, which means ‘nest ball’, is the national sport of Finland and it is popular around the country, especially in the Ostrobothnia region.
The most important difference between pesäpallo and baseball is that the ball is pitched vertically. This makes hitting the ball, as well as controlling the power and direction, much easier and gives the offensive game more variety and speed compared to baseball. Unlike baseball, catching the ball in flight is not an out, instead it forces the runner advancing at the moment of the catch to attempt to reach next base. If they succeed, there are no further consequences. If they fail, they are out.
The attacking team uses a colour-coded fan to inform players when to run. The coach leads his team’s offence by giving signals with the fan. The defensive team play is also directed by the manager’s orders, and the hand signals of the players on the pitch.
Pesäpallo, which has some presence in Germany, Sweden and Switzerland, was invented by Lauri ‘Tahko’ Pihkala in 1920.
The sport is deeply rooted in the history of Finland as a nation and besides being a professional sport; it has become a national pastime.
The game has grown in popularity and its success as a spectator sport is based on the unique combination of skill and teamwork.
Pesis, as it is affectionately known, was first promoted as an Olympic sport during the Summer Olympics in Helsinki in 1952.
The pesäpallo tournament will be held at the Elola sports complex in Fuengirola at 1pm on this Sunday, 23 April. The first game will pitch newcomers, Imatran Pallo Veikot, against Sotkamon Jymy, the former Finnish champions.
Before returning to Finland, the teams will donate most of their equipment to the Finnish School in Fuengirola, as pesäpallo will soon be part of the school’s sports curriculum.
Hannu Vuori, representative of the Finnish community of Fuengirola, told SUR in English that the tournament is expected to attract a large amount of interest, as it is the first of its kind in Spain.
“We have been informed that more than 1,000 fans have booked their flights to Costa del Sol in order to see the match. This will be an exciting game and we hope to make this a regular event in the future,” he said.