FA of Finland / Jussi Eskola

On this day, Euro 2020 would have started

Checking in with Jukka Raitala, who was set to represent Finland at Euro 2020

A moment of silence from football fans around the world today, as Euro 2020 was officially set to kick off today.

On the international stage, there may be no tournament more prestigious than the Euro Cup, other than the FIFA World Cup of first. With many of football’s powerhouses residing on the Old Continent, the quadrennial tournament assembles some of the world’s best in the same place for a month’s time, with some of the best soccer on display for the world to enjoy.

And after Finland qualified to its first every Euro just a few months ago on a frigid night in Helsinki, Impact captain Jukka Raitala was set to represent his country in the major tournament. Of course, with the breakout of the pandemic, the tournament was pushed back a year to the summer of 2021.

“We expected it a little,” said Raitala, speaking with Impact Media. “With everything that was going on around the world and all the discussion happening around the Euro, there was a lot of speculation already. When the news became official, we weren’t surprised. It was the only right decision to be made. We understand the circumstances and it is what it is. I think it’s the right decision.”

Sports leagues and tournaments were put on hold, postponed, or simply cancelled around the world in the weeks following the spread of Covid-19, with the Euros being no exception.

But just a few months ago, Jukka was afraid of missing the tournament for another reason altogether: the Finnish international suffered a fracture on his leg in his first game back, making him questionable for a return in time for the European tournament.

“When that happened, the Euros were still on, and I knew it was going to take me two to three months to recover,” explained Raitala. “I told myself I would work my ass off to get fit for the Euros.  If the tournament was this summer, I wouldn’t have been fully fit. In a sense, it takes a load off mentally, knowing that I don’t have that pressure to rush to return.”

Luckily, Raitala and the Impact have another tournament in store for them, as they’ll head to Orlando with every other MLS team compete in the MLS is Back tournament, starting on July 8.

“A year is a long time,” said Raitala. “Hopefully there will be a lot of games with MLS and the national team in between. But I think time will fly. We’re happy with the steps being taken. We get to practice now, and we have games to play soon. We have something to look forward to.”