After last FK Lielupe game in Riga Football League in this season we talked to Club President Carl Villeruss about the results of previous season, future plans and some other topics.
Kārlis, tell us about the previous season. How can you describe it?
Of course, we are not satisfied with the 2019th 2nd League season, you can easily check the results and understand how bad it was. 2019 was the toughest year in team history, financially as well. We counted on LFF support program funding, but it was reduced to half, and we were only informed about it in the summer, when the season was already undergoing, and all the payments and reporting were delayed, so we got into the debt pit. It was very difficult, be we got out of it, thanks to many of my colleagues, who came to help the team. This was also reflected in team game, as we were forced to cancel several training sessions, it was such a survival issue.
But this situation just made us even more motivated, and this year we are even looking forward at going to the first club camp outside Latvia. I think few 2nd League clubs have had this experience. But here too, it is more a matter of cooperation, because we are currently in a close relationship with some clubs, including one Spanish club. Also during the winter, for the first time in the club’s history, we participated in the futsal League. So, 2019 can be called a draft year, now we have to avoid all these mistakes we made earlier.
Why did you decide to participate in the futsal championship instead of training outdoors? Especially considering that the weather this winter was very grateful.
Nobody could predict that there will be such a winter. And to be honest, knowing Latvian weather, no one can predict what February and March will be. But, always in the past, during the winter, the number of people in training drastically dropped because not everyone is ready to run outside in winter. I would prefer to train outdoors, I am used to it, I always played outdoors in my childhood, whether it is snowy or not – anyway. Also players needed motivation, some kind of passion, some sporting interest, so we were looking for a tournament. Already last year several of our former players had played in the Riga Football League. I really liked what the organizers were doing and so we applied for this league. Overall, a large number of our players participated in this tournament, including other teams. I think this was a very valuable experience for our guys. Next year we will try to get even better.
How can you describe results in this league and what was its overall level?
Again, it was our team’s first experience in futsal. Other teams have played before. In addition, several teams have a very high level football players, for example, on team had Latvian National Futsal team player Artjoms Kozlovskis. However, it should be mentioned that we needed to win a place in this league, what we did well by winning both qualifying games. So this was a very valuable experience and next year we will be working harder for the winter season as well.
Riga Football League will have All Star Game in February. Will anyone from FK Lielupe represent the team there?
Yes, in this All Star Game one player from each team is invited. As far as I know, our team should be represented by Heorhii Tkachov, but he will be outside Latvia. Riccardo Paoli is likely to be the next contender, but he is leaving, he is coming back to Italy this week, so I would like to thank him for his time on our team and wish him good luck in the future. I really liked Riccardo as a player, great fighting spirit, perseverance, playing with his head raised up – everything a defender needs. But who’s next on the list to participate in All Star Game is a tough question. I will be waiting for information from the tournament organizers and it will be announced on our website.
Also, LU Football League season is still going on, where our student team has been participating for several years. How are you doing in this league?
More to say, FK Lielupe has become an integral part of this league, as this is already the 8th season for our team in the LU Football League. Also, we had a good start this season, currently we are in 7th place, but we have the least number of games played. We have played only 4 games, while other teams have played at least 5-6 games. We also have a team that has already played 8 games. We have 7 points and we are only three points behind the Top 3 teams. Already on Monday, we will finally have our next game. We are facing to ČBK team, which is currently above us in the league table. Since everything is in our own hands, we have a good team, I think that this season we can expect positive results in the LU League.
With such a performance, has any player deserved to be invited to LU Football League All Star Game?
This year, LU Football League is hosting a major event. A total number of 50 players were invited. There are 6 FK Lielupe players to participate in All Star Game as well: Mārtiņš Linde, who is also one of the four captains of the LU Football League All Star Game, me, Kristaps Mackovs, Dāvis Braučs, Giacomo Nicora and Marta Kāne. Other members of our team were invited to this All Star Game as well, for example our club board member and defender Renāts Rahimovs and former FK Lielupe board member Jānis Magazeinis, who represent Ej Tu Nost team in the LU Football League, as well as Mārtiņš Pavlovs, who joined our team for the Riga Football League Cup of Hope, who represents Latgalīte Squad team in the LU Football League. It will be very interesting for me to participate in this event for the second time.
When will you resume full preparation for the new football season, and will this phase be different from previous years?
As this indoor football season is over for us, the first outdoor training is scheduled for next Friday.
You mentioned that you would go to a training camp in Spain. How did this opportunity come about?
As I mentioned, we are in close contact with the Spanish Club. It all started with the fact that our Vice-president Jevgenijs Jenats, has a good acquaintance who offered to play a friendly game in Kaliningrad with one Russian club. So we came up with that this is not a bad idea at all. Then he spoke about this with another acquaintance, who now lives in Spain and is actively developing a football club from Adra. He made an offer to us that was difficult to refuse.
The Latvian football pyramid is undergoing a changes again this year. What is FK Lielupe’s attitude towards these changes?
Last season, due to changes, we were forced to move from the Vidzeme region to Kurzeme, or the Rietumu zone. We didn’t want to do this for a number of reasons, but had to make concessions because there were missing two teams in this zone. The same situation was for the DSVK Traktors team. Another change is expected this year. There will be a new 2nd League, which, in my opinion, is a very risky and overly ambitious project, given that the 1st League championship has problems gathering at least 10 teams each year. How many teams will be ready to drive through whole country is a very good question. I even think less about than the financial side of the question, but whether the players themselves will be ready for it.
