Posted: 6/11/2017


             The European champions come to Riga, and there is quite a buzz around the Skonto Stadium. There are three sides with the fourth a building site. I am told that Skonto will be torn down in a couple of years or so and replaced by commercial buildings. It holds almost 9,000 and is a sell out for this attractive FIFA Russia 2018 qualifier.

              I love the Latvian flag and team jersey, CARMINE RED.  The flag was used by independent Latvia from 1918 until the country was occupied by the Soviets in 1940. The colour of the flag is often referred to as Latvian red, a particulary dark shade and a mixture of brown and purple. It was again adopted as Latvia gained independence once more in 1990. Did you know that Riga is one of the few capital cities with only four letters?  I have visited RIGA, ROME, BAKU, BERN, OSLO, LIMA, SUVA, and the others are JUBA, MALE, DOHA, LOME, DILI, and APIA.

           Thursday I picked up my press credentials and went to a couple of packed press conferences and the first 15 nminutes of Portugal's final training session- the rest was out of bounds, CR7 the Selecao captain had missed the last match, a friendly, due to Real Madrid's Champions League Final. With his bonus he had managed to afford a new close cropped hair cut for himself and 7 year old CR Jr

           There is not much money in Latvian domestic football so many find a club away from home. Well travelled team captain Kaspars Gorkas played for Blackpool, QPR, Reading, Dukla Prague and more and at 35 is now back in town for Riga FC at this very stadium. He has 80 caps and 5 goals. Others ply their trade in Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Poland and England.  Ronaldo in contrast earned $93 Million in the last year and captained his national team to European victory at FRANCE 2016 which was won in extra time at Saint-Denis with a goal by substitute Eder in the 109th minute.

            It was a fairly even contest early on with a chance for both teams and it was not until the 41st minute that CR7 opened the scoring from close range after Jose Fonte's header came back from the cross bar.  It was 2-0 and game over in minute 63 when he scored his second with a header into an empty net. Four minutes later the Maestro picked out Andre Silva to score the third and final goal of the evening. Excitement near the end as a young 8 year old looking fan climbed over the barrier near the team benches and raced half way across the pitch to hug his hero. Security people were a couple of metres apart so were surprised. He was finally led away and into the hands of the police. As the players left the pitch three more youngsters, including a girl,  raced to the tunnel but were stopped and led away.

      Late in August Portugal host the Faroe Islands while Latvia are away to Hungary. Maybe a chance for 3 points after Hungary's humiliating 1-0 loss in Andorra this weekend. three days later Portugal go to Budapest to face Hungary.