MBF’s predecessor TIFG: Finland’s best junior club

Mejlans Bollförening was founded in 1969 but had a predecessor in TIFG (Tomas Idrottsförening Getingarna) which was established at the beginning of 1961 with the same setup and operational conditions that later laid the foundation for MBF. Both clubs were founded by Dan Hedman, who worked as a youth leader at the Swedish-speaking Tomas parish at Meilahti church. TIFG was registered as a table tennis club in the Finnish Table Tennis Federation. Hedman was the chairman of TIFG throughout its existence until the club was dissolved in 1971

Peter ”Pede” Eklund, Christer ”Chraide” Leidenius and Robert ”Robi” Ådahl became each Finnish junior champions and they won also won four gold medals in Finnish junior team champinionships in 1964-67.

The playing activities started in two rooms in the church’s basement with two permanent new tables. The space was open every weekday evening. Playing quickly became popular among boys, mainly from Meilahti, Töölö, and Munkkiniemi. Matches were almost exclusively played in one set, where the winner continued playing and the loser had to queue for the next set. 

Christer ”Chraide” Leidenius and Robert ”Robi” Ådahl
in Helsingfors school district championships.

Some TIFG members quite soon started participating in competitions organized by the federation and the Helsinki Table Tennis District. TIFG also rented tables at the Olympic Stadium’s table tennis hall, which had 12 permanent tables as well as changing rooms and showers. 

Competition playing quickly became very popular among some members: Leo Juden, Asko Sarkola, Henry Lindgren, Peter “Pede” Eklund, Christer “Chraide” Leidenius, and Robert “Robi” Ådahl. Dan Hedman praiseworthy managed all formalities (game shirts with the TIFG emblem sewn onto the shirt, licenses, competition entries, train/bus trips). The club also began organizing national competitions in the Stadium’s table tennis hall starting in the fall of 1963.

Hedman did not play table tennis himself. His hobby was photography, which resulted in many photographs, mostly from the church’s premises. Hedman himself created TIFG’s club emblem, which was yellow and black like a wasp, referring to Getingarna (“Wasps”) in the name of the club.

TIFG was for a long time the federation’s youngest association. The young fresh players clearly dominated the boys’ (14 years) and juniors’ (18 years) categories in Finland throughout the 1960s. TIFG won gold in the 14-year category four years in a row from 1962 to 1965 and likewise four golds in the 18-year category from 1965 to 1968 -­ spread across four different players. 

At that time, the daily press quite often wrote about table tennis, and the TIFG youths received quite a lot of attention. Among many competition reports in the daily press, a lengthy article written by the signature MAILA (Jouko “Jokke” Siitonen) in the newspaper Sosialidemokraatti on September 22, 1965, can be mentioned.

Under the headline Nuoret ”herhiläiset” pöytätenniksen kärkeen (Young “wasps” at the top of table tennis), Jokke writes about the young talented table tennis players’ successes in many competitions. 

The new Finnish Championship team competition had just been introduced, and in the new series played six three-man teams. TIFG had managed to join the series with the clearly youngest team. The article had a photograph of the TIFG team Christer Leidenius (15 years), Robert Ådahl (14), and Peter Eklund (17). The photo in connection to the article also reveals that everyone in the team is shorter than 170 cm (!?).

TIFG played in the championship series until 1971, when TIFG was dissolved. During this period, TIFG managed to win a medal, bronze in 1970. The dissolution in 1971 was primarily because of Robi, who began studying at Åbo Akademi in the fall of 1969. It was not motivated to continue playing in TIFG from a distance. Robi switched to Pallo-Kotkat where, among others, Finnish champion Tapio Penttilä played. Christer switched at the same time to BK and Peter Eklund – like also Peter “Ruda” Eriksson – to PTU. Among the youth in TIFG was then Martti Autio, who later developed into a great player elsewhere and became Finnish champion in 1974. 

The reason MBF was founded already in 1969 (while TIFG still existed) was that Dan Hedman wanted to return to the same as what once laid the foundation for TIFG, i.e., working with youth with table tennis in the church’s premises. MBF had already started its activities by the time TIFG was dissolved, and a small group of interested players had managed to start active playing also in Ruskeasuo hall, where the table tennis started in the fall of 1970.

In the spring of 1977, MBF managed on its own to move up to the Finnish Championship series with the team composed of Peter Eriksson, Thomas Hallbäck and Anders Lundström!

Text: Robert Ådahl/Thomas Hallbäck