As a result of these reforms, what we already know as the 2nd League will now be called the 3rd League and once again it will be organized by regional managers. Is it good? It’s very difficult for me to judge, because in my opinion, when there were four regions with the same number of teams, the same conditions for qualifying for the championship finals, there was some sort of structure in all this. Now there are likely to be regions with 6-7 teams again and regions with over 12 teams. Is it good or bad is difficult to say, I would like to know opinions of other clubs as well. However, it’s very important that this decision won’t turn into a step backwards.
In which region will FK Lielupe participate?
We will think about it. We will definitely decide about this already in the February board meeting, when the regulations of the championship will be published. Probably we would like to return to our usual region – Vidzeme, because I was always against that teams change regions. It seems logically, that we will move back to Vidzeme, which we applied for last year too, but were forced to change region. Or maybe we will stay in Kurzeme, it’s early to decide.
Of course, it’s not good that every season there are changes. Because at the end of the year, we calculate the budget for the following year, and at the end, everything else comes out because there is no stability.
Do you think this reorganization of league systems could be linked to the upcoming LFF presidential election?
I think any decision now made could be counted as political. So I try to separate it all a bit and treat it as simple information and keep working. I am a person who loves football, for me football is more than a game or a job, it’s my lifestyle, I breathe with football, I can even say that it’s my religion, so I try to separate it all. Otherwise, when one begins to think that there are completely different motives behind the decision of the people on whom Latvian football is dependent, one may fall into deep depression.
However, as an LFF employee, I know a bit more than an ordinary football fan, so it’s even more important for me not to go into such reflection and do my job, regardless of the situation. And I know that if I, a regular employee, a club, a football player, will do everything in their power to develop football, then football will be above all.
Have the Presidential candidates of the Federation already started their campaign?
We had been approached by some candidates for board membership, but at our January board meeting we decided not to nominate any of the candidates, because we can nominate only one and it’s difficult to choose one, because none of them have presented their program. Following the changes to the LFF Statutes, submitting a program is now not a requirement to become a candidate, which I think is wrong. I think, when a person applies for a position, he / she should have some goals, plans of action, not that I just want on the board, you are my fellow, please sign. It is important to understand what a person will do after he or she joins the board, because these are the people, who will determine the future of Latvian football. We had a long discussion at the board meeting and came to this view together.
When our Mārtiņš Auziņš tried himself in the previous LFF board election, he had ideas, a goal, he wanted to popularize football, to create a platform,where everyone could find where to play football. But now it’s not yet clear what each of the candidates for board intends to implement.
What do you expect from the new LFF president, and is there a specific person you would like to see in this position?
It’s hard to expect anything right now. There has been a lot of negative information in past year, the LFF image is not the best after all, unfortunately it has to be admitted. So, probably, the main thing we expect is to sort out all of these things, so that there is not so much division between clubs, that the LFF image is positive. But to name a specific person, who could do it right now, is very difficult. It’s also unclear, who exactly will stand. According to the old LFF Statutes, all candidates had to submit their programs by December 31 of the previous year, but now it’s different, so unfortunately there is no specific information to work with.
The goal of the team this year was to rebuild a youth team to compete in the U18 Youth Championship of Latvia. How are you doing with this question?
Unfortunately, this is what we may pause for this year. It is not clear what will happen this year with the LFF KIAAP (Club Sustainable Development Support Program) program as we had planned to use this funding entirely to the youth team. So for now, this issue is on pause.
This year you will take part in the Latvian 3rd League. What are the goals for this season?
The first task is to work with the team squad with which the highest goals can be achieved. We will set the season goals closer to the season. Both, I and Jevgenijs Jenats, and I think, the rest of the board as well, are looking forward to a successful season. If the pre-season phase is successful, then the goals will be the highest.
Big Team General meeting is upcoming. Are there any changes in the team board?
In February, we have an Extraordinary Meeting of Members to decide on the new Statutes of our Association. The changes affect only the board section. The new version of the Statutes provides addition of the Second Vice-President. This is due to changes in the LFF Statutes. Members in the LFF Congress may now be represented only by a person with the right to sign. So far we have had two of them – the President and the Vice-President respectively me and Jevgenijs Jenats. I can’t represent FK Lielupe in the LFF Congress because, under the new LFF Statutes, LFF employees may not represent clubs in the LFF Congress, while Jevgenijs Jenats may not always be able to participate in them. To avoid losing the voice in LFF Congresses, the idea is to add the second Vice-President, and the option of expanding the number of board members from 7 to 9.
Currently, we have one vacant seat in the Board, but it is anticipated that immediately after the approval of the new Statutes of Association, FK Lielupe will hold Board elections at the Annual General Meeting. These Board members will be elected for 3 years. I don’t think the changes will be huge, but if the new Statutes are approved, we might not only have one new face in the board, but whole 3.
There are certainly many people who would like to join football club. Is it possible for them to do so and how?
Of course, everyone who wants to play football are welcomed. This year, we will be recruiting new players through selections. Once a month you will have this opportunity to join the team. It will be possible to come to trainings, but decisions on if a player will remain in the team or not will be made after the selections. In the selections, we will test the players’ physical abilities, technical skills and how they look on the field during the game. To join the team, you must fill out the Join The Team form on our website, or contact our team manager, Maksims Bočarņikovs – 27277722, who will tell you what, when and how.
In the end of the conversation, would you like to mention something new that players, who want to join the team, need to know?
First of all, the team vlog is coming back soon, which will make the team’s daily life even more interesting. Our Marketing Specialist Marija Voronova makes every effort to keep players interested in becoming more active in the team. The plan also includes tactical trainings with a video review of the games. Also, a brand new thing is expected – the challenge video series, where Mārtiņš Auziņš will compete in a variety of disciplines with Ralfs Biruls. So many things are to be expected not only for our players, but also for our fans. We believe in a dream, but we are also working to make that dream come true.