Class of 1991 – Wonderful group of personalities

Eeva Sorkkila is a former Finnish women’s national team coach who had a very successful spell which was crowned by the 1992 Paralympic gold medal.

"It was so fun to reminisce the 1991 Goalball European Championships in Lahti as I skimmed through the old newspapers. For me that year was all about goalball, because I was a Secretary General of the Games and went through all the phases from planning and building to the finals and gala dinner. Besides that I was also the head coach of women’s national team and it was such an intense year for us. The players were very motivated to train hard after the World Championship bronze medals from Canada last year.

We had a strong and experienced team in the home Euros. We had trained all year actively both physical side and playing skills in training camps in Helsinki and Pajulahti. Players really put themselves to it and were ready to spend time and money to get better. Team’s inner energy was high and every player wanted to take responsibility of the team’s success. Our players were Iiris Keitel, Helena Liukka, Tarja Pelkonen, Kaisa Penttilä, Maija Piiroinen and Saila Tiainen. They all had their own personalities with their weaknesses and strengths. And it seemed that among our more experienced players those strengths were gotten even stronger during the recent years. Maija was our throwing machine, an open and straight-forward person with a sparkling sense of humour. Tarja was very technical and strong thrower and she had an ability to analyse opponent’s playing and build match strategies to help my work. It wasn’t a surprise that she became a successful coach after my time. Kaisa was a sensitive center player. When she was at her best it was impossible to get a ball past her. Her mobility and listening skills were top class. Saila was our philosopher and game analyser who brought creativity to our playing. Her versatile and technically skillful throws formed a hard task to our opponents. Iiris was still young and her development was still in the beginning. She was physically very talented and versatile player. Helena played in her first major championships in Lahti and she showed how cold blooded she was when she stepped up to throw her first ever extra throw in the final match.

All the Finnish team members of the 1991 Euros. Eeva Sorkkila fourth from the right in upper row.

Players really showcased their skills and will to fight as they won four matches out of five in round robin and overcame Denmark in a very even semifinal match. Final match was a nail-biting thriller with two extra times and extra throws that ended in a bitter 4-5 defeat against our dear neighbours Sweden. When the extra throws begun I realised that I couldn’t do anything to help us anymore as a coach so I decided to lay down to a bench and waited on a crowd reaction. I think it really showed what this team was all about that we were able to get over that bitter final defeat and come back even stronger in the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics where our dream finally came true."

There will be total of 22 blog texts published in the Pajulahti 2017 blog, one text every week until the 2017 IBSA Goalball European Championships on 18–22 of September. Each week there will be a different writer. New blog text will be published every Wednesday.