Raio Piiroja

Last updated
Raio Piiroja
Personal information
Date of birth (1979-07-11) 11 July 1979 (age 40)
Place of birth Pärnu, Estonia
Height 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)
Playing position(s) Centre-back
Youth career
Senior career*
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)
2003Vålerenga (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)
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

Early career

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, Piiroja scored his first goal in the Meistriliiga in a 2–4 defeat against Narva Trans and became the youngest goalscorer in Meistriliiga history at the age of 16 years and 15 days. [4] [5] [6]


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 the 2002 season and was named Estonian Player of the Year for the first time. [2]

Vålerenga (loan)

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


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 an 8–1 aggregate win against Hønefoss in the promotion play-offs.


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

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

International career

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. [9] He made a total of 114 appearances and scored 8 goals. [2]

Personal life

Piiroja married his long-time girlfriend Marje in 2005. They divorced in 2015. [10] 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. [11]

Career statistics


ClubSeasonLeagueCupContinentalOther [lower-alpha 1] Total
Pärnu/Kalev 1995–96 Meistriliiga 8181
Lelle 1996–97 Esiliiga
Lelle 1997–98 Meistriliiga 9090
1998 6161
1999 7272
Flora 1999 Meistriliiga 1122010142
2000 26120281
2001 24210252
2002 2692000252
2004 1532030252
Tervis Pärnu 2000 Esiliiga 1010
Valga 2001 Esiliiga 1010
Vålerenga (loan) 2003 Tippeligaen 111303021192
Fredrikstad 2004 Tippeligaen 9090
2005 121121
2006 25023274
2007 22320243
2008 232232
2009 2522110283
2010 Adeccoligaen 28432316
2011 Tippeligaen 150160
Vitesse 2011–12 Eredivisie 20000020
Chengdu Blades 2013 China League One 181181
Career total3243527316110337742


National teamYearAppsGoals

International goals

Estonia score listed first, score column indicates score after each Piiroja goal. [12]
14 September 1999 Svangaskarð, Toftir, Faroe Islands4Flag of the Faroe Islands.svg  Faroe Islands 2–02–0 UEFA Euro 2000 qualifying
211 June 2000 Kadriorg Stadium, Tallinn, Estonia9Flag of Georgia (1990-2004).svg  Georgia 1–01–0 Friendly
328 March 2001 Tsirion Stadium, Limassol, Cyprus14Flag of Cyprus.svg  Cyprus 2–22–2 2002 FIFA World Cup qualification
416 February 2004 Ta' Qali National Stadium, La Valletta, Malta44Flag of Malta.svg  Malta 2–22–52014 Malta International Tournament
522 August 2007 A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn, Estonia68Flag of Andorra.svg  Andorra 1–02–1 UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying
612 September 2007 Skopje City Stadium, Skopje, Macedonia70Flag of North Macedonia.svg  North Macedonia 1–01–1UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying
714 October 2009A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn, Estonia91Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 1–02–0 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification
811 August 2010A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn, Estonia97Flag of the Faroe Islands.svg  Faroe Islands 2–12–1 UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying





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  2. 1 2 3 4 "Piiroja, Raio" (in Estonian). ESBL.
  3. "Katkend raamatust "Raio Piiroja. Õhuvõitleja". Millise vutiveterani suu Piiroja esimene värav lukku pani?". Õhtuleht. 4 June 2016. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  4. "Meistriliiga kõige roosamad faktid". Soccernet.ee. 19 December 2008.
  5. "Noorelt koondisesse – kas edu valem?". Postimees. 15 May 2014.
  6. "SPORT-EKSTRA: Statistikapomm! Millised rekordeid omavad FC Norma, Raio Piiroja ja hooaeg 1997-98?". Õhtuleht. 6 March 2017. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  7. "Raio Piiroja liitus Arnhemi Vitessega". Soccernet.ee. 31 August 2011.
  8. "Ametlikult Hiina esiliiga mees: Piiroja läbis edukalt meditsiinilise testi". Delfi. 18 February 2013.
  9. "Raio Piiroja lahkumismäng / Eesti - Island maavõistlus" (in Estonian). Postimees. Retrieved 24 October 2018.
  10. "Endine vutiäss Raio Piiroja saab uue elukaaslasega lapse". Postimees. 8 June 2016.
  11. "Fotod: esitleti Raio Piiroja elulooraamatut". Postimees. 4 June 2016.
  12. "Football PLAYER: Raio Piiroja". eu-football.info. Retrieved 4 July 2017.