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TWG 2017: Mika Kohonen – The Floorball Legend – 30.07.2017

Mika Kohonen is a floorball legend who has been part of the Finnish national team since 1997. He has been chosen as the best floorball player in the world five times (2005, 2009-2012) and is still one of the top players at 40 years old. He is the only player in the Top Swedish League, SSL, who has scored over 1000 points and is also third in the World Floorball Championships (WFC) All Time top Scorers. He is also the only floorball player at The World Games 2017 who was also part of The World Games 1997 in Lahti.


Kohonen at The World Games 1997 where floorball was an invitational sport. Credit: YLE - Finnish Broadcasting Company

You are the only floorball player who was also part of The World Games 1997 in Lahti. Any memories?
I was quite young then and was simply listening closely to the experienced players and tried to learn from them. And when I got to play, I tried to find my own place and I think I managed to do so. It’s different now. It’s not as exciting as it was then when everything was new and I didn’t have as much experience. But the sport is the same, and my enthusiasm and love towards the sport is the same. Something has changed but lots of things have remained the same.

Kohonen has been even criticised by some floorball fans about his age and how come he is still playing at 40-years-old. How do you see your playing career? Will we see you at The World Games 2021 in Alabama?
As long as I can do things within the sport daily. It demands more and more work to be the kind of player you aspire to be and to be able to contribute to the team, the older you get. I have always said, even though I’ve had some darker years where there hasn’t been any light in the end of the tunnel meaning I couldn’t even play or walk, as long as I play and know I can be helpful on this level, I will not put my stick on the shelf. But 2021 is quite far away. In my wildest dream, I’m looking for the WFC 2020, which is played in Finland, but if possible, why not.


Finland´s captain Tatu Väänänen gave the cup to Mika Kohonen at the WFC in Riga in December as Finland won the title. Kohonen got to be the first one to raise the cup.

You shed light to your depression and brought it to the public several years ago. How do you feel about your depression?
It was a consequence from certain things. For me the biggest problem was the pain and not being able to walk and still trying to play each day. That became exhaustion, then burn out and then depression. But still it’s not the depression I think about when I look back. It’s the pain and not being able to play and because of that I didn’t see myself as an athlete. I grew up more during that time and learned more about myself. Unfortunately, well you can always hit the brakes a little bit, but still I don’t know if I would know how to do anything differently. Sports and floorball mean everything to me and work is something that should also be done properly. So I’m afraid that I might just walk down the same path but who knows what the future would bring. I’m one of those people who is all in, always. Depression thought me a lot and made me a lot stronger.

You lost eight kilograms since the WFC in Riga and some might have had even trouble recognizing the legend when he first stepped in the rink here in Wroclaw. What happened?
Well, I went on a cleanse. Since I have had pain killers and all sort of trash in my body I can only imagine what kind of blocks there were. I practiced a bit differently and hope that it can also be seen as I play. The weight loss, well I didn’t have that much extra, though as a forty-year-old every kilogram counts while playing, but simply it was about getting all the poison out. I think that was one of the main reasons. I might not have so many playing years ahead of me so partly it was also about showing myself and the others what I can do physically. I want my last journey to be done properly and to leave it all in the rink.


Kohonen at The World Games 2017 when Finland played against Czech Republic in the Group round. Photo: Martin Flousek

As said, Kohonen isn’t the youngest player in the team. How does it feel in his age to be among youngsters?
It feels freaking good. I don’t feel like the old guy in the group though I have teenage aged kids myself. I have got the privilege to live my life in the changing rooms and to be an athlete. My father once told me that when you stop playing, you age 10 years and gain weight 10 kilograms within the first two weeks. In the team meetings when you sit next to someone who is born like 98 or 98 you might feel a bit old, but on the mental side I feel like we are on the same map. Though the guys in the team have their moments messing with me and giving comments about my age, I don’t think they think of me as the “old man”. Being called grandpa from time to time, it’s just part of it.

Kohonen is a true legend in the floorball world and is considered as one of the all-time best players. But what happens after it’s time to move on from playing?
I have now learned to accept the fact that my playing career on the top level might come to an end soon, though floorball will always be a part of my life. I really want to do something for the sport and at the moment especially with the elite level of the sport as my thoughts are more with the winning and elite level. When the years pass, I also want to help the future floorball stars find their path and help them develop.

As a player who has been on the top level for 22 years, you must have some really good memories?
I have many good memories. Some people might think that the best memories are about winning, the gold medals and trophies, but I would say that the people, team mates, coaches, staff, fans. You never forget the joy and happiness and the sadness and tears. Gold medals are always an easy answer to the “best memory”. But in the end, it’s the people who are with you on your journey, who with you experience it. They are the best memory. 


Thank you for Salibandyliiga for helping with the material.