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12.10.2004
Scoring and setting goals

Crystal Palace - Fulham 2-0
Finland - Armenia 3-1


ďTo play in the Premiership. To be number 6 for Finland. To be a good professional.Ē
Why not? I might as well set the three first goals to myself ridiculously high. It is December 2003. I am lying in the hospital somewhere in Esher. My beloved club Crystal Palace is second last in the old first division. I havenít played almost at all. If I have, Iíve been often just a waste of space. As a result Iíve also been bombed from the national team. To highlight the insult, my leg has just been operated. There are very few if any who comes to visit me, even less people have still their faith on me or my career as a footballer. My new goals may sound like Iím still high from the anaesthetics.

Today itís not even a year from me being on crutches. We just got our first win in the Premiership with Crystal Palace. Iíve started all World cup qualification games for Finland and we are leading our group. Iíve been a good professional. Everything has happened quicker than I could ever have wished for. A personal fairy tale? Yes and no.

It is not a proper Cinderella story but even smaller scale fairy tales start from somewhere. Mine was from setting goals. I didnít have a shoe missing from me feet, I had one blood clot too much on it. My new story was all triggered by the injury. This time I wanted to write it myself. Sometimes you need adversity to stop and start to reinvent yourself. I realised I didnít know what I wanted and didnít want what I was getting. I was trying to force myself to stay in the path that was actually leading nowhere. I had been hypnotised by the present struggle so I had stop dreaming, setting goals and learning. When you stay still, you start to rotten. I was stinking.

ďBe quicker. Improve your passing quality. Have a control and see the options beforehand. Dare.Ē
These are the things Iíve always known that I was lacking. Still I hadnít done enough to improve them. Itís pure stupidity. Itís like realising it is raining but still not going under the tree. I was soaking wet with my own ignorance. If you do what you always done, you get what you have always got. So I simply had to fix these things staying between myself and my goals.

Now I had goals and I had a plan. However wanting something doesnít automatically give you that. You actually have to go out there and start doing it. Gym was and still is filled every morning by my not-so-fast-feet and getting-quicker-feet. I wanted to pass like Zidane but often I was still John Smith who kicked the ball over the wall. Have it! I started from beginning. No non-sense, everyday, no shortcuts. I had to be honest with myself. Sometimes I had to dare to have a stinker. It was a learning process that needed time. It is still going on. All the extra work meant also that I had to leave out something else. So it was goodbye to some hobbies, some friends and television. It was hard. I soon realised though it was not a sacrifice, it was an investment.

People often try to knock down other peoples dreams because they are too afraid to live their own ones. Luckily Crystal Palace is a very progressive football club, we have a management team that not just encourage people setting goals, they demand it. Before every game we have to set individual goals and team goals. We have mission statements, set standards and dreams. That is a very essential part of what we are. That is a good place to be. It gives meaning to what you are doing. Iíve been lucky to be surrounded by people who are encouraging me to fly. I have deleted from my life the ones who want me to stay in the ground.

Iím not trying to blow my own trumpet here. Iím very much an unfinished and average peace of work. I have still often had problems but I also have succeeded more often than ever. All of my goals are still under process. I have not tried to lecture anyone in this column either, I write this in a hope that maybe at least a person starts dreaming again. Just setting goals gives you a good chance. Itís called a law of attraction. Things start to search each other sub-consciously. I know there always going to be some adversity and problems. Why not calling them opportunities or challenges? You can only fail if you stop trying. I know for sure I will never again stop setting goals and having dreams. I want to base my everyday life on it. Actually most of my goals are not about football. And the best part is not achieving something but who you become in the process. It is a very peaceful feeling knowing you are on your own meaningful path. I think you can only know where you are at present if you know where you want to go and how to get there.

What are your goals? I bet most people canít answer the question. They might have vague dreams, but not a clear picture what they really want. The problem of this world is that people accept whatever they happen to receive. I know you might not achieve all the goals and dreams you set. I still canít cook or havenít got a girlfriend. So what? I bet youíd still congratulate yourself for the effort. You can always get back to your whatever-life. World is full of unused potential, full of dreams without an effort. Donít sleep on that time bomb. I personally rather crush and burn in trying to live my dreams than not dare to go after them at all. No regrets.

ďTo make myself and Crystal Palace established Premiership quality. To be a good professional.Ē
These are my first three new goals. They are quite easy compared to rest 97 about my private life. I have set myself destinations. I have a map. I might not travel there the shortest way. But I will get there. Hope you do as well in whatever Cinderella story you set yourself.


Aki


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