Pia Kosonen part of bright future for female football in Finland

Among a new generation of talent with Finland’s national women’s football team, Pia Kosonen is essential towards propelling the future of the sport there. As the Nordic country served as host for the 2013 edition of the IFAF Women’s World Championships, it was more than just another chapter in the game’s unfolding history.

It was the kind of watershed moment that inspired many women in Finland to grace the gridiron and begin their own football journey. Among them was Kosonen, whose proficient at the quarterback position has brought new depth to the Finnish roster, one that crossed the Atlantic in the hopes of capturing its third straight podium finish at the 2017 IFAF Women’s World Championships in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Photo credit: Ann Tulikalnen

Although Kosonen’s road to donning Finland’s journey endured an unfortunate setback, as surgery was required for an Anterior cruciate ligament injury, it could not sideline her for long. Bringing a relentless approach and determined focus, it was a character defining moment, obtaining an element of admiration.

“I have to admit that I am not as experienced as other quarterbacks probably are at this level. I started training in American football during the fall of 2014. I broke my ACL during spring 2015 and I needed surgery for that.

I tried to get back on the practice field as soon as possible. I had my first game ever in summer 2016. So, this is practically my second season. What I am trying to explain is (that) I was super nervous and excited about this tournament.

I also try to set as good an example on and off the field. I listen if someone has something to say and I try to ask other players how I can make their game easier.”

In action vs. Team Australia (Credit: DS Photo)

Taking on the role of backup quarterback as a member of Finland’s national team, under the tutelage of head coach Mike Eloranta, Kosonen calls the Hyvinkää Falcons of the SAJL Division I, her club team. The only member of the Falcons to be named to Team Finland, among the highlights of her promising career with the club, she had the opportunity to compete against Britain’s Birmingham Lions in an international friendly during February 2017.

Jonna Hakkarainen of the Helsinki Wolverines and Jenni Pelkonen of the Hämeenlinna Huskies were the other quarterbacks for Finland. As Kosonen reflects, an injury to starting quarterback Hakkarainen, placed her in a unique position, enjoying the milestone of her first international start.

“Yet, I think I did pretty well though in Vancouver. Whenever I go on the field, I keep saying to myself that I am the leader and I am going to run this offence.

I was not our starting QB, but when Jonna Hakkarainen got injured, I needed to step up and I feel that I was up to it. So yes, I see myself as a leader on a Team Finland.”

As the Finns dismantled Great Britain by a score of 50-12 in the 2015 European championships, momentum was high for another podium finish. Although Finland was relegated to competing in the fifth place game, the performances in said game have shown that the future is exciting for Finland, definitely instilling faith that a return to the podium may take place very soon.

Gaining the start against Australia (who were making their international debut in the 2017 Worlds), Kosonen was brilliant. Successfully completing a touchdown pass against Laura Pulkkinen for the game’s opening points, it was a very fitting outcome. Considering that Pulkkinen had originally not been slated for the final roster, an injury brought a new direction for the team, and Pulkkinen’s efforts versus Australia paid positive dividends.

Rushing for a touchdown against Australia (Credit: DS Photo)

After Elina Kero returned an interception for a touchdown in the second quarter, achieving a “pick six”, Kosonen and Pulkkinen would combine again following halftime. Connecting on a 15-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, their collaborative efforts were quickly putting the game out of reach.

Before the end of the third, Pulkkinen would add to an insurmountable lead, gaining a five-yard rushing touchdown. In the fourth, Kosonen would emulate her by scoring on a six-yard run, the first international rushing touchdown of her career. With Pulkkinen gaining Player of the Game honors, the 35-0 final also indicated that Kosonen is a prime time player, ready to make things happen in big game situations. Undoubtedly, both summed up the ideals of dedication and perseverance.

“Of course we wanted to play in a medal game. Finland won bronze in 2010 and 2013 so fifth place was a little bit of a disappointment. American football is getting more popular and at the same time, the level is getting higher.

Our coaches were satisfied and happy with how we played. Of course, there is always something what we could have done better. From now on, we just have to keep practicing more. There are lots of good players in Finland who could play on a national team.”

Although the podium finish eluded a hard-working Finnish squad, such sensational performances by players such as Kosonen are poised to generate feelings of nostalgia in the future.

Skillfully weaving an offensive attack against Australia, Kosonen provided a riveting performance, as the roster was a single unitary structure, immersed in the goal of emerging victorious. With Kosonen at its heart, it was the kind of uplifting performance that she shall not only treasure for many years to come, but it stood out as the most favorite moment she experienced at the 2017 IFAF Worlds.

“Well of course, I have to say the whole game against Australia. And especially my own touchdown. That was my first international game in which I played the entire game and scored a TD by myself. We also won that game and our whole team was so awesome.”

As the beginning of every new season, and the advent of every tournament supplies an endless capacity for renewal, restoring any team’s glorious hopes, there were many positives that emanated in Vancouver. Among them was Kosonen’s inspiring performance against Australia, which also saw Pulkkinen complement her skills as Finland’s field general.

Although there may have been an element of anguish as a podium finish was not meant to be in Vancouver, the chance to finish on such a strong note brought with it an optimistic denouement. Reflecting on the chance to be part of the first IFAF Women’s Worlds in North America, it also brought with a lifetime of memories off the field. Getting the opportunity to absorb the beauty of such a cosmopolitan city, the graciousness of the residents, and their sincere interest in the growth of female football only added to the cheerful sense of achievement for all women involved in such a landmark event.

“Vancouver was such a pretty city and especially all the people there. Every one of the locals who I spoke to was super nice and friendly. I had a little helmet problem during this tournament, and I was assisted by several locals with that.

The people were very interested about Finland. Also the nature was beautiful too and I liked that it was so warm.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Images supplied by Pia Kosonen

Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

Leave a Reply