To celebrate the 35-year history of the International Floorball Federation (IFF), the IFF publishes an interview with one of the most important people in the history of floorball, Mr. Pekka Mukkala. Mr. Mukkala was elected the second IFF President at the first IFF General Assembly in 1992 (then called Congress) in Zurich, Switzerland.
Mr. Mukkala from Finland was the IFF President for a period of four years, 1992-1996. We have asked Mr. Mukkala about his road into the international floorball family and also asked him to reflect on what the floorball world looked like in the 1990’s.
How did you get involved with international floorball?
– It all started from when I founded the Finnish Floorball Federation in 1985. András Czitrom, who was then the President of the Swedish Floorball Federation, helped a lot with his experience from how a national sport organisation should be founded. But Sweden also had an interest of their own, as they needed to play international matches in order to be included in the Swedish Sports Confederation and receive governmental support. A Finland-Sweden co-operation then started with first internationals played 1985 in Sweden and in 1986 on the Åland Islands, Finland.
The birth of the International Floorball Federation
The IFF was founded in Huskvarna, Sweden, on the 12th of April in 1986, but how did it all happen?
– Mr. Czitrom was the one making the initiative. In 1986 he invited me and a Swiss representative, Christophe Soutter, to Jönköping to follow the Swedish finals. The initial idea was just to preliminary discuss the possibility of an official international organisation, but in the end we decided to actually found the International Federation. I was the one suggesting that we should establish the federation here and now. The reason was actually very practical and mostly financial as none of the national associations had very much money to spend on for example travelling to meetings. So, in order to save time and money we decided to found the IFF in Huskvarna.
– The founding meeting was actually a very smoothly run meeting. Mr. Czitrom took the responsibility to prepare the draft version of the IFF Statutes that we then approved the next day. I respect András Czitrom very much for all the work he did in these early stages of international floorball development. All three of us then took the topic back to our respective national boards and all boards decided to approve the founding of the IFF. This whole foundation process was very quick.
The story behind naming the sport floorball?
– This also has to do with András Czitrom, he wanted to call the sport floorball in Sweden, but this the name was resisted as a majority wanted to keep the name innebandy in Sweden. But Mr. Czitrom is the father of the name floorball.
In the first years of IFF’s existence, when you were already involved in the sport nationally, there was not that big development steps taken on the international level. What in your mind was the reason for that?
– Actually one of the biggest steps was taken in 1988 with the first official Game Rules being created and approved. This meeting in Helsinki was not as smooth and quick as the IFF foundation meeting. Compromises needed to be made when for example in Switzerland, the sport was played with bigger goals (similar to ice hockey) and the goalies played with sticks. In Finland and Sweden the rules were pretty similar, so on almost all rule points, the votes were 2-1. This was one of the longest meetings I have ever attended, and during this meeting one of the most important milestones was reached, when floorball now had official game rules.
– Otherwise the lack of financial resources was the biggest obstacle for us. We could afford to play single international matches, but with no governmental support or other funds, it was hard to grow the sport. Running international activities and events is expensive and no member association was yet strong enough during the early days. But when the economic situation improved nationally, we could in 1992 start thinking about organising official championships.
President by accident – the dramatic first IFF General Assembly (Congress)
Before the first General Assembly Denmark and Norway had also joined the international floorball family. Pekka Mukkala was elected President by the GA in 1992, but he was not prepared to be elected to that position beforehand.
– In 1992 the Swedish Floorball Federation had run into an internal crisis and András Czitrom had gotten into a dispute with other parties in Sweden. A power struggle had begun between two different groupings. At the first General Assembly the bigger group from Sweden, did not want Mr. Czitrom to continue as President. Finland would have been happy with Mr. Czitrom as we felt he had done a good job in developing the sport internationally. But in the end this was not an option.
– I did at first not feel that I would be ready to become the IFF President, but as my name was put forward I then decided to run for presidency. In the end I was elected, receiving a total of four votes out of five. In a way I became the IFF President by accident and it was a surprise to me as well.
During your time as President there were many development steps taken especially regarding the IFF Events, what were the most important achievements?
– There were several of them, but of course the first championship is one of the biggest achievement. In 1994 the first European Championships for Men was played in Finland and this was important to us, when despite the challenges, the event was a success. This was also the first time for me to organise such big international event. And of course the fact that we organised three championships within four years, including the Men’s WFC at the sold out Globe Arena, is something to remember and be proud of.
– Another important step was that there were new equipment producers developing floorball sticks. In the beginning, it was harder for new equipment producers to get into the market, but we launched the first equipment certification process and opened up the market. This also led to enormous floorball stick development. In the beginning there were for example no left or right sticks as there is now.
– Also the continuous improvement of the game rules and the organisational development is something to be proud of. We did not yet have an office, but at least the meeting agendas were prepared in advance and sent to all, of course by ordinary mail or fax as all happened back then. I remember a Central Board colleague from Switzerland once sending me 120 pages per fax, and with that much paper on the floor, it took me a while to actually reach the fax machine and turn it off.
What were the biggest challenges for floorball during your time as President?
– The lack of money was a constant challenge as international activities are always expensive. We always needed to evaluate how often and where we could afford to meet. Czech Floorball also joined the IFF family in 1993 and they had the same financial challenges. We could somehow run the operations, but there was not much money to actually do development work and try to spread the sport. Sweden had more money and they implemented some of the development operations for the IFF.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for the sport today?
– I believe the IFF still faces financial challenges, the playing field has just gotten bigger, and has shifted from Europe more towards for example Africa and Asia. I am still contacted by floorball enthusiasts from for example Africa, who are struggling with finding and receiving enough resources to grow the game and participate in international events. These new countries are facing exactly the same problems as Finland did in the start, and the IFF is struggling to find enough resources to support the members financially. It is still very positive to see that the sport has grown a lot and that IFF has 74 members.
Any special regards you wish to send to the international floorball family?
– I wish all the best and of course good health to the whole floorball family! In addition, I have a dream: I would like to see mixed floorball being played in future championships. And of course the Olympics is also a dream, but perhaps the mixed floorball game format, would be easier to achieve.
The IFF is happy to inform Mukkala that he is not alone with his mixed floorball dream. The mixed floorball game format has been proposed by IFF stakeholders involved in the IFF Strategy process. Creating new versions of the sport, like mixed team events is also mentioned as an IFF action point in the IFF Strategy for 2021-2032, to meet the global trends in sport.
1986 – 1992: András Czitrom, Sweden
1992 – 1996: Pekka Mukkala, Finland
1996 – (present): Tomas Eriksson, Sweden