Norm Eash's Illinois Wesleyan Titans are planning a fifth overseas trip to Finland in June. (Photo by B Corbin/WJBC)
By WJBC Staff
BLOOMINGTON - The Illinois Wesleyan University football team will travel to Finland this summer to face the Finnish national team in Helsinki on Sunday, June 2.
Illinois Wesleyan will head overseas with event organizers Global Football for the fifth time, having previously visited Germany (1996), Italy (2001), France (2005), and Austria (2009). Head coach Norm Eash and his squad of 70 players and 15 staff depart for Helsinki on May 31, returning on June 9.
The Titans will combine a week of summer sightseeing in Scandinavia with practices and the game to help prepare for their 2013 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin season, while Finland will use the clash with the Titans to ready themselves for the build up to the 2014 European Championships.
"These trips have proven to be invaluable in maintaining off season focus and developing a stronger, more unified team giving us a competitive edge for the upcoming season," said Eash. "We look to build team chemistry, evaluate our players and begin the process of finding our team's identity. This game will allow us to move forward toward our goal of winning a conference championship and advancing to the NCAA Division III playoffs. This game is the start of our season."
Finland's head coach Tuomas Heikkinen was a prominent member of the Finnish national team, which has won the European title five times, including four straight championships, most recently in 2000. As Finland aspires to reclaim its grip on the continent, the visit of Illinois Wesleyan is regarded as ideal preparation before facing Austria, France, Germany and Sweden next year.
"It is very difficult to get opponents to play against outside of competitions and our annual game against Sweden for a number of reasons, so this is a valuable game for us," said Heikkinen. "Players have their club games to deal with so it is hard get them all into one place at the same time.
"I really appreciate the cooperation we've had from Illinois Wesleyan and am very much looking forward to them coming here. We have had great help from our federation who have halted the season so we can get all our players together and this will be a great occasion."