The new season which has just kicked off in Estonia, promises to be an exciting one as several clubs look to close challenge the big guns from Tallinn.
By Andres Must
Even though the 2005 champions TVMK Tallinn went bust last year, the new season promises to be an exciting one, with the capital’s “big two” having lost several key players while many of their rivals have strengthened.
Levadia Tallinn, champions in four of the last five seasons, have lost three important players, with forward Tarmo Kink and defender Tihhon Sisov joining Hungarian side Gyori ETO, while defender Marek Lemsalu has retired.
Flora Tallinn have also lost three key players as the league’s best player, striker Juha Hakola, has moved to Heracles Almelo in Holland, fellow forward Jarmo Ahjupera has joined Kink and Sisov at Gyori, and midfielder Martin Reim (capped a European record 156 times by Estonia) has retired.
Flora have also made an important change in their management, with national team boss Tarmo Ruutli replacing coach Pasi Rautiainen.
“I have the necessary energy to do both jobs. Last term I was a Levadia supporter, now the situation is different. It is time to knock them off their throne,” says Ruutli, a former Levadia coach who is now in his second stint in charge at Flora. Defender Teet Allas will be his assistant.
Elsewhere Sergei Ratnikov, who worked with TVMK last season, has moved with his sons Eduard and Daniil to take over as coach at Narva Trans. Ratnikov also bought in midfielder Timo Teniste and forward Kristjan Tiirik, two players he worked with at Tammeka Tartu two seasons ago.
Last year’s fifth-placed side Sillamae Kalev have ambitious plans for the new season and have signed virtually a whole new team, mostly made up of Russians and Lithuanians. However, the large number of foreign arrivals could cause problems as the rules only allow three players without an EU passport per team.
One of the more interesting sides are Nomme Kalju. In their debut season in the top flight they finished in fifth – rising to fourth after TVMK’s elimination – but owner Kuno Tehva and Brazilian coach Fredo Getulio have declared that the main goal in the near future is the title.
Kalju signed two players from TVMK – goalkeeper Daniil Savitski and Estonia winger Sergei Terekhov – and are looking for more players from abroad. “We have some offers from Russia, Latvia and Lithuania,” claims Tehva. “There are many players in Europe without a contract and so the clubs have more opportunities.”
In a league where the bottom club are relegated and the club finishing ninth go into a promotion/relegation play-off, survival looks to be the name of the game for Viljandi Tulevik, Tammeka Tartu and Tallinna Kalev, along with newcomers FC Kuressaare and Flora Paide.