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In the net

ďRather wild sex pics of Palace player Riihilahti!Ē Is this where my football career has led me and what my grandchildren can learn about me? Surely not, although this topic was among web pages found when I googled my name couple of years ago through the internet searching engine. Obviously it was just one of those ridiculous fake sites invading the internet, where even mediocre footballers is now been photo shopped to sell what internet is most known for. Iíve heard this rude site is now been taken off, but it put me off for being interested what the World Wide Web has to offer about me.

On my way to gym on last Wednesday a worried woman came to ask me that have I fallen out with someone in the club. I had no idea what she was talking about so I just mumbled some typical footballers answer, probably that we are just taking one game at a time and how much we are looking forward to the playoffs. For every stupid question there is an even worse answer - and us footballers most likely to give it. However, this day I even run out of the normal phrases, since in the gym I got repeatedly asked when and why I was leaving. Finally someone explained to me that apparently there was news floating around that Iím returning back to Finland. And it had to be the truth since they read it from the internet.

You donít need to be Christopher Columbus to find something these days. Internet provides you everything. Within seconds. Whether it exists or not. Fans discussion forums have became one of the main information channels for people. All news with wide range of comments is available all the time. And you canít control what is in there. Like now bit misinterpreted quote about my future in a local paper was the talking point. Within minutes speculation had stormed into internet chat forums and ended up in most national newspapers the next day even in Finland. I was one of the last ones to know the news about myself because my website had jammed from the hundreds of messages and questions about it. To learn more about myself and what was going on in my life I went through some of these mails sent to me.

Itís a jungle. There were loads of heart warming messages and worried questions but obviously also one or two hate mails for me leaving Crystal Palace. Obviously it is bit absurd to read people speculating something about me that arenít exactly true. Most theories were complete JFK. If people would put as much effort in real issues than interpreting football news we probably had already solved most world problems. Someone was sure it was about money, someone knew from a close source that Iím having problems with the manager. Internet is like Chinese whisper with hearing device that only picks sentences that go with ones own opinions. Obviously the whole fuss was based on nothing. Couple of words had been interpreted so somewhere along the way the real story changed from me making my decisions at summer when Iím back in Finland to me moving in the summer back to Finland. Anything can live a long way at the internet if it is even remotely interesting enough for people and I have now spend three days convincing people not to send me more messages about this rumour.

I need my e-mail account back working so I have to put the record straight: Iím only going my home country for summer holidays at the moment. Crystal Palace is heading towards very important times of its future. We have built a club we believe is Premiership worthy and this promotion campaign is crucial for everyone associated with the club. There is no question about our ambitions and potential so the expectations and pressure on us is justified. I donít think now when we are heading towards playoffs there should be any more disturbances. We need to keep our eye on the ball not on contract talks or anything like that so Iíve asked the club if we can leave my future discussions to summer. The club have been very good and understanding with me and I feel bad the bit misinterpreted information have caused snowballing amount of stories and questions. This is all there is to this story, although Palace and Finland related chat forums have been quite busy making it look like everything possible from Heaven to Hell. As good as internet is for getting information quickly as bad it is for having no control over it.

Iíve been often asked do footballers read what fans say about them. I think there are three schools of footballers when it comes to internet. The ones that donít know or care how to turn on the computer, the ones that want to read everything said about them and the ones who try to avoid anything about them. Years ago when I was first told about these forums where people can talk about football, I was vain enough to seek what was written about me. I was not playing particularly well at the time and the internet was not going to make it look any prettier: there is no shame, no boundaries and often no truth what is said. I found both Aki Appreciation -clubs and websites dedicated hating me. There were people hunting from Ebay match programs signed by me or discussing an essay describing me as a sick twisted mongoloid who have ruined the whole national football. Overall for a player not top of his game it can be bit demoralising so I decided that from that moment on only feedback that has a face and name known to me is what I need to be aware of.

Internet has become powerful in football. Itís almost like a habitual way of living for many already. At any moment you need to discuss, find information, even follow games or have an outlet for your anger it is there for you. There are full real time match reports, clips of goals and loads of comments, but most importantly you always get discussion going on if you need it. No effort, no cost and no problems, itís easy and everyone can find their liking from there. Fans forums are even starting to take some room from the terrace talks and post match pints because growing number of supporters nowadays canít wait to hurry home from the games to have their say at the forums.

To find out what was the issue with the latest news about me I searched my name again after a long break from googling myself. Within 0,1 seconds there were 60,400 pages found with my name on it. I think it is a ridiculous amount for a blond defensive midfielder but after I got 10,100,000 results for Ronaldinho I realised Iím only lightweight in the web, although my un-commercial website www.akiriihilahti.com resulting almost 20000 hits a week from Torquay to Timbuktu is probably more known than my football career. The best player Ė because it is a competition and directly comparable with pages found Ė is David Beckham with 14,400,000 matches which makes him according to the world wide web ten times better than for example Zinedine Zidane with mere 1,880,000 results. I also surprisingly learned that Diego Maradona really wasnít after all that good player because he has only managed to appear 2,750,000 sites, and obviously you are as good of a player as how many matches you get. Poor old ex ĖNewcastle player Temuri Ketsbaia has resulted only 10,600 sites and not even a fake x-rated appearance. I guess he suffers also from the internet racialism of having a difficult name to spell like me.

Football forums wonít ever threat adult entertainments dominance in the web, but it is not either just for nerts and geeks anymore, also us defensive midfielders with funny names are now there claiming pages. And because it is a competition it makes me think what rumour I should start next.


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