Half way between Riga and Tallinn. on the Expressenbuss I called my friend Anatoli in Tartu, and 2 hours later on my arrival a couple of his former players Sergie and Avik, in their mid 20´s, met me at the bus station and off we went for a ride out of town.
A nice surprise as we to Avik`s family Armenian restaurant for a lavish meal. Huge helpings of grilled meats, shish kebab, vegetables, lavash bread and finishing off with pahlav with nuts, honey, raisins and Georgian spring water plus a glass of Estonian A.Le Coq beer. We were joined at the table by an Armenian golf pro, really an amateur, who taught at the only golf course in Armenia, in Yerevon but was visiting Tallinn to learn more.
We then drove back into town and the 8 year old A.Le Coq Arena, home of both the Estonian national team and FC Flora Tallinn, who own the arena. It can seat 9,000, but for concerts using the covered-over pitch, maybe 15,000. At the Flora office I met the secretary, a young Estonian girl who had just returned home after being an exchange student at Franklin H.S. in El Paso Texas. If the team is lucky they may get 400 for a top division Meistri Liga match. Then to the much bigger Estonian Federation offices where it was a surprise to meet two Londoners running the women´s section, including Keith Boanas, the women`s national coach, and press chief Mikhel Uiboleht.
Before leaving, the President of both FC Flora and the Federation drove up in his SUV. That`s Áivar Pohlak I was told and I wanted to say hi. Out steps a hippie guy with long curly hair past his shoulders, a sheepskin waistcoat and jeans with huge holes in both knees and half a dozen other places. A bit of a shock, but after a few minutes chat he impressed me as hugely intelligent, and is evidently a well know writer as well. www.jalgpall.ee
Next stop Kadrioru Stadium, former home of the national team, which can only accommodate about 3,000. That`s enough for the Meistriligi match at 4.30 in the afternoon. There was a famous match Estonia v Scotland a few years back at this place where the Scots and 2,000 fans showed up but not the Estonians- a dispute over the time. It had to be played again a few days later.
FC Levadia Tallinn in first place, running away with the title, 9 points ahead of JK Sillamae Kalev and 2 games in hand. Opponents were JK Trans Narva from 300 km east on the Russian border. 1-1 was the final score but Sergie and I were cold with temp. 6 C and there were about 80 fans, plus 4 officials, 6 security guys and 8 ball boys, maybe 100 all told. Avik picked us up early after 60 minutes and dropped me off at the bus station 3 minutes before the next bus, 2 hours to Tartu, the second city and its famous university.