Miko Kailiala: going places
Forward Miko Kailiala is one of the brightest spots of Finland’s new floorball generation. Along with players like Nico Salo and Krister Savonen, Kailiala has developed from juniors’ WFC gold medalist into men’s world champion. Kailiala’s role in the team is to score goals and he is one of those players that enjoy stepping forward when big games are decided.
Riga Arena in Riga, Latvia at 20.05 hours, December 11, 2016. In a sizzling WFC final penalty shootout, Finland has just taken the lead with their third shooter Mika Kohonen scoring and Sweden’s Henrik Sternberg missing. Miko Kailiala walks to the middle point, accelerates and shoots the ball without a flinch, letting goalie Jarno Ihme to then clinch it all stopping Johan Samuelsson.
It was not the first time Miko Kailiala stepped forward when it counted. In U19 WFC final against Sweden in Weissenfels Stadthalle in 2011, it was Miko Kailiala who scored the winning goal with a backhand shot with less than three minutes to play.
”There are those people who break under pressure and those who are able to perform their best at the most important moments and I definitely belong to the latter group,” Miko Kailiala states.
”I like being in the middle of attention with everyone watching me.” Yet, he has not always been like that. With a bit of a wink of the eye, Miko Kailiala claims it was golf games against teammate Mikko Hautaniemi that developed his nerves of steel.
”I used to have a nice lead at some point but Mikko’s mouthing off always got me off balance and I got nervous, losing it during the last few holes. With age, though, I learned and having survived those moments, nothing can get to me any more”.
Photographers are thankful to Kailiala for his furious celebrations after big goals in big games. He is definitely not shy to show his feelings after scoring.
”I do have an unused breast-stroke swim celebration in store but I don’t really practice my moves. It’s ok to celebrate big when the goal really matters but making it 10-2 in an easy game is not worth it.”
It has been quite a season for Miko Kailiala. Students’ world champion in Porto in July, men’s world Champion in Riga in December, Finnish Cup winner in Tampere in January. Not a perfect year, though, as Kailiala’s hat trick was not enough against Classic in the Superfinale in April. Classic won 9-6 and the Finnish title still remains just a dream for Miko Kailiala. To accompany this silver medal, he has two bronze plaques from his SSV years.
Miko Kailiala’s dream-like year took an unfortunate twist in the EFT tournament final against Sweden in Turku in April. Kailiala’s ankle twisted in the second period ending his game and leaving Finland goals against Sweden for the first time in 17 years. Even worse for him was that there was a fracture in his ankle forcing the star to hop around with crutches and his leg in a plaster cast. ”I had to keep the plaster cast for three weeks and was told to take it easy for an additional five weeks,” Kailiala says in June. ”Recovery is on a good way even that ankle still gets stiff after training. It’s getting better and better all the time and I’m going to be fit for the national team training camp and World Games in July.”
Miko Kailiala’s all time Salibandyliiga stats are impressive indeed. After his nine-point rookie season for TPS in 2010-2011, he has scored 46, 52, 33, 38, 46 and 51 points in the 26-game regular season. His career’s 196 goals in 165 games are top class and last season’s 51 for EräViikingit was his all-time second best. The sniper is going to stay with EräViikingit yet another season. ”I hope I’ll continue the same way. We had a bit of a surprise with head coach Jyri Korsman deciding to step down and Mika Ahonen returning from Swedish Helsingborg to replace him. I know Ahonen well from his seasons in SSV and Viikingit but for many players he is a new coach.”
EräViikingit are still to release their roster and even Miko Kailiala admits he is not quite aware of their player situation. ”Several players have to think about their families and other things but I think the base of our roster looks ok.” EräViikingit lost young talent Tuure Ailio and Joonatan Surakka to LASB but Jani Kukkola is staying and Lauri Kapanen will be back after a season ruined by a major knee injury.
Miko Kailiala comes from Lieto, a town with a population of 19,000 that neighbors Turku in south-western Finland. The people of the Turku area, the original capital of Finland, are known for their healthy dose of self-confidence and some of it may be a part of Miko Kailiala’s presence, too. Like so many top floorball players, he, too, was into all kinds of sports as a child. ”I did everything from ball sports to cross-country-skiing. First there was basketball when I still was one of the taller guys of my age group and I still follow NBA intensely. Then it was football and I played for TPS Turku for five years as the captain of my team. Somehow that ended and floorball took over.”At some point, golf, too, came along and Miko Kailiala has grown quite good at it with a present handicap 4.3. ”I have done some training indeed and I’m no champion but if someone wants to play me I’ll be happy to accept the challenge,” Kailiala smiles.
Kailiala started his floorball career playing for SBS Lieto but was soon scouted by local giant TPS where he made their Salibandyliiga team already in 2010 at the age of 17. At the time, the club struggled economically which led to their best players looking for clubs elsewhere. Together with Mikael Lax and Lauri Stenfors, Miko Kailiala ended up playing for SSV Helsinki who had the resources to sign the best. During those years, Kailiala became first a regular for the U19 and then the men’s national team. His first men’s WFC tournament was in Gothenburg in 2014 where Kailiala scored five points in six games.
Miko Kailiala’s booming bass voice gives him authority of someone older and he’s not one to keep his opinions about things to himself. Last season, Kailiala and Peter Kotilainen created some commotion criticizing the amount of Salibandyliiga teams and some teams’ performances that left the top teams with too many too easy games. ”Maybe we should have expressed ourselves more softly but I still stand by the point I wanted to make. Play-offs give you the feeling of what it’s like to play when it is at its finest and in the regular season we definitely had too many games that were not useful for anyone. During my TPS years I also got to see uneven games from the weaker team’s perspective and I do not think it serves any purpose for them either. I have no perfect solutions to offer but we need to discuss problems openly to be able to develop the series and systems.”
Players’ voices have obviously been heard somewhere as there will be chances in next season’s Salibandyliiga with every game played into there’s a winner and overtime played four against four. ”I think these changes are absolutely welcome. For many years I have said games should be played all the way to the final decision as a tie always leaves you feeling somehow unsatisfied even when you were the underdog. Also, the changes to Finnish Cup that bring all the Salibandyliiga and second-highest league teams back along are excellent decisions,” Kailiala says.
Asked about his future plans, Miko Kailiala has not hesitated to say he wants to develop into the floorball world’s best right winger. To achieve that, one may have to head to the Swedish league and it looks like the coming season is going to be this sniper’s last in Salibandyliiga for a while. ”It looks very likely I’ll be moving to Sweden after the coming season. Basically, I was all set to move already but I decided to stay another season to finish my studies and graduate from Estonian Business School where I have not that much left to do.”
He also has given some thought to Switzerland already. ”I definitely want to play in Switzerland at some point of my career but not quite yet. There may be a time for that when I’m a bit older and I believe I still have quite many seasons left as a player.”