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Aki Hyryläinen

Aki-Mikael Hyryläinen
Born April 17, 1968, Helsinki

Master of Arts (Finnish and Nordic History), University of Helsinki

Vice President, Mercuri Urval, 2012-
Senior Consultant, Mercuri Urval, 2006–2012

Professional Footballer, HJK (FIN), Eendracht Aalst (BEL), FC Köbenhavn (DK) and FC Jokerit (FIN), 1988–2001

Football Coach: Kirkkonummen Salamat FCK, 2002–2004 (First team), HJK A-cubs, 2005–2007, HJK league team, autumn 2007. Helsingin poikien piirijoukkue (‘Helsinki boys’ area team’), 2006–2007 and 2011.

Board Member, HJK Ry, 2001-, Vice-chair, 2003–2013
Board Member, HJK Oy, 2009-
Executive Board Member, Santahamina Lower Secondary School, 2013-

Special Achievements
Finnish Champions, HJK, 1990 and 1992
Finnish Cup Winner, HJK, 1993 and 1996, and FC Jokerit, 1999
League Cup Champions, HJK, 1994 and 1996
Finnish Championships, Silver Medal, FC Jokerit, 2000
Finnish Championships, Bronze Medal, HJK, 1993, 1994 and 1995
Danish Cup Winner, FC Köbenhavn, 1997
Twenty-five caps for the Finnish national football team, 1992–1997
Helsinki Football Club: Hall of Fame players’ choice, 2005
Coach: twice A-cubs Finnish Championships (2005 and 2006) and one silver, HJK, 2007
Youth Coach of the Year, Suomen Jalkapallovalmentajat ry, 2006
Youth Coach of the Year, Suomen Palloliitto, Helsinki district, 2006

Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by John Calton

‘Education is a professional athlete’s retirement plan’

The fact that Aki Hyryläinen applied to study history at the University of Helsinki is thanks to the history and religion teachers at the Kulosaari secondary school. Another strong factor was football, which Hyryläinen has played since the age of five at the Helsinki Football Club.

– The history and religion teachers at Kulosaari– and especially the headteacher Kyllikki Laakso – were able to sell their case to me in lower and upper secondary school. Religion itself does not appeal to me, but the historical and cultural effects of religion aroused my interest. As a footballer – and with support from my parents – I was better able to see the world in proportion from a young age.

Trips to other countries and cultures opened Hyryläinen’s eyes and further increased the young man’s curiosity.

– An interest in studying history at university became a clear goal after getting out of the army. My choice was influenced by the solid groundwork laid by teachers in primary school, my strong motivation and a curiosity to understand the big picture through history, as well as the possibilities to get to know other cultures, which were offered to me early on by football and by my parents. I had a strong intuition to take the next step in my humanities studies, even though as a person who tends to make choices by gut feeling, I hadn’t actually thought about what kind of profession studying history would prepare me for.

However, Helsinki almost lost Hyryläinen to the University of Turku. He took the entrance exams for both the University of Helsinki and the University of Turku in the summer of 1991. He had already been in talks with the Turku Football Club, TPS, and decided that if he did not get in to the University of Helsinki, then he would transfer from HJK (Helsinki FC) to TPS (Turku FC).

– The University of Turku announced the results of the entrance exam two weeks before Helsinki did. I saw the thick envelope and I was a bit flummoxed thinking about the possible moving to Turku.  But then the acceptance letter from the University of Helsinki came. It was an easy choice to make and I haven’t regretted it.

The university life was a good counterbalance to professional football for Hyryläinen. The change in surroundings from the pitch to the lecture hall was therapeutic.

– I didn’t join any of the student organisation events because the life of an athlete is pretty spartan, but the chance to get into the university surroundings to get a breath of fresh air through studies was wonderful.

Hyryläinen knew from a young age that he needs to prepare for a life after sports.

– In my career as a footballer, I got to experience many great moments, but I also got to see the other side of professional sports. I was constantly hounded by serious and chronic injuries, so I got to see the bright lights in different stadiums, but also on the operating table. The whole time I thought that of course a professional athlete has to get an education as well. Studying at the University of Helsinki reminded me that there was life after sports – and rightly so. History tends to repeat itself, so me and my wife like to regularly emphasise the importance of education to our three children, who are also athletes.

In addition to history, Hyryläinen studied management as a secondary subject. He also continued his studies while playing football in Belgium and Denmark.

– When I was playing abroad, I wrote essays and took exams  at the Finnish embassy. Organising these exams remotely was definitely difficult for the University, but I was grateful to have the possibility to further my studies during those years.

When Hyryläinen’s football career ended due to leg injuries in 2001, he focused on finishing his studies. He graduated with a Master’s degree in 2005.  

Aki Hyryläinen fighting for the ball. Photo: Urheilumuseo / Juha Tamminen.​
Aki Hyryläinen fighting for the ball. Photo: Urheilumuseo / Juha Tamminen.​


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