Football is popular all over the world. It may not be as developed in Estonia as in other European countries, but some pretty good players are well known for their skills. Today’s article will focus on Rauno Sappinen, who became the best football player in Estonia for the second year in a row.
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A short biography
Rauno Sappinen is a forward of the Estonian football club Flora. Fans from other countries may know this club by participating in the Conference League, which is a new tournament under the aegis of UEFA. Also, Rauno actively participates in the games of the Estonian national team, scoring goals in the international tournaments.
In the Conference League, he scored three goals for Flora, and all through the gates, the Cypriot Anorthosis. Both matches with the Cypriot team ended in a draw with a score of 2:2. Interestingly, in both matches, Flora was losing 0:2 and had to bounce back. Sadly, they couldn’t expect more than a draw – apart from the Cypriot team, the opponents were the highly skilled Belgian Ghent and Serbian Partizan, a relatively strong team. But Flora won at least one match – against Partizan (1-0 at home) – the rest of the matches the team lost, and games ended with shutouts.
Perhaps, the Estonian club looks somewhat weak at this stage compared to their more famous rivals, but we can definitely notice progress. Previously, no one in the football community even heard of Flora, and now the club takes part in the Conference League, and, by the way, it got there from a stronger tournament – the Europa League. Until recently, Flora competed there against another Cypriot club – Omonia. The team was losing throughout the game, and managed to come back in their traditional way, but in the end, they lost in a penalty shootout with a score of 4:5.
Unfortunately, in the Estonian championship, the Sappinen’s team was just 1 point behind Levadia. The team took second place, and that is considering that they beat their direct competitors – Levadia – in an away match with a score of 1:5. However, Flora’s home match ended with a draw, which was not enough to win the Estonian premier league.
Sappinen has scored two goals for the Estonian national team – in a game against the Czech Republic (2:6, the 2022 World Cup qualifier) and Finland (1:0, friendly match). If you have a look at what is happening in the group “E” of the World Cup 2022 qualifying round, you will see that Estonia took the penultimate place, winning only one time against Belarus and drawing with Wales.
Which clubs did Rauno Sappinen play for?
In fact, Rauno never played for a club that could be considered at least average in European football. He is a devoted player of Estonian Flora and has played for the team starting from a junior level since nine. He has played on loan for European clubs: Belgian Beerschot, Dutch Den Bosch, Slovenian Domzale, but they also can not be called the grandees of football, these are pretty mediocre teams. They do not have much impact on European sports.
For instance, Ragnar Klavan (who was the best Estonian football player before Sappinen) managed to play for Augsburg, Liverpool, Cagliari and AZ. But Rauno is a young football player (25 years old), and a solid game can attract the attention of European scouts. And also, let’s not forget that some of the top players started their careers in relatively modest clubs. For instance, Erling Haaland played for the Swedish Malmo at the beginning of his career. Can you call this club a strong one? No way! Just recently, Zenit defeated the Swedes with a score of 4:0 in the Champions League. But over time, Erling has progressed and grown into a top player who is wanted by all clubs from Bayern Munich to Barcelona.
We will see how Rauno Sappinen’s career develops in the future. And for now, let’s discuss the actual award process for the best football player in Estonia in more detail: who intended to compete with the scoring forward (who took third place in the competition of top goalscorers, losing to the forward of Paide Henri Anier and the frontman of Levadia Zakaria Beglarishvili)?
Award ceremony: the results
The main competitors of Rauno Sappinen for the title of the best football player in Estonia in 2021 were Vorskla defender Joonas Tamm (Ukrainian fans will know him pretty well, but more on that later), and 19-year-old Arsenal goalkeeper Karl Jakob Hein, who was awarded the title of the best young football player in Estonia in the end.
Seventy-four people participated in the voting process – representatives of the Estonian Football Journalists Club and the Estonian Football Union. Each person had to name three football players who, in their opinion, deserved the award – in turn: who should be the first, second, and who should be in third place. The players nominated for the first place were given 3 points, the second 2 points, and the third – 1. According to the survey results, Rauno Sappinen scored 202 points; Joonas Tamm – 66; Karl Jakob Hein – 44.
Why is he so far ahead of his rivals?
Generally, it is pretty easy to explain why Sappinen received so many more points than his competitors.
Let’s start with Karl Heinz. He is famous for having signed a contract with Arsenal FC in London. Currently, he plays for the Arsenal Under-23. He played several matches for the youth team, but it’s too early to make any judgements on the quality of his game. Karl Heinz will probably still show himself in the future, but his time has not come yet, and in 2021 he has definitely not achieved significant success.
As for Joonas Tam, he is currently playing in the Ukrainian Premier League. He spent a more or less successful season in Chernihiv Desna and then moved to Poltava’s Vorskla. Scored a goal in a game against Mariupol on November 21 (Vorskla won with a score of 5:1). Perhaps he plays well as a defender, but Vorskla is not the grandee of world football (although, probably, it is better than Flora). One goal cannot be compared to the 23 that Sappinen scored in the Estonian championship.
Another question is why Henri Anier was not nominated, considering that he beat Sappinen in the number of goals scored in the Estonian League? Perhaps the reason is that the Paide football club, which Anier plays for, was eliminated in the first qualifying round of the Conference League. Sappinen’s Flora managed to play even in the Europa League, almost defeating the Cypriot Omonia.
Either way, the choice has been made. And if we consider all the final achievements of Estonian athletes and their performance in the international arena, then this choice is completely justified. Congratulations to Rauno Sappinen on the second title of the best football player of the year in a row. The third one may be on the horizon. Although Estonia did not make it to the 2022 World Cup, I am sure that Rauno will have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate his skills at the club level.