Finland’s Championship Coach Juha Hakala New HC For Lazio Marines In Italy

After guiding Finland’s Helsinki Roosters to five straight Finnish championships in his five years there, Juha Hakala has signed on as the new head coach of Italy’s Lazio Marines.

Hakala announced shortly after winning the 2016 Finnish title with the Roosters that he was stepping away from football. He said at the time he needed a break to spend time with his family. Then the Lazio Marines from Italy came calling and convinced him to return to the sideline a little earlier than planned.

The Lazio Marines play in the Italian South Conference and under former head coach Stan Bedwell finished the 2016 season with a 7-3 record. They were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Milano Seamen. The previous season, Bedwell’s first with the team, the Marines had improved to 9-1 after recording a dismal 2-9 record in 2014.

AFI had a chat with Hakala about his move to Italy.

AFI: You had stepped away from the Roosters after five straight championships. Why did you want to stop coaching? And what enticed you to return in Italy?

Juha Hakala: The original plan was to have year off from coaching. The past five seasons with Helsinki Roosters was a great experience, but also took lot of time away from private and work life. After some time after Maple Bowl teams from Austria, Germany and Sweden started to approach me and I felt like maybe I could consider coaching also in 2017, if the setup would be good for me. Making the decision to go in Italy was due to the fact that after talking with Lazio Marines Athletic Director Fabrizio Cupellini, I felt we had common goals and there was lot of things that I could give to the team.

AFI: How did the connection between you and Lazio come about?

Hakala: Our previous OC for Roosters Jens Holmström told me that the previous head coach Stan Bedwell told him that the Lazio Marines are possibly looking for coaches and Bedwell actually got me in contact with Lazio Marines for an interview.

AFI: What is the difference you expect between coaching in Finland and Italy and coaching Finnish players and Italian players.

Hakala: Well the Finnish people are not as emotional as Italians, so there might be some difference in how to handle the players,
but American Football is a global sport and one of my strengths is that I get along with everybody.

AFI: The Marines are obviously ambitious and Stan Bedwell helped them improve enormously in his two years. Will you feel the pressure that you must have felt in Helsinki?

Hakala: I like the aspect that Marines are ambitious and they are working hard to have success in future. Also they have done a good job of building the foundation of their team by having their own youth players stepping up in their senior team. I’m just excited about the opportunity to build more on this.

AFI: And sort of hand in hand, what are your expectations?

Hakala: The Lazio Marines made it to the playoffs last season and I’m always looking to win, I have great trust that we can go all the way, if we work hard as one unit and a team.

AFI: What positions are high on your list of priorities to acquire?

Hakala: QB and DB positions are high on our list of priorities to acquire.

AFI: Are you looking forward to Italian weather and food?

Hakala: I’m a foodie and don’t mind about the cold, so the weather and food aspect will be a nice bonus for sure.

AFI: Are you bringing any coaches or players with you?

Hakala: No, all of the coaches we had in our staff in Roosters will either have a year off, keep coaching there or continue their career´s elsewhere.

As far as the players are concerned, the roster spots for non-Italian players will be filled with U.S. players, so none of the Finnish players that played for Roosters will join either.

AFI: Thanks Coach and good luck!

Hakala: Thank you.

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