Q & A with Erkki Miinala – Super European Goalball League (SEGL)
Date: January 2, 2013
As many of you may be aware, a new and exciting high quality Goalball league recently kicked off in Northern Europe, the Super European Goalball League (SEGL). IBSA Goalball recently ran into one of the organisers, Erkki Miinala, in an unexpected location and thought this was a great opportunity to find out more about this new league.
Q. There are probably many people out there who don't know what the SEGL is. Can you please explain it?
A. The Super European Goalball League (SEGL) is currently hosted by three club teams (the main teams): Napaja (Finland), FIFH Malmo (Sweden), Saltinis (Lithuania). The aim is to get the best goalball players from Europe to compete in a common league. We are looking for strong and high level club teams from all around Europe to join the SEGL, but in the first season we have only three main teams in the whole league.
There are many high level players in club teams all around Europe who don't play in national teams for some reason, but this way we can get all the best players in a league together. Also people who don't have a visual disability can play in the SEGL. Every club team can inform us if they are interested in joining the SEGL. We will give them our rules and if the team accept them, then they are welcome.
So three main teams have now accepted the rules and provided a team and have become a member of the SEGL. Naturally, it's not possible when the season is on. So next time, when we can take new members is after the first season, which will finish in the end of May 2013. However, club teams can approach us anytime (editor’s note: contact details below) and I will forward a message to the other main teams. We have about three SEGL tournaments in a year.
The next tournaments are 22nd – 24th March in Malmo, and 24th – 26th May in Lithuania. The organizing team will invite three more teams to the tournament, so we always have six teams in any SEGL tournament. The organizing team also invites referees for the tournament. Referees who the main teams have decided to invite. We have a referee ranking, because we would like to get the best referees also to SEGL tournaments. The main teams get three points from a win, one point from a tie and zero points from a loss. We add points from every match, so every match is important in each SEGL tournament. The main teams get also extra points from their placement in each tournament. If you win the whole tournament, you will get six extra points, if you are the second in the tournament you will get five points etc… And if you are the last in the tournament you will get only one extra point. The winner of the season is the team who has earned the most number of points after all the tournaments.
Q. How did the first leg (tournament day) go?
A. Our first tournament was in Lahti, Finland, and I was in the organizing team. That was our first big international tournament that was organized by Napaja goalball club. So I have to say that we managed well. Of course we had some problems with transportation. The weather conditions in Finland were really bad, and we didn't get our eight new balls from Germany for the first day because the German team's packages were lost and they didn’t arrive until Saturday evening. So we had eight new balls for the matches on Sunday.
Despite all of this teams were satisfied, because our venue was very good. Also, our hotel and meals received very good feedback. And we had exciting and high level matches in our tournament, so it was a very good start for SEGL and now we are a lot wiser for the next tournament.
Q. It seems that the weather played a part? Most people in Europe are enjoying snow for the first time this winter, but this was not the case for you?
A. It was really nice to get finally a real winter in Finland, but it came on the arrival day of the tournament, so of course our transportation had a few problems. The German team's flight was cancelled, so they arrived really late at night between Friday and Saturday, and that was a pity. But all the teams got to enjoy a real Finnish winter, a lot of snow and very, very cold.
Q. The results from the first tournament day looked really close. It looks like the next two match days will be very exciting. Do you agree?
A. Yes, every main team won matches from each other, and those matches were really exciting and tight, so anything can happen in the next two tournaments.
Q. Who has been responsible for organising the SEGL?
A. Three main teams who all have contact people who keep in contact with each other. The contact people are Napaja: Erkki Miinala and Sami Heikkinen, FIFH Malmo: Fatmir Seremeti and Stefan Gahne, Saltinis: Karolis Levickis and Klaidas Janeika. We also have Knut Kursawe, who is the manager of the SEGL.
Q. I see you have a sponsor, KSG. How did that come about?
A. Yes, this is the great thing for us, that we got a big sponsor. KSG, the company which produces the German balls has promised that they will give ten balls to every SEGL tournament in the first season and we are very thankful about that. This is the art of Knut, because he has bargained this great agreement for SEGL.
Of course we are looking for more sponsors for the SEGL in the future because we would like to grow and develop the league, and then it will need more money from sponsors.
Q. Are there plans to try and improve the SEGL for the 2013/2014 season?
A. We will make the plans for the second season of the SEGL during the spring of 2013. We always have a meeting during the SEGL tournament where we talk about important things related to the SEGL. Of course we are looking for some new teams for the second season and, as I said, we are looking for some sponsors so we can get money to improve the SEGL.
Q. If national or club team champions or any other team want to get involved or compete in the last two legs or participate in the series in 2013/2014, what should they do?
A. Organizing teams in this case FIFH Malmo and Saltinis will invite three more teams to the last two tournaments. Of course teams can contact those organizers, if they are interested in participating. Club teams can approach us all the time, if they are interested in joining in the SEGL for the second season.
Q. What is each participating team expected to do?
A. Every SEGL team will host one leg in their own country. The hosting team will pay the accommodation, meals and local transportation for other SEGL member teams, so this is a very big responsibility.
Of course when the team is a part of SEGL, it must participate in all SEGL tournaments in one season.
Q. Why do you find this tournament really important?
A. I think that the SEGL is a very big step in goalball and the whole blind sport. I think that we don't have this kind of project in blind sport. It's very important to improve co-operation between countries in Europe and find new ways to get to play more high level goalball matches and improve the whole goalball field.
We have a lot of work in the future, but I think that we are really on the right way to improving goalball, because this is the best sport in the world.
If you are interested in participating, refereeing, sponsoring or just getting involved in the SEGL, please contact one of the below SEGL contacts: