Posted: 5/29/2009


       Half an hour by train out of Riga, from the splendid station, and I jump off at Salaspils, which had a dark past as the location of a former concentration camp, but now a quiet and fairly prospeous dormitory town.

       I had left Janis Mezeckis' LFF office in the afternoon, and neglected to tell you that the General Secretary was the UEFA match delegate a couple of weeks ago at Stamford Bridge for the Chelsea v Barcelona controversial Champions League semi-final second leg and had to make a report about THAT controversial Norwegian referee. A former professional player himself, his son Roberts Mezeckis, a Latvian international, is now playing for Cork City in the Eircom League of Ireland.

      I get instructions, walk across the track, past the duck pond, through the fields and about 500 m away I hear the strains of a loudspeaker playing " On the Fields of Anfield Road!", which I last heard when I was at the 20th anniversary memorial service of the Hillsborough Disaster at Anfield. We are far,far away and a little modern stadium with one main covered stand, and maybe 80 or so spectators. Non standing outside the fence today, because entry is free.

      The home team at this Latvian Versliga match at The Sporta Skolas Stadions, is Daugava Riga playing in sky blue and black, and the visitors are also from the capital, Olymps Riga.  There is no programme or team sheet, but No, 5 in red for the visitors impresses me on the left wing. He is a tricky dribbler and looks like Andrey Arshavin of Arsenal, though I don't think he will be paid $100,000 a week for his skills.  I find out later his name is Siluks Dmitrijs. Olymps take a well deserved lead in the 20th minute from Klimovs Aleksandin, and I am quite impressed by their overall ability.

      Half time and again I feel at home as the loudspeaker blasts 'At Home, Football's Coming Home', the 'Three Lions' song from the 1996 European Championships in England, sung by The Lightning Seeds with words by David Baddel and Frank Skinner.  Well it doesn't get any better for the home team and 4 more goals in the 60,63,64,81 minutes and a late goal from Zatovs Artems for Daugava makes the final score 5-1.  I leave early and on the way shout 'kitty,kitty' to a small black cat watching from behind the goal. It streaks away across the road, narrowly missing death from a speeding midnight blue Mercedes- 8 lives left pet!!

       Back in Riga I stroll in the old town and sit down in Livu Laukums(square) and buy an ice cold Sun pear cider and listen to a jazz band at the next outdoor cafe.  Behind me is The Cat's House, opposite the historic Great Guild of Riga, started in 1354. The owner was refused entry to the guild over a century ago, so he put 2 black iron cats with their tails in the air, their backsides facing the guild building, high on the tower on his roof.  Eventualy he was admitted to the guild, and he turned the cats around.

 I love this place, Latvia!!