|Date of birth||11 July 1979|
|Place of birth||Pärnu, Estonia|
|Height||1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)|
|2003||→ Vålerenga (loan)||11||(1)|
|* 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.
Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a team sport played with a spherical ball between two teams of eleven players. It is played by 250 million players in over 200 countries and dependencies, making it the world's most popular sport. The game is played on a rectangular field called a pitch with a goal at each end. The object of the game is to score by moving the ball beyond the goal line into the opposing goal.
Pärnu Jalgpalliklubi, commonly known as PJK, or simply as Pärnu, is a football club, based in Pärnu, Estonia. The club's home ground is Pärnu Rannastaadion.
FC Flora, commonly known as Flora Tallinn, or simply as Flora, is a professional football club based in Tallinn, Estonia, that competes in the Meistriliiga, the top flight of Estonian football. The club's home ground is A. Le Coq Arena.
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.
The Estonia national football team represents Estonia in international football and is controlled by the Estonian Football Association, the governing body for football in Estonia. Estonia play their home matches at the A. Le Coq Arena in Tallinn, Estonia.
The Armenia national football team represents Armenia in association football and is controlled by the Football Federation of Armenia, the governing body for football in Armenia. After gaining independence from the Soviet Union, the team played its first international match on October 12, 1992. Armenia's home ground is the Republican Stadium in Yerevan. The national team has participated in the qualification of every major tournament from the UEFA Euro 1996 onwards, though they are yet to qualify for the knockout stage in either a UEFA European Football Championship or a FIFA World Cup. In what was the Armenian national squad's greatest success at present, the team came in third place in the UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying stage, with controversial officiating preventing them from achieving second place, and hence moving on to the play-off stage.
The team captain of an association football team, sometimes known as the skipper, is a team member chosen to be the on-pitch leader of the team: it is often one of the older/or more experienced members of the squad, or a player that can heavily influence a game or have good leadership qualities. The team captain is usually identified by the wearing of an armband.
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.
The Estonian Footballer of the Year is an annual award given to the best performing Estonian footballer of the respective year. The award has been presented since 1992. From 1992 to 1994, the winner was chosen by Päevaleht, from 1995 to 2000 by Eesti Päevaleht, and from 2002 to 2003 by Estonian football journalists (EJAK). The Estonian Football Association (EJL) also named their player of the year from 1994 to 2003. Since 2004, the winner is chosen by representatives of the Estonian Football Association and football journalists. Mart Poom and Ragnar Klavan have won the award a record six times each. The current holder is Ragnar Klavan.
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.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.
Meistriliiga is the highest division of the Estonian Football Association annual football championship. The league was founded in 1992, and is semi-professional with amateur clubs allowed to compete.
JK Eesti Põlevkivi Jõhvi is a now defunct Estonian football club based in Jõhvi and was founded in 1974.
JK Narva Trans, commonly known as Narva Trans, or simply as Trans, is a professional football club, based in Narva, Estonia, that competes in the Meistriliiga, the top flight of Estonian football. The club's home ground is Narva Kreenholm Stadium.
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.
FC Lelle is an amateur football club in Lelle, Estonia.
The 2001 Meistriliiga was the 11th season of the Meistriliiga, Estonia's premier football league. Flora won their fifth title.
The 2002 Meistriliiga was the 12th season of the Meistriliiga, Estonia's premier football league. Flora won their sixth title.
In 2003, Piiroja joined Norwegian Tippeligaen side Vålerenga on loan.
Vålerenga Fotball is a Norwegian association football club from Oslo and a part of the multi-sport club Vålerengens IF. Founded in 1913, the club is named after the neighbourhood of Vålerenga. Vålerenga's home ground is Intility Arena, located in Valle-Hovin. Vålerenga are five-time league champions and four-time Norwegian Football Cup champions, having last won the league in 2005 and the cup in 2008.
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.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.
On 18 February 2013, Piiroja signed for China League One team Chengdu Blades.
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.
Piiroja married his long-time girlfriend Marje in 2005. They divorced in 2015.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.
|Chengdu Blades||2013||China League One||18||1||—||—||18||1|
|1||4 September 1999||Svangaskarð, Toftir, Faroe Islands||4||2–0||2–0||UEFA Euro 2000 qualifying|
|2||11 June 2000||Kadriorg Stadium, Tallinn, Estonia||9||1–0||1–0||Friendly|
|3||28 March 2001||Tsirion Stadium, Limassol, Cyprus||14||2–2||2–2||2002 FIFA World Cup qualification|
|4||16 February 2004||Ta' Qali National Stadium, La Valletta, Malta||44||2–2||2–5||2014 Malta International Tournament|
|5||22 August 2007||A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn, Estonia||68||1–0||2–1||UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying|
|6||12 September 2007||Skopje City Stadium, Skopje, Macedonia||70||1–0||1–1||UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying|
|7||14 October 2009||A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn, Estonia||91||1–0||2–0||2010 FIFA World Cup qualification|
|8||11 August 2010||A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn, Estonia||97||2–1||2–1||UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying|
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