Brexit and Covid-19 have made his ML1 arrival complicated – but Juhani Ojala is now keen to hit the ground running at Motherwell.
The Finnish international signed for the Scottish Premiership club earlier this summer but his signing was complicated. While not a stranger to moving between nations – this being the fifth time the 32-year-old has swapped borders – it’s perhaps his toughest. First there was a period of isolation in the midst of Covid-19.
Then there were problems to solve as Brexit impacts the transfer market. But now he is over all of that, Ojala said: “I’ve found an apartment two days ago, which is important, and I’ve moved out from the hotel. My family came over and it’s the small things.
“It’s better now that I can focus on football which is important. I have experience of similar things at other clubs and it’s basically the same things. Staying in the hotel for the first weeks, getting help from the club to find an apartment – I knew what to expect.”
Ojala hopes that the long process to get into the UK doesn’t hinder players from overseas coming to Scottish football. Fellow countryman Eetu Vertainen and Ilmari Niskanen – heading to St Johnstone and Dundee United respectively – are in the same situation as Ojala, trying to satisfy the requirements for working in the UK.
Motherwell’s Finnish centre-back said: “I knew what to expect. There were a lot of things to do with the work permit but I knew beforehand that there was lots of paperwork due to Brexit. It took me a while – something like three or four weeks – but this is the process.
“It might (make it more difficult for overseas players to play in the UK). I know there are players trying to come over from Finland who are trying to get the work permits done. It might have some impact for players. But it’s been worth the hassle.”
Motherwell host Dundee at Fir Park in Premiership action this afternoon. Ojala is enjoying Scottish football: “It’s been good so far. I like it here. I think it’s a physical league with a pretty straightforward style.
“There are teams who try to play shorter passes but in my experience so far it’s been trying to get forward fast and behind the opponent’s defence. It’s positive football. There aren’t too many short passes with the goalkeeper, it’s trying to score quickly. I think it fits pretty well with me. I’m a physical defender and I like the battles.”
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