Finnish Great Möttölä Announces Retirement From Game

26 September 2008

There is good news and bad news following the Finland's first EuroBasket Division A run since their promotion-winning campaign of 2006-07.

The Finns are happy that they won three games, including Saturday's 88-73 home triumph over Hungary. They're positively ebullient after avoiding a last-place finish in a ‘Group of Death' that also included Serbia, Bulgaria, Italy and the Hungarians.

It's better for everyone that I don't play next year just to be in shape for next summer's additional qualifiers. I respect the sport more than that.
Finland's Hanno Möttölä
They are giddy about earning the chance to play in next year's Additional Qualifying Round for EuroBasket 2009 in Poland.

Yet there is a touch of regret.

The country's biggest basketball star, Hanno Möttölä, has decided that it's time to retire as a basketball player.

That means no more games for clubs, or country.

"The retirement decision wasn't made in the locker room after the game against Hungary," the 32-year-old Möttölä said.

"I am a person who likes projects. For the past year, the name of the project was to earn direct qualification for Finland to the European Championships.

"Although we won against some great countries in the summer and in qualifying, direct qualification could not be reached.

"It's better for everyone that I don't play next year just to be in shape for next summer's additional qualifiers. I respect the sport more than that. Everyday motivation has to be there for a professional athlete."

Möttölä averaged 11.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in this summer's campaign which saw Finland hand Serbia their only defeat in Division A.

He is, arguably, the greatest Finn ever to play the game.

Möttölä was the first-ever Finnish player to reach the NBA and he was also the first from his country to compete in the Euroleague. He was the first Finn to compete in the Euroleague Final Four.

A record eight times Möttölä was voted Basketball Player of the Year in Finland.

Even before his professional days, Möttölä was raising eyebrows with his performances in America where he made four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances with Utah under their former coach, Rick Majerus.

Möttölä, in 1998, reached the promised land known as the NCAA Final Four, and then made it to the title game.

National team boss Henrik Dettmann, in his first spell as Finland coach, had called Möttölä into the national team at the tender age of 18. That was in 1995, and Dettmann took him to the 1995 EuroBasket in Athens, a decision that caused quite a stir back in Finland and gave everyone a strong indication that Möttölä could be a special player.

The game against Hungary last Saturday was his 100th with the senior national side of Finland.

"I think Hanno's story is one of a young kid loving every kind of competition and maturing into a great athlete who dedicated his last playing years for his national team and his home country," Dettmann said.

"It's been a great honour coaching a player like Hanno.

"I am happy that I have been able to work closely with such a great player."

Dettmann, no doubt, would prefer that Möttölä did not retire.

"There are only a few players who would turn down the Euros that are still available for Hanno in European competitions," Dettmann said.

"Some might question his decision, but it just shows that his values are somewhere else."

Möttölä's priorities are with his family.

He has a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son.

"I have been planning on retiring for a while now and coming home with my family after spending 12 years abroad," he said.

"It was a good time to make the decision."

Anyone who thinks Möttölä's departure signals the end for Finland in basketball is sadly mistaken.

Will this team make it back to the Final Round one day?

"It will happen, sooner or later," Möttölä said.

"I am hoping it will happen next year with our current players.

"Our national team programme has taken a huge step forward during my career and Finnish players are on totally different level now."

There is no turning back for Möttölä, though.

"I want to focus on my family for now," he said.

"Although my playing days are over, I will be involved somehow later on. I want to give back to Finnish basketball. When and how - that will be determined in the future."



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