– This really rocks: the local businesses took Kataja Basket under their wing, entrepreneur and basketball manager Jarkko Miinin says with a smile. He describes the success story of how Joensuu turned into a basketball metropolis from a city toiling with skinhead problems.

Jarkko ‘Pöpö’ Miinin is an interesting man. As a little boy, he earned pocket money by going door to door, and selling his dad’s old Tex Willer and Jerry Cotton comics and Christmas and Easter cards. He says he didn’t have a head for studying. Sales work carried him away. Miinin has run a sports shop for over 30 years. Since 2005 his store Erä Urheilu (link in Finnish) has been part of the Intersport chain.

– Our page has 13 million visitors annually, but only few companies in Finland make a profit with online sales. Actual stores are still needed. There is a lot of purchasing power in the Joensuu region. The trends are on our side, too: everyone knows how important exercise is to health, and it shows in the trade.

A debt of honour

Miinin has been an active sportsman all his life. Not a champion, but an enthusiastic swimmer and active in ball sports. Sports pretty much saved the hyperactive boy from the shady alleys.

– If ADHD was recognised as a disease in my childhood, I would have been definitely diagnosed with it. I almost started hanging out with the wrong crowd. My story would have been very different without the volunteers in charge of different sports. As a grown up, I have been active in these communal duties in order to pay my debt of honour to persons previously active in these associations. I hope that voluntary work will not die out.

“We should do something!”

A wretched group of skinheads did a lot of damage to Joensuu’s reputation in the 1990s.

– No matter what the occasion, the problem always arose in the discussions between business people in Joensuu. We should do something, they said.

Action speaks louder than words, Miinin thought together with entrepreneur Jukka Törmälä.

– We considered different sports. The kids’ shoulders were not broad enough for ice hockey, and floorball was aimed at younger kids. When the previous basketball player and coach Eero Oksava suggested basketball, we thought it was a great idea.

No matter what the occasion, the problem always arose in the discussions between business people in Joensuu.

According to Miinin, Karelians knew how to network before the term was invented. And so, it did not take long to find sponsors to cover the yearly budget of approximately 50 000 euros.

– Nowadays it costs a million a year.

Achievements speak for themselves

Joensuu developed in to an important basketball city, and the joy and success made the headlines. In 2015, Jarkko Miinin was granted the award of Regional developer of the year.

– When we made it to the Champions’ League in 2001, our goal was to establish Kataja in the series. None of us dreamed of winning a medal, not even in our wettest day dreams. Oh well, we won bronze.

Thereafter, we have been awarded various medals – two gold, two silver and four bronze medals in total, and the biggest amount of European victories in the entire basketball history of Finland.

Basketball has also been an excellent tool for tolerance, internationality and youth work in Joensuu. The club has approximately 250 members, girls and boys interested in the sport. No wonder they are now planning a new hall for ball sports in Mehtimäki, Joensuu. This rocks!