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HIFK: football for over a 100 years

It’s been a long time since the first HIFK-players put on their jerseys and ran onto the Kaisaniemi pitch in may of 1908. And a lot has happened since then. “The Star Chested”, a nickname almost as old as the club (in reference to the star on IFK:s jersey), have played an essential part in Finnish football history, and despite a lot of setbacks the club is still alive and doing well.

The first Finnish Championships were held in the year of 1908, with IFK included. The first year ended well and the clubs first medal was a fact. A few years later, in 1912, the club received its first silver-medal. That year the Olympics were held in Stockholm. Finland, with a total of six HIFK-players, ended up in fourth place.

Even though HIFK played in the highest division from its inception, it took until the year of 1930 before the club was to be crowned champions of Finland. Before that year the championship had been decided through a cup system, which never yielded any benefit for HIFK. The new system, a round robin, suited the star chested a lot more. By autumn of 1937 IFK were celebrating their fourth championship and tenth straight medal.

HIFK kept its position as Finnish football elite after the war years, with the club winning yet another championship the year of 1947. But soon after that found themselves in the second highest division, where they would spend the most part of the 50’s, trying to rebuild the team and come back stronger. Historically HIFK had been a team for the swedish-speakers of Helsinki (inlcuding the players), by this time it was seeing more and more finnish-speakers among its teams – and the youth teams were flourishing. The reds won their seventh (and so far last) Finnish Championship in the year 1961. The previous autumn the club had hosted various international games, incl. IFK Malmö in the Europa Cup at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium.

In the beginning of the 70’s, after a couple of seasons i the second highest division, IFK were back in the highest tier and reclaiming its position as a top team. After third place in 1970, and second place the year after, everybody was expecting the team to win the league in 1972. But to everyones surprise that season ended with HIFK being relegated, and what no one would have guessed was that this would be last time IFK would play in the highest tier for over 40 years.

What happened after the relegation of 1972 could best be described as a downward spiral. By 1980 HIFK were in the fifth lowest division. Getting back to the top would prove to be much harder than expected. By the year 1999 HIFK had taken themselves back to the second highest division, the “Ykkönen”, but at a great cost. Football Club HIFK, the corporation that oversaw the first teams operations filed for bankruptcy in the spring of 2003 and the red chested had to give up their position in “Ykkönen”.

The previous reservers, HIFK/2, were down in the fourth division and became the base for what would be the beginning of the current team (and its sucess). This time around the team managed to climb the divisions and by 2011 IFK were back in the second highest league, the Ykkönen. The season of 2012 was a massive failure, and the team were relegated to the third highest division. It seemed like IFK would never play in the highest division again. So it would be a massive surprise as HIFK, on an evening in early 2014 – after being promoted back to the second highest division in 2013 – would win the Ykkönen (on a better goal difference) and secure the promotion to the highest tier of Finnish football (now called Veikkausliiga). After a wait of over 40 years, HIFK were finally back among the elite teams of Finland.

After a long absence from the top tier, the road to becoming a steadfast team among the national elite has not always been easy. After ending the season in seventh place 2015, IFK faced relegation battles in both 2016 and 2017. In 2016 the team narrowly escaped relegation playoffs (finishing 10th), but in 2017 they were not as lucky and faced – and lost – against FC Honka in the relegation playoffs. While the autumn of 2017 was a rough time for an IFK supporter, the autumn of 2018 was once again filled with joy as the team would go on to outright win the Ykkönen (for a second time in only 4 years) and is now back in the Veikkausliiga for the season of 2019. The team ended up seventh in the league table and continues therefore to play in the Veikkausliiga for the season of 2020.

Despite setbacks and long absences, the story of HIFK continues. And although the life of a Finnish football club (and supporter) may sometimes be very harsh and lack the glamour, facilities and economy that can be found in the big leagues out in the world – our HIFK still holds a very special place in a lot of peoples hearts. And when talking about the 21st century’s HIFK, on has to mention Stadin Kingit, the country’s leading supportergroup, whose support has been a key factor in the clubs long and hard journey towards a brighter future.