Aki Riihilahti - The Official Homepage In English Suomeksi På norsk
News Questions Facts History Pictures Special


Back to News


“You are rubbish Riihilahti!”
“That Blondie is just a waste of space.”
“Go back to Finland!”
I have never been good enough. I have often been told that. I have received an amount of abuse and insults that could damage anyone for good. Simon Cowell is just a diet Coke compared to all the poisons I get at my job. So actually I am just another footballer. There is always going to be people to criticise you and moan about you just because you are a footballer.

“Well played Riihilahti!”
"You are great, my favourite player ever.”
“Hope you never leave us!”
I have always been supported well. I have received an amount of praise and glory that could make anyone to smile for good. Well done is just a lonely shout in a dessert compared to all the support I get at my job. So actually I am just another footballer. There is always going to be people to cheer at you and support you just because you are a footballer.

In football you find these two kinds of extremes. The ones that support you no matter what and the ones that criticise you no matter what. They are both important. You need them because they are often the ones that get reaction out from you. These two hardcore ends are the ones that make you to want to play well.

There is obviously also a middle ground, people who go with the flow and choose their opinion after current trends and forms. The middle section is quite boring but straightforward: they are your best friends when you are doing well but ignore you at bad times. Mobile phone is quite a good indicator how you have played. If you have done well you have after the game around 5 to 30 missed calls and texts in your mobile and if you have not been so good there is only your Mum wanting to know did you get hurt.

Obviously I prefer the people that are there for me at thick and thin. When I have had bad times, the endless resource of inspiration and help have been the network of friends and personal coaches who have pushed me back to the right track. It has been important to know that there are people believing in me. The sole conversations, comments and encouragement have often changed the course of my career. Plus you want to do well to make these people happy, to give something back from the help and effort they have put into you. I have been lucky to be surrounded by people who have been supportive and helped me with my game.

There has been also another inspiration, to prove other people wrong. Since I was a kid I have heard constantly that I am not good enough. It often made me angry and I had to make sure that it wasn’t true what people were saying about me. It has helped me that there has always been a fair share of criticism and bad talk. It has often pushed me that extra yard and motivated me to improve.

I would like to believe that I am now indifferent to all criticism, that nothing or nobody can hurt me. However if I hear a boo from the stands or criticism against me, it would be naïve to say that I don’t care at all, because everyone does at some level. Still I am proud I have never let these shouts, paper writings or other things to get me down. On a contrary they have given me a lot of will to fight on. Sometimes I have just wanted to prove a point that I am still doing the business. Most of the time though I just try to lock everything external away and concentrate what I am doing.

I find it interesting that one of the greatest athletes of all time, Michael Jordan, has said that he loves to keep proving people wrong and that it has been his biggest motivator at his career. It is quite amazing that also David Beckham has said something in that direction. So these great players are not driven just by the love for the game, winning, money, success or expressing themselves but it is also important for them to prove their critics and bad words wrong, to show a point to other people. They want to be not just the ones who break the records but also the ones with the final word and laugh.

After all it is just human. Everyone does it, not just athletes. In our lives we do things to show other people how good we are, we try to impress them. We all want to be important, but most of all we all want that others can’t say a bad word about us. In our quest for approval of others we are very afraid of any criticism.

It would be sad though if only reason to play would be external, just to show a point to other people. Imagine if after all great achievements people would say happily ”I told you” instead of “I did it”. It can’t be like that. Overall I still think it is fair to say that internal motives are a bigger force and lead you to better results than external ones. However there is no denying that sometimes you need that little kick to your back to get out the best of you.

In such a widely seen and reported game than football there will always be lot of talk and judgement in the air. In footballers career you get criticism you don’t deserve and you hate it. You also get criticism you deserve but you don’t like it either. However you get also praise you don’t deserve and you love it. And you get praise you deserve and you love it as well.

It is crucial that you don’t get carried away with either praise or criticism no matter if it is deserved or not. Receiving positive things is good to some extent but believing that you are special because of that is a suicide. Getting your feet off the ground is actually like digging the other direction, a grave to your career. Getting too down from criticism will end up with the same result. In the end of the day all the praise and criticism are just words and have not much to do with your actual career, it only matters what you do on the pitch.

That is why I don’t read match reports. I definitely would never go to Internet sites to see what people have to say about me. I don’t even like talking about football with people I don’t know. Because I want to keep my own head and cause clear. If you try to please and listen everyone, what is your own thing then? The more you talk the bigger is the chance of getting confused. Being your self and doing your own thing will always get you furthest in football and life. If you don’t believe in what you are doing, it won’t work. And if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else does either.

Obviously everyone has to have the people to talk to, people who can help and correct their game. However those people should be from your inner circle, the trusted ones, not just any football enthusiast. I can and will listen to any people, but I have to be selective what I take inn. I have a filter on but I am not going to deny anyone to give me their support and opinions, I am truly grateful of their thoughts. Furthermore I am not going to get the humps from the criticism either. I take it all as other people’s opinions, the way they see the game. My truth could be very different from theirs, but it is still their truth and they have their reasons for that. However they don’t know what are my tasks, goals and aims in the game. So even if people want to give me a hand, it still has to be me who plays the cards.

I think coping with downfalls and success are the most important things in athletes career. If you play football in stages more real than Playstation games you will inevitably get both of them and dealing with it are more precious talent than any skill or physical aspect of the game. There is always going to be good players and good talents. Harder part is to get them into good use under all the external pressure. If you have the best hammer in the world it doesn’t help you if you are hitting nails with your bare hand. And if you don’t dare to use your hammer it won’t give you any end product either. Plus there is always going to be too many people trying to get involved with your football, you can even be hammered. The biggest reason of making it or not in football is your head and how you are coping with external things.

The answer to everything is confidence. Football is all about believing in oneself. You have to be confident to deal with all the praise and criticism. You have to be in a position that you are comfortable with yourself and your game. Because football is not an easy ride at the park. If you want to succeed you have to dare to fail. You need balls for that. Playing just easy options will eventually make you an average player. And when you are afraid of failing or being average, you most likely are already. It shows million miles away when player is scared. A footballer low on confidence is like a boxer with only one hand: the KO is just a matter of time.

On the other hand when you are full of confidence even the luck and margins seem to be on your side. Whatever you try seem to work which just multiplies your confidence and success. Best players are confident even when they are having a bad run and worst players are not confident even when they are playing well. That is a difference of doing it and just being there. Confidence is the biggest inner force and talent in football and in life. There is this saying about goal scoring and luck with women: it is all about confidence. So basically if you have scored two in the game, it is almost a certainty that you have been given the chance to finish your hat-trick later in the evening.

I have been and I will be criticised. I also have been and will be supported. These things can lift up my game or sometimes make me out of bounds. No matter what, overall the biggest talent I have is that I am stubbornly confident Blondie.

This time I recommend:
1. American Crew -hairgel
- it even holds the hair in English rain and wind, now I only need a brush -
2. Pop Idol -program
- such a well made and interesting program about a bunch of musical horrors -

I do not recommend:
1. Pop Idols
- it is such a shame that after the good show ends we have to be tortured by these nobodies -

"If better is possible, good is not enough"
- Someone unknown like Aki

Copyright 2001 Aki Riihilahti, all rights reserved Go to the Top of the Page