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Skonto teen Grīnbergs savours Latvian goal record

Published: Tuesday 17 June 2014, 12.43CET
Jānis Grīnbergs is a name to remember after the 15-year-old Skonto FC forward became the Latvian Virsliga's youngest scorer by converting a stoppage-time penalty on his debut.
by Mikhail Korolev
from Riga
Skonto teen Grīnbergs savours Latvian goal record
Jānis Grīnbergs scores from the penalty spot on his Skonto debut ©Juris Gūtmans
Published: Tuesday 17 June 2014, 12.43CET

Skonto teen Grīnbergs savours Latvian goal record

Jānis Grīnbergs is a name to remember after the 15-year-old Skonto FC forward became the Latvian Virsliga's youngest scorer by converting a stoppage-time penalty on his debut.

There was nothing special about Skonto FC beating FC Daugava Daugavpils 4-0 in Ilukste on 10 June. But there was something special about the fourth goal, converted by Jānis Grīnbergs. Aged 15 years and 102 days, the Skonto trainee became the Latvian top flight's youngest-ever scorer and one of the youngest in Europe.

Appropriately the schoolboy's moment in the sun coincided with the start of the summer holidays in Latvia. However, there will be no slacking off for Grīnbergs, who has just finished the eighth grade at Riga 31st Secondary School – instead, training sessions beckon with a Skonto side placed third in the First Division.

"Football – that is my favourite subject," the forward said. "Unfortunately I have no opportunity to study normally as training, games and away trips take all the time. I started at Skonto when I was four and it quickly became my favourite pastime. Skonto are my team and football is all I think about."

Now these thoughts have turned into a dream come true. Skonto's match at Daugava Daugavpils was into injury time when Grīnbergs calmly slotted a penalty on his top-flight debut, minutes after coming off the bench. He thus broke the record of another Latvian starlet, Valērijs Šabala, who scored his first Virsliga goal aged 15 years and 193 days in April 2010. Four years ago, Šabala was playing for now-defunct JFK Olimps. Next term, having represented Skonto, he will turn out for Club Brugge KV.

As for the momentous spot-kick, Grīnbergs told UEFA.com: "I was not really worried before taking it. I decided to aim for the bottom-right corner, I scored and did not even see which way the keeper went. I was thrilled inside but tried to stay humble on the pitch. I didn't even take the ball, unlike ice-hockey players when they score their first puck."

Special credit for his achievement goes to Skonto coach Tamaz Pertia. "It was Tamaz who shouted that I should take the pen," Grīnbergs insisted. "I was pleased but not very surprised, because I take a lot of penalties in training and score most. It was also very nice when Tamaz and the boys congratulated me. Skonto are a friendly team, always supporting and helping you.

"I've always supported us and now I am delighted I can be of real use to Skonto," he added. "It was just last year I was a ballboy for players like Ruslan Mingazov, whose style I really admire. Now we are in the same dressing room! I am grateful to my coaches – Tamaz, Mihails Miholaps, reserve boss Andrejs Kaļiņins. Without them there would be no record."

The latter was not on his mind during the Daugava Daugavpils game. "I knew I'd scored at a pretty young age but had no idea about the record," he said. "Valērijs Šabala is a great player, a great example to follow: he plays for Latvia and moved to Brugge. Of course it would be cool to do that. That is my dream – to play for Latvia and a club from a strong European league."

It may take a huge effort to realise his early potential, yet the teenager is determined to keep on the right path. "Suddenly everyone is interested in me – I know I did something memorable and this goal is the biggest event in my life right now. But there is no way I can stop here. I want to progress, to learn football, to play and, of course, to score my second goal."

Last updated: 17/06/14 12.43CET

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