Although it's hard to believe, our last preseason matches are upon us. The match many suppose will be the last (and indeed first) full-strength test before the season kicks off on Saturday in Helsinki against current Finnish title holders, HJK Helsinki. Somewhat curiously, Liverpool will then line up the very next day in England to square off with third tier side Swindon Town.
Obviously, these aren't sides which Liverpool face very often, so we thought we'd learn more about these two clubs.
First thing you need to know, unless you're Finnish, HJK Helsinki is the preferred nomenclature for the club. "HJK" is the Finnish abbreviation for "Helsingin Jalkapalloklubi." It translates to "Helsinki Football Club," thereby creating one of those curious moments in translating where a word, in this case "Helsinki," is repeated: Helsinki Football Club Helsinki. Where are they from again? Oh right, Helsinki.
Because one abbreviation isn't enough, HJK Helsinki is also known simply as "Klubi" or "The Club."
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The Club was founded in 1907, and has racked up an impressive amount of domestic honors: 27 league titles, 12 Finnish Cups, and 5 Finnish League Cups. No other club in Finnish football has double digit league titles. They've won the league each year since 2009, and currently sit atop the table by two points, albeit with one game in hand. Since 1908, HJK has spent only 6 years outside of the Finnish top division.
HJK is also the only Finnish side to compete in the Champions League group stages, a feat accomplished in the 1998-99 season. And they're the only Finnish club to have competed in the Europa League group stages, finishing 3rd in the group last year.
In 1909, The Club donned their now traditional blue and white kits in support of the Fennoman Movement, which was essentially a Finnish nationalist movement. That sounds a lot worse than it actually was. At the time, Finnish language and culture were struggling to gain dominance over Swedish and Russian languages and cultures.
Unlike most other European leagues, the Finnish league runs from spring to fall, thus avoiding the worst of the Finnish winters. So, Liverpool will be facing Helsinki in mid-season form, and sandwiched between to Champions League qualifying rounds.
The Club will kick off against Liverpool at Helsinki Olympic Stadium on Saturday, but they usually make the smaller Sonera Stadium their home.
Swindon Town currently plies their wares in the third tier of English football, where they have made a comfortable living for 32 of their 87 league seasons. Swindon Town have precisely one year of top-flight football in 1993-94 before suffering back-to-back relegations.
The club, nicknamed the Robins, were founded in 1879, and became professional in 1894.
There's not a lot of honors in the club's trophy cabinet, but they did manage a single League Cup victory in 1969 over Arsenal. They also have two FA Cup semifinal appearances, in 1909-10, and 1911-12.
Swindon Town's crest has gone through at least five iterations throughout the years, several of which are quite hideous. In 2007, supporters were able to vote on their preferred design. I must say, the design they chose is a classy red, white, and gold number with their founding date, a robin, and the latin motto they share with the town of Swindon, "Salubritas et Industria" ("Health and Industry").
Apparently, Swindon Town was interested in making green their predominant color, only to have difficulties obtaining green dye. This is a shame, as green is a spectacularly underutilized color within the sport. But I digress. By 1902 the club had settled on red, thus resulting in their "Robin" moniker.
The Robins have played at The Country Ground since 1896. During World War II, the pitch was converted into a POW camp, and the club received a compensation of £4,570 in 1945. The stadium was also the first in the Football League to erect floodlights for night games, beating Arsenal to the punch by six months in April 1951.
The Robins will host Liverpool on Sunday.
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