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WAYNESFIELD — Roope Metsa’s experience of being a foreign exchange student at Waynesfield-Goshen High School has produced plenty of positives for all.
Metsa, 18, who is a native of Finland, coming from the city of Jarvenpaa, said the country’s most popular sport is ice hockey and not football — a sport he now plays for the Tigers.
Metsa trends from the norm in his home country, and does not even own a pair of ice skates. However, he does thrive in the country’s number two sport — soccer. Metsa has been playing soccer since he was 5.
He also has played club American football in his country as a halfback and back-up kicker. His trip to the United States has given him a chance to showcase those skills.
“One of the biggest differences I see here is all of the schools have teams,” Metsa said. “It is not like that in Finland. In Finland we have club sports and you have to try and make the teams. You have to pay to play on those teams. To be on the best clubs you don’t have to pay, but you have to be very good.”
Metsa’s experience has turned into a wonderful addition to the Waynesfield-Goshen football team.
The Tiger coaches and team have turned to Metsa to shoulder a big load when one of the team’s top running backs went out for the season. Metsa carried the ball for nearly 80 yards in less than one-half of a game in the team’s first win of the season.
His soccer experience and time as the backup kicker has given the Tigers what they have lacked most throughout most of the team’s history, even during the recent winning trend. Metsa has been an automatic on extra points, constantly puts kicks into the end zone for touchbacks, and even converted a long field goal against the Delphos Jefferson Wildcats.
“American-style football isn’t that big in Finland,” Metsa said. “That is one of the reasons I wanted to come here.”
Metsa arrived in the United States in June, and is staying with Liza and Daniel Sackinger. The Sackinger’s son, Cole, is a senior offensive guard and defensive tackle on the football team, giving Metsa someone to relate to that is his age.
Metsa said fitting in with the family has been an easy transition.
“The makeup of their family was very much the same as my family back home,” Metsa said. “It has been very easy for me to fit in. Everyone has been very supportive.”
Metsa said he is enjoying high school in the United States, but said it is a little hard at times to stay concentrated.
“Most of the things we are learning right now are things I had about three years ago in Finland,” Metsa said.
Metsa began learning the English language in third grade and said he was one of the better English speakers at his school. However, with English being his second language, he said it makes the learning experience a little bit harder at times.
“You don’t learn all of the bigger, scientific words,” Metsa said. “Sometimes it is a little bit harder to get what they are talking about.”
Metsa said he has seen many differences between the culture from his homeland and the U.S. He sees some of them as benefits, others as things to get used to while he is here.
“The biggest thing I have noticed about America is the people are much more friendly,” Metsa said. “Here, strangers can speak to each other and people are much more open-minded here. That is really important to me being the new guy that doesn’t know anyone. It would be much harder to do it in Finland.”
He said there are some foods in his native country are popular there that he misses. He also misses saunas, which are very popular in Finland and can be found in abundance.
He said he hasn’t been here long enough yet where he has started to miss friends and family.
“I am sure I will miss them all eat some point,” Metsa said. “Right now, I stay pretty busy here. I haven’t had much time to think about it.”
Metsa aggravated a knee injury in the third game of the season, and physicians advised he rest the knee for two weeks. He went to the physician again Tuesday and plans to be on the field again for this week’s game against the Lehman Catholic Cavaliers.
Metsa has experienced an Ohio State Buckeyes football game while being in the United States, something he said he enjoyed thoroughly.
He said he has had the opportunity to visit places and would like to visit Hawaii if he gets the chance before he leaves.
Metsa said he will return to Finland in June and will have approximately18 months of studies before he graduates.
In Finland, they have a choice of joining the military for one year or serving two years of community service. Roope plans to enter the military. He then plans to attend medical school, which he said he has already started the process for trying to get in. But for now, he said football is keeping him busy.
“I like the crowds at the games,” Metsa said. “In Finland, you have maybe the parents there and a few friends, but you don’t have a whole community coming out to watch you play. Football has been very exciting. We think we can make the playoffs and win a league title and it is something we are trying to accomplish as a team.”
Metsa said he would like to try baseball, but isn’t sure if he could adjust quickly enough since he has never played the sport, but he will likely end up playing track and field. He intends to take the winter sports season off.
He would like to return and visit his new friends in the United States someday if possible.
“It is a financial problem,” Metsa said. “I would love to come back and visit some day but it is very expensive. We will see — maybe in a few years.”