Head of EJL on Estonian football: It would be silly to be depressed

Aivar Pohlak.
Aivar Pohlak. Source: (Siim Lõvi /ERR)

President of the Estonian Football Association (EJL) Aivar Pohlak spoke of the losing skid of the men's national football team and other problems regarding Estonian football on ETV's sports news show "Sport" on Sunday night.

After a 0:2 loss to Armenia on September 8, the Estonian men's national football team has not scored a goal in seven consecutive matches with their win-less streak extending to ten.

Pohlak told ERR: "It would be silly to be depressed. Undoubtedly these results are not pleasing emotionally but processes in football take a long time and where we are today is the result of labor made by clubs in 2000-2010. This is the result and our last generation - those born in the 1980s should have been overtaken by the generation born in the 90s - but that generation does not have enough quality."

The EJL president continued: "We noticed it around ten years ago and reacted concretely. First things first, we established KTM and ETM regulations, meaning an obligation to play club and Estonian trained players because we saw an influx of foreign players in our top clubs and the youth level was not at a great level."

Pohlak added: "After that we brought in financing for transport for under-17 and under-19 travel costs, through which the number of under-17 teams in elite leagues has doubled. The same year, we started to finance scholarships for youth players. This season (2020/2021 - ed.) we implemented a solidarity mechanism for the Premium League, where the EJL will give money to teams participating in European competitions."

Club level also needs work

The national team is not enjoying a period of success, but the club level has also not reached high levels of play.

Levadia fell out of the Europa League in the first qualifying round for the fourth consecutive year, Paide Linnameeskond was also not able to advance.

The first round also proved too tough for Nõmme Kalju, as the team had to travel to Slovenia for their match against NŠ Mura after it was canceled in Estonia due to 15 Kalju players being diagnosed with COVID-19, enduring a 0:3 loss on the road.

Pohlak commented: "The EJL reacted to the clubs not doing a good enough job a long time ago. This week, we placed the final puzzle piece: On Wednesday, the EJL decided to initiate a Premium League and Esiliiga (second strongest league in Estonia - ed.) project. The Football Association will pay for the entirety of the project for clubs and will lead the youth programs centrally.

"Those steps were already planned in 2012. If you ask us today if we feel responsible, I would respond: If those steps had not been taken, if we would not have noticed this large problem, then I - us - would feel responsible. But we have taken all steps."

The president of the EJL concluded: "Levadia and Kalju experienced problems on the organizational level, it was not a sport issue. We have allocated a lot of energy into motivating club leaders to build sustainable clubs but it is not simple. To create a functioning club culture in our small society in the 21st centruy - you need a lot of personal desire, belief and to act as a missionary. There are no natural prerequisites for it."


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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