First Team Sub
Sep 2, 2016, 4:06 PM
Location: NW Leicestershire
Team(s): Arnold Town/ Loughborough Dynamo
Match 1 Wednesday 24th August 2016 7pm
Metta LU 1 Ventspils 1 Virsliga (Top level)
Admission 4 Euros
Metta play at a ground off Skanstes Iela. You can catch either Tram 5 to Vasingtona Iela or Tram 11 to AS Laima and walk. My hotel was fairly close by so I made the 15 minute walk to the ground. The ground is in an area of new development and the ground is next to the ABLV Office block. It was a strange set up to get in. I arrived an hour before kick off but the place was deserted. 30 minutes before kick off 2 tables were placed outside, one, the tea bar and one for a small range of club souvenirs (Hoodies, pennants, scarves). You paid your money at the tea bar table and then you had to walk around a building to get into the ground. Your ticket was checked and then you had to walk to the far side of the ground which was the only place where spectators could watch the game. Here there were two uncovered areas of seating for around 400 people. The pitch was 3G. It was warm and sunny as the game kicked off. The visitors scored first and spurned many chances, they were made to pay for this as Metta equalised from a free kick in the second half. Metta clung on for the point. I didn't sample the tea bar as I couldn't bother to trek all the way around the ground.
Match 2 Friday 26th August 6pm
Riga FC 0 Liepaja 1 Virsliga
Admission 3 Euros
Coffee 2 Euros
Fortunately I checked the internet whilst at my hotel. I discovered that the game had been moved forward to 6pm after being advertised at 7. This left me with 15 minutes to get to the ground. Riga play at Skonto Riga's stadium and it is pretty impressive. You pay at ticket booths in front of the ground and then walk up to the stand. Skonto's ground is close to Metta's ground located off Hanzas Iela. A small stall sold baseball caps, shirts and t-shirts for club souvenirs as you walked to the stand and the refreshment area was close by. The ground is impressive. Only one stand was open for this game, but the ground had two large stands on both sides, and one half stand behind the left goal. The other half was taken up with an indoor arena. The stadium had a grass pitch The right hand side of the ground was open and used for parking. The game was frustrating. There was plenty of good approach play but the shooting was dreadful. I was rescued from a 0-0 by a 30 yard screamer in the 87th minute which won the game for the higher placed opponents. Another warm evening.
Match 3 Saturday 27th August 12.15pm.
Riga Utd 3 Salaspils 2 Liga 2 Zona Riga.
Admission - free- programme -none
I struggled to find any websites to discover the Liga 2 fixtures. I eventually found one site for fixtures but the ground information was minimal. Anyway I was rescued by the excellent Riga Utd website. It is all in English and confirmed the game was on and the location of the ground which is Football School 49. If you stand at the open end of Skonto's ground, you'll see Vesetas Iela and the ground is located down there. The ground is basically a 3G cage with a small area of uncovered seating next to the clubhouse. There were no facilities at all for spectators at the ground and the changing rooms were located behind the far goal. It was roasting hot today and the game started slowly. The opposition scored and the home team struggled to create chances. What did surprise me was that all the line ups were announced in English and the home manager appears to be English as well. The home team played much better in the second half and scored 3 goals. Their cause was helped when the Salaspils number 3 was sent off for his second yellow card. This did spur Salaspils on and they did score a second goal. The game was probably the most enjoyable of all my games in Latvia and there was a crowd of around 20.
Match 4 Sunday 28th August 5pm.
Spartaks Jurmala 2 Riga FS 1 Virsliga
Admission - free
Coffee 1 Euro
I spent the day in the main part of Jurmala, alighting the train at Majori station. It is a very pleasant seaside resort. I walked back to the station and caught the train for the trip to Slokas, where the ground is located. This is around 45 minutes from Riga. There is a half hourly train service to Sloka so it isn't a long wait between trains. It isn't easy to get to the ground from the station despite it only being a 10 minute walk. Head away from the station and then follow paths heading left. Eventually you get to Skola Iela where the ground is located. The stadium is an athletics stadium with one large seated stand. The rest of the ground is out of bounds for spectators. I'm not sure whether admission to the ground is normally free or if it was a one off, but I wasn't complaining. The only refreshments for spectators was a mobile van located just outside the ground. The stand gives a good view of the pitch and the seats are all blue and white. I didn't see the first goal as a family of 7 decided to come in the last minute and then proceeded to clamber over people and seats to get to 7 seats close to the half way line. This involved lifting young children up the stand as well. Whilst doing this they blocked the view of the goal when the home side, scored after just 1 minute. I noticed this late arrival at all the larger grounds I went to. 10 minutes before kick off the stands would be deserted and at kick off people would flood in.
The rest of the first half was dire, again I think the heat didn't help. Both teams seemed unable to pass a ball accurately and Spartaks Jurmala, who are champions-elect didn't look good at all. The second half did improve as the heat dropped. Riga FS were awarded a penalty after a handball and this was scored. Now they seemed to grow in confidence. Both sides went out for the win and Spartaks scored the winner in controversial circumstances. The Riga keeper felt he'd been impeded during the build up for the goal. Another win for Spartaks should confirm them as champions. I just made the 7.08 train back to Riga. Train travel is very cheap. The three single tickets cost me under 4 Euros.
My observations is that the level of football in Latvia is better than Estonia, but this could be due to the fact it was warm and sunny in Latvia rather than 3C and sleeting as it was in Estonia. Also it could be due to the fact the football grounds I visited were better than Tallinn. No programmes for any games was a little disappointing after picking them up in Tallinn, but you could get some club souvenirs.
The Old Town is well worth a visit and Riga is a small and pleasant place. For the beer lovers. Meira Iela, just out the centre is the place to visit. Here you'll find TAKA bar, one of the best in the city. Nearby on Aristida Briana Iela you'll find Alus Darbnica Labietis home to a small brewery and bar plus Valmiermuiza Alus Tirgotave, (another good beer bar) on the opposite side. Both are hidden behind a strange classical fašade. The brew pubs in the Old Town weren't really worth visiting, reassuringly even the large brewery beers were good and I'd recommend a visit to Aldaris beer museum which has become a craft brewery for Carlsberg.