Aki Riihilahti - Viralliset kotisivut In English Suomeksi På norsk
Uutiset Kysymykset Fakta Historia Kuvat Special


Takaisin uutisiin

To my friend

Who is your idol? asked my friend in a wheelchair from me. I didn’t know what to answer. So I asked back who is his idol? He said I am one of them. I blushed, I didn’t know what to say. I was actually bit ashamed.

I knew his life story, and I compared it to mine. I have not done anything special in my life. Some people know me because I am kicking a round object, which sometimes gets my face to be shown at the media. If success would be rated in amount of trophies and wins in sports or media coverage, I might have done ok in life. However I think these things don’t have much to do with anything important really.

My friend instead had been through a lot in life and he had always done well given the circumstances. He didn’t let his disability to get him down or loose his interest on life. Among many other things he was a genuine sports fanatic. He had some of his idols from the world of sports, thing that he was not capable of doing because of his illness. He was especially keen on football. He knew most that was going in football and he often had good views on games and on football in general. I am a professional football player, but his knowledge on my profession was far better than mine.

To our biggest sorrow he past away last week after a long disease that had overshadowed his life. Already at young age he and his brother were diagnosed for muscular deterioration, an evil disease that slowly kills muscles, leading the body for constantly weaker stage. He was not given much of a hope for a long life. Bit by bit his body got weaker, made him unable to walk at early age, even then he still tried to play some football, but eventually the illness took physically over.

He fought on and carried against all odds to live a busy and meaningful life. He graduated from school, made beautiful music and followed every football game he could. It wasn’t always easy: for example because his bodily weakness his mother had to have a hairdryer at games, so the warm air could keep his hands warm to be able to remote his chair. It really took a lot of courage and effort from him to see any game. But he did. Because he wanted it so. His dedication to football was better than many have in my profession.

I always felt a great admiration to him when I met him. I felt there were some quiet dignity and some true honesty present. I rarely feel that in football environment. However that made me also feel bad about myself. Because I felt that I had been given so much unjust things and opportunities in life. It often really made me think of the life I am living, to put things into perspective.

This summer when I was talking with him, I complained about early substitution and missed chances like they were end of the world. Then I felt so ashamed. He didn’t have the opportunity to play anything, he actually couldn’t even turn himself at bed because of his disability. And he was not complaining. Never, the whole family were actually always making fun out of things, finding new ways to amuse themselves. And there I was, moaning about a game of sports to him, when I was whole my life been given opportunities to do whatever I wanted.

When you really look at it you realise how small are the problems we are stuck with in our lives. Is it really a matter of a life and death if your favourite team didn’t win or your shot didn’t go inn! Football is a great game. It is good entertainment and an inspiration to a many people. It is brilliant that people take it passionately. However there should be more to life than it. If the way we see the world and our days are determined by the results of sports, we are missing something.

I actually had times I used to think that even smallest details of football were the most important things in life. I thought I am doing something really important by playing football. I admit that I have taken things for granted, concentrated on such an unimportant issues. However if I now put it all to perspective, I can see that my job doesn’t cure cancer or help people in their everyday problems. If I ever have thought that I am something special because I can joggle a ball, I know now I have been wrong. How useless this skill is compared to for example my late friends mother who had dedicated herself to serve a good life for her kids. What is a one hour running test compared to the fact that she wakes up every second hour to turn her kids at the bed. Almost twenty years, night and day, that is.

She and him have done something special, something brave. Something more than just scoring a goal. I find it weird that the very same people can idolise footballers. What makes us so special? The fact that we have physically achieved some level? I think there should be more to it.

My meaning to idol is not just winning something in sports. For me it is someone to look up to. Someone who has done something meaningful, something that makes a difference in this world. I don’t qualify for that as an athlete. I actually think most of the athletes don’t belong to any of these categories.

Yes, I can appreciate somebody playing well or possessing good skills, but life is much more than that. I think it is important what you do after you have achieved a level that you can influence people. Being given the position of being an idol has a great responsibility involved.

Lot of people have idols. Some people are idols. I don’t think I have ever considered someone to be my idol, at least definitely not any footballer. I really think that many of the best players have nothing else than their skills to admire at. I like the players that have played an honest game and lived a respectful life. People that might not be remembered for what they have achieved but who they are. The best of them have done something good with the power they have been given. That is a great chance every footballer has. With the given admiration and influence on people this could be everyone’s biggest chance ever to make some difference. Then we can talk about athletes being real idols.

I am involved in many charities. Sometimes just to sleep my nights better. But that isn’t much, I know I could do better. I know that just because I am a footballer there are people I can have an impact on. And I really should take that responsibility. Not necessarily to try to save the whole world. But at least always have time for everyone. There are loads of people like my friend who deserves more, who should be remembered and given the attention.

In my eyes the true heroes of life are the ones who have made their own story meaningful no matter what the frames they have been given. You don’t get that by just kicking a ball. My admiration belongs to the likes of my friend or her mother or any loving single mother, honest workers, people who care and to anyone who is willing to try to make a difference.

Unfortunately my friend is not with us anymore. I look at his life and I see the great dignity and pride he lived it with. I wish that I would possess some of his willpower and passion to live. The life didn’t give him good cards for a success, but he made his life one anyway. I consider his life a heroic story. I think he is a person to look up to. If someone, he is my idol. God bless you Anssi.


Here is one of the songs Anssi wrote:


Katson soljuvaa pintaa lasin.
Syysluonto itkee pois pahuutta,
pahuutta maailman.
Drinkin voiman annan vaikuttaa.

Tänään sanot vaan,
kuinka olenkaan kaunis, täydellinen.
Mitään järkevää en tahdo ymmärtää.
Tänään vain unelmoin.
Kevyt tuntemus, mielikuvitus, ympärilleni luo.

Yllä tuikkivan valomeren,
näin hiljaa leijun.
Olen vain sinun, sinun olen vain.
Kuulen äänen unenomaisen.

Tänään sanot vaan,
kuinka olenkaan kaunis, täydellinen.
Mitään järkevää en tahdo ymmärtää.
Tänään vain unelmoin.
Kevyt tuntemus, mielikuvitus, ympärilleni luo.

Minut yllättää pian se hetki.
Toisistaan tahtoo erota, keho ja mieli.
Kummallekin annathan osan.

Tänään sanot vaan,
kuinka olenkaan kaunis, täydellinen.
Mitään järkevää en tahdo ymmärtää.
Tänään vain unelmoin.
Kevyt tuntemus, mielikuvitus, ympärilleni luo.

-Anssi Luumi 1978-2003

Copyright 2001 Aki Riihilahti, all rights reserved Sivun ylälaitaan