Could you explain the following sentence for me?

Could you explain the following sentence for me?

In an article in Helsingin Sanomat 4.5.2016 entitled "Epäglamöröösi joukkue leijui jalkapallon kuninkaaksi ja kaikkien sankariksi" there is the following sentence: Italialainen Ranieri oli jo ehditty lapioida menneen talven lumiksi, kun hän yllätti ja nosti Leicesterin maailmanmaineeseen. As I follow football, the background to the article is very familiar to me, but I don't understand the following: 1. oli jo ehditty - why passive and what does it mean? I'm finding it hard to understand a passive meaning of the verb 'ehtiä'. 2. lapioida menneen talven lumiksi - why the translative of 'lumi' and what does this phrase mean? (I am aware of the phrase '(se on) menneen talven lumia'.) 3. Shouldn't 'yllätti' have an object? Or is 'Leicesterin' the object of both 'yllätti' and 'nosti'? Hope you can enlighten me. Kiitos etukäteen.

Answer

1. Finnish uses passive voice when the subject is unknown or the action is more important than the subject. The passive contains the idea of a (human) agent, but the agent is not indicated directely, hence there is no subject. Here the agent would probably be the audience or commentators of the game, and the passive reinforces the idea that there was a general consesus of Ranieri's abilities.

"Oli jo ehditty" means literally that "(they) had already had enough time to", but here you could read it that they had already made up their mind about Ranieri based on what they had seen him do or what they knew about his performance in the past.

2. The writer is trying to spice up his prose with wordplay on the set phrase "menneen talven lumia". The phrase means that something is in the past, no longer relevant and should best be forgotten. The writer is implying that this was the accepted view of Ranieri, that he had been written off as a hopeless cause, a has-been. He had been figuratively transformed into the snows of the phrase. Hence the translative form, which is used to describe something changing or becoming something else. The verb "lapioida" tries to reinforce this sense of deliberate transformation, as one often moves or works snow with a shovel. Only in this phrase it is not snow that is shovelled but a man that is shovelled into snow. So in their minds, "they" had shovelled Ranieri away to be forgotten.

3. "Yllätti" can also appear without a direct object. Here it simply means that he caused surprise (by triumphing against the expectations). Alternative, the ”ja” structure of the sentence can also be seen as rhetorical device to emphasise the gravity of this unexpected event: first there is the more general verb ”yllätti”, then ”nosti Leicesterin maailmanmaineeseen” explains what happened in detail.

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