Nõmme Kalju, which was established in 1923, is a football club that has played since 2008 in Estonia’s highest division – the Meistriliiga. The club’s ambition is to win the Estonian Championship and to make a name in European football.
This season is turning out to be the best in the club’s history. With outstanding play, the club is striving to win the gold medal by competing against the defending champion, Tallinn’s FC Flora, which has dominated the Meistriliiga (Premier League) for a long time. Kalju has yet to win a medal, but during the four seasons since a professional football team was formed, Kalju has played twice in the qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League. The team’s results this season are better than ever before. In a short time, the respected head coach, Igor Prins, has developed the team into a united fighting force, along with Brazilian Fredo Getulio Aurelio, who, as a coach, guided Brazil’s U-17 team to a world championship.
A team with a new face
Before the start of the season, the Nõmme football club added many well-known players from home and abroad.
Alain Garcia Gutierrez, who played with the Cuban youth team, and Alo Bärengrub, central defender with the Estonian national team and who has also played in the Norway’s top division, were added to the defensive line. During the summer, a young promising Italian defender, Marco Bianchi, joined the club along with Jorge Manuel Ferreira, a Portuguese player who has played in the top division in Portugal and Slovenia.
“I have adapted well to Estonia and we have a good team. We are improving every day and I think that Nõmme Kalju is individually the best team in the Premier League. Our goal is to take the league title and I will do everything in my power to achieve this,” said the multifaceted defender Alain Garcia Gutierrez.
“Nõmme Kalju has become the club that has brought new winds of change to Estonian football, by seriously battling for a medal. Our team is a good combination of foreign and local players. Our team spirit is good and we have improved game after game. One of the keys to the team’s success is the experienced head coach Igor Prins, who gets the best from the players and motivates us to work towards great goals,” Alo Bärengrub said.
Among the new faces in the defensive midfielders are Finn Kaarlo Verneri Rantanen and four-time Estonian champion Eino Puri. In addition, two Japanese players have joined the squad – the hard-working Hiroyuki Mitsuyama, who has a strong kick, and Hidetoshi Wakui, who has become one of the team’s key players, and whose outstanding speed and leadership have attracted attention from the broader public.
“Things are going well for me in Estonia and I haven’t had any problems. I get along with everyone and everything has been positive. I know my role in the team. Nõmme Kalju’s level of game is very good. We have a strong team and good substitutes for every position,” the Finn Kaarlo Verneri Rantanen said.
Nõmme Kalju has added two exceptional players – Tarmo Neemelo and Kristen Viikmäe – in attack along with high scorer Jüri Jevdokimov. Both forwards have made a name in the Estonian national team. Viikmäe even has 114 caps and 15 goals to his credit for the national team! This season, the two experienced forwards have formed the most feared attacking duo, having scored many important goals between them! Halfway through the season, the fast Manucho, from the Ivory Coast, who returned from being out on loan, was added to the duo.
The team captain is Sergei Terehhov, who has 95 international caps to his name. Kert Kütt, who has one of the most reliable pair of hands in the league and Oliver Konsa, who has experience playing on the Estonian national team, also play with Nõmme Kalju. In defence, experienced Mikk Haavistu is also worth mentioning.
The squad also includes many former and current members of the youth national team, such as defensive wingers Andres Koogas and Ken Kallaste and Kalju’s goal-scoring machine from last season – Jüri Jevdokimov. In addition, up-and-coming players include defenders like Dmitri Kovtunovitš and Martin Tšegodajev and defensive midfielder Denis Vnukov. The reserve goalkeeper is Daniil Savitski who also has experience in the youth national team.
During the current season, Nõmme Kalju qualified for the first preliminary UEFA Europa League round, where a tough battle was fought with top Finnish club Honka Espoo. However, due to a lack of European experience, Kalju lost to their opponents, though marginally. Kalju is planning greater deeds in the Europa series next season.
The club’s greatest objective is to move to a new stadium in 2015 and to increase the number of Kalju Nõmme’s spectators – currently, they already have the most spectators in the league. The club’s fan club, The Pink Panthers, supports the team at every game, although the greatest support is evident at the home games held at Hiiu Stadium, where the fans enthusiastically cheer for Kalju.
One of Nõmme Kalju’s most striking features is the organisation of large advertising campaigns in the city. “No other team that has risen to the Premier League has been spoken about as much as this year’s newcomer, Nõmme Kalju. Their phenomenon includes an unprecedented outdoor advertising campaign, which has replaced high fashion brands on the city’s rotating outdoor advertising pillars with Nõmme Kalju emblems on a pink background”, the daily newspaper Eesti Päevaleht wrote about the club few years ago.
In September of this year, Nõmme Kalju organised a huge football festival together with adidas, which attracted thousands of football fans and where children played football and had a good time with their families. Several concerts were included in the Kalju Football Festival and many famous Estonian artists were in attendance. The event garnered lots of media attention and the event turned out to be more successful than expected. No other football club in Estonia has organised anything comparable. The day culminated in an historic 3:0 victory over Nõmme Kalju’s main rival, FC Flora.
Youth activities have become very important for Kalju. The Nõmme Kalju youth have succeeded in both local and international tournaments, where they have achieved great victories. In addition, the club’s youth can also be constantly seen on the pitch wearing the blue shirt of the Estonian youth team. The club’s youth system is very ambitious and is developing in regard to additional groups and the level of play.
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