Raio Piiroja

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Raio Piiroja
Personal information
Date of birth (1979-07-11) 11 July 1979 (age 37)
Place of birth Pärnu, Estonia
Height 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)
Playing position Centre-back
Youth career
Rivaal
Pärnu
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1995–1996 Pärnu/Kalev 8 (1)
1996–1997 Lelle
1997–1999 Lelle 22 (3)
1999–2004 Flora 102 (17)
2000 Tervis Pärnu 1 (0)
2001 Valga 1 (0)
2003 Vålerenga (loan) 11 (1)
2004–2011 Fredrikstad 159 (12)
2011–2012 Vitesse 2 (0)
2012 Flora 0 (0)
2013 Chengdu Blades 18 (1)
2014 Flora 0 (0)
2015 Pärnu Linnameeskond 0 (0)
Total 324 (35)
National team
1993 Estonia U16 2 (0)
1996–1997 Estonia U19 7 (0)
1997–1998 Estonia U21 13 (0)
1998–2015 Estonia 114 (8)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Raio Piiroja (born 11 July 1979) is an Estonian former professional footballer. He played as a centre-back for Pärnu/Kalev, Lelle, Flora, Vålerenga, Fredrikstad, Vitesse and Chengdu Blades.

Piiroja made his international debut for the Estonia national team on 21 November 1998 in a friendly against Armenia. He was team captain from 2008 to 2011, and made a total of 113 appearances for Estonia before retiring in 2013. On 31 March 2015, Piiroja made his 114th and final appearance for Estonia in his testimonial match against Iceland.

Known for his leadership and ability in the air, Piiroja was named Estonian Footballer of the Year five times, in 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.[1][2]

Club career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Piiroja started playing football with his hometown club Rivaal, before moving to Pärnu. He made his Meistriliiga debut on 16 July 1995, five days after his 16th birthday, against Eesti Põlevkivi in the opening match of the season.[3] 10 days later, on 26 July 1995, he scored against Narva Trans, becoming the youngest goalscorer in Meistriliiga history at the age of 16 years and 15 days.[4][5][6]

Flora[edit]

In 1996, Piiroja joined Lelle, a team affiliated with Flora. He played for Lelle from 1997 until 1999, when he was promoted to Flora's first team. With Flora, Piiroja won his first Meistriliiga title in the 2001 season. He won his second consecutive Meistriliiga title in 2002 and was named Estonian Player of the Year.[2]

Vålerenga (loan)[edit]

In 2003, Piiroja joined Norwegian Tippeligaen side Vålerenga on loan.

Fredrikstad[edit]

In August 2004, Piiroja signed a contract with Tippeligaen side Fredrikstad. On 12 November 2006, he scored twice in the 2006 Norwegian Football Cup Final against Sandefjord as Fredrikstad won 3–0. In 2007, Piiroja extended his contract for four more years. During his time with Fredrikstad, Piiroja won four consecutive Estonian Player of the Year awards, in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.[2] Fredrikstad finished the 2009 season in 14th place and were relegated from the Tippeligaen after a 0–2 loss against Sarpsborg 08 in the play-offs. Fredrikstad returned to the Norwegian top division after a season, with Piiroja scoring in both legs of a 8–1 aggregate win against Hønefoss in the promotion play-offs.

Vitesse[edit]

On 31 August 2011, Piiroja signed a one-year contract, with an option of extension for another season, at Eredivisie side Vitesse.[7]

Chengdu Blades[edit]

On 18 February 2013, Piiroja signed for China League One team Chengdu Blades.[8]

International career[edit]

Piiroja made his international debut for the Estonia national team on 21 November 1998, in a 1–2 loss against Armenia in a friendly, replacing Viktor Alonen in the 85th minute of the match. Piiroja soon established himself as Estonia's first choice centre-back. In 2008, he succeeded Martin Reim as team captain. On 25 March 2011, Piiroja made his 100th appearance in a 2–0 win over Uruguay in a friendly. He was sent off by referee Viktor Kassai in the 76th minute of the first leg of the UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying play-off against Republic of Ireland, which Estonia went on to lose 1–5 on aggregate. Piiroja ended his international career in October 2013, but made one final appearance for Estonia on 31 March 2015, in his testimonial match against Iceland. He made a total of 114 appearances and scored 8 goals.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Piiroja married his long-time girlfriend Marje in 2005. They divorced in 2015.[9] Outside of football, Piiroja enjoys skiing and is an avid fisherman.

On 1 June 2016, Piiroja released his autobiography, Ninamees Raio Piiroja, õhuvõitleja, written by sports journalist Gunnar Press.[10]

Career statistics[edit]

Club[edit]

Club Season League Cup Continental Other[a] Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Pärnu/Kalev 1995–96 Meistriliiga 8 1 8 1
Lelle 1996–97 Esiliiga
Lelle 1997–98 Meistriliiga 9 0 9 0
1998 6 1 6 1
1999 7 2 7 2
Total 22 3 22 3
Flora 1999 Meistriliiga 11 2 2 0 1 0 14 2
2000 26 1 2 0 28 1
2001 24 2 1 0 25 2
2002 26 9 2 0 0 0 25 2
2004 15 3 2 0 3 0 25 2
Total 102 17 9 0 4 0 115 17
Tervis Pärnu 2000 Esiliiga 1 0 1 0
Valga 2001 Esiliiga 1 0 1 0
Vålerenga (loan) 2003 Tippeligaen 11 1 3 0 3 0 2 1 19 2
Fredrikstad 2004 Tippeligaen 9 0 9 0
2005 12 1 12 1
2006 25 0 2 3 27 4
2007 22 3 2 0 24 3
2008 23 2 23 2
2009 25 2 2 1 1 0 28 3
2010 Adeccoligaen 28 4 3 2 31 6
2011 Tippeligaen 15 0 16 0
Total 159 12 24 3 4 1 4 2 191 15
Vitesse 2011–12 Eredivisie 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
Chengdu Blades 2013 China League One 18 1 18 1
Career total 324 35 27 3 16 1 10 3 377 42

International[edit]

National team Year Apps Goals
Estonia
1998 1 0
1999 5 1
2000 6 1
2001 13 1
2002 9 0
2003 8 0
2004 12 1
2005 6 0
2006 5 0
2007 9 2
2008 8 0
2009 10 1
2010 7 1
2011 9 0
2012 1 0
2013 4 0
2015 1 0
Total 114 8

International goals[edit]

Estonia score listed first, score column indicates score after each Piiroja goal.
No. Date Venue Cap Opponent Score Result Competition
1 4 September 1999 Svangaskarð, Toftir, Faroe Islands 4  Faroe Islands 2–0 2–0 UEFA Euro 2000 qualifying
2 11 June 2000 Kadriorg Stadium, Tallinn, Estonia 9  Georgia 1–0 1–0 Friendly
3 28 March 2001 Tsirion Stadium, Limassol, Cyprus 14  Cyprus 2–2 2–2 2002 FIFA World Cup qualification
4 16 February 2004 Ta' Qali National Stadium, La Valletta, Malta 44  Malta 2–2 2–5 2014 Malta International Tournament
5 22 August 2007 A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn, Estonia 68  Andorra 1–0 2–1 UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying
6 12 September 2007 Skopje City Stadium, Skopje, Macedonia 70  Macedonia 1–0 1–1 UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying
7 14 October 2009 A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn, Estonia 91  Belgium 1–0 2–0 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification
8 11 August 2010 A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn, Estonia 97  Faroe Islands 2–1 2–1 UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying

Honours[edit]

Club[edit]

Flora
Fredrikstad

Individual[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]