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Lithuania go it alone

The history of football in Lithuania has been strongly conditioned by political events.

Lithuania go it alone
Lithuania go it alone ©Vaidotas Januška

The history of football in Lithuania, which begins at the turn of the last century, has been strongly conditioned by political events. The country became independent in 1918, was annexed by the USSR in 1940, before regaining independence in 1990.

The first recorded match took place in 1911 in Kaunas between teams representing the cities of Kaunas and Vilnius. In 1923 the Lithuanian Sports League was admitted to FIFA. In the same year Lithuania played their first international as an independent state, also in Kaunas, losing 5-0 to Estonia. This early flurry of activity came to a climax in 1924 when the Lithuanian Football League (LFL) was founded and the national team participated in the Paris Olympics. The LFL became the sole supervisor of Lithuanian football in 1925, organising the first national championship, which featured seven teams, in 1931.

From 1946 Lithuanian clubs competed within the USSR's footballing pyramid. In 1982 FK Žalgiris Vilnius won the first division title to gain promotion to the Supreme Soviet League, where they finished third in 1987. They duly qualified for the 1988/89 UEFA Cup, where they were eliminated in the first round by FK Austria Wien. They qualified again the next season and took the scalp of IFK Göteborg before bowing out in the second round. One standout talent from this era was Viačeslavas Sukristovas, who figured in the USSR team that finished as runners-up at the 1988 UEFA European Championship. Two other players, Arminas Nabekovas and Arvydas Janonis, helped the USSR claim Olympic gold in Seoul in 1988.

When Lithuania re-established its independence on 11 March 1990, it was the cue for clubs such as Žalgiris, FK Atlantas and ASSM Inkaras to withdraw from the Soviet setup following a request by the Lithuanian sports authorities. A Lithuanian championship promptly started in 1991. A Baltic Football Championship was also launched in 1990, involving sides from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and the Kaliningrad enclave of the USSR.

The national team of the newly independent Lithuania made their debut in a 2-2 draw with Georgia in Tbilisi on 27 May 1990. A bold line was then drawn under the country's international isolation as the Lithuanian Football Federation (Lietuvos Futbolo Federacija or LFF) was readmitted to FIFA on 9 December 1991. As a result, the national side, under Algimantas Liubinskas, played in 1994 FIFA World Cup qualifying, picking up their first points with a 2-2 draw with Northern Ireland in Belfast on 28 April 1992. The first victory came against Latvia in Riga on 12 August 1992. Players such as Janonis, Narbekovas and Valdas Ivanauskas went west to ply their trade in the Austrian Bundesliga.

The LFF became a fully fledged member of the European football family at the 1992 UEFA Congress in Gothenburg. Since then, it has worked hard to develop the country's soccer infrastructure with the aim of improving performances at club and national-team levels.

While getting to the final round of a major championship remains a long-term target, the LFF gained valuable experience and recognition by succesfully staging the the UEFA European Under-19 Championship finals in 2013. Progress in the women's game was also apparent when Gintra Universitetas became the first club side – of any gender – to join the continental elite by qualifying for the UEFA Women's Champions League round of 16 in 2014/15.


Tomas Danilevičius

Tomas Danilevičius
Tomas Danilevičius©Vaidotas Januška

Nationality: Lithuanian
Date of birth: 18 July 1978
Association president since: 2017

• Former Lithuania striker Tomas Danilevičius, who worked in real estate business following his retirement as a player in 2014, was elected to the vacant Lithuanian Football Federation (LFF) president‘s post for a two-year term in September 2017.

• In his nomadic footballing career, Danilevičius played across Europe, in particular for several clubs in Italy. He also spent a short spell in England with Arsenal. A legend in his native Lithuania, he earned 72 caps for his country, scoring 19 goals and becoming the national team‘s highest all-time scorer.

• A former Lithuania captain and strong proponent of teamwork, Danilevičius says: “I know what it means to be a leader and have the trust of others. I also hope that my experience in Italian football can help complement the football development work being undertaken in Lithuania.”

General secretary

Edgaras Stankevičius

Edgaras Stankevičius
Edgaras Stankevičius©LFF

Nationality: Lithuanian
Date of birth: 7 September 1987
Association general secretary since: 2018

• Born in basketball stronghold Kaunas, Edgaras Stankevičius took his first steps in the sporting business while studying with a job at university basketball club Atletas. After gaining his master‘s degree in sports and tourism management, he took up various management roles in basketball-related organisations.

• Stankevičius’ ten-year spell in basketball management included working with academies, clubs, media outlets, events and leagues. From 2014 to 2016, he was the project manager at the Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL).

• He joined the Lithuanian Football Federation (LFF) in 2016 as head of the commerce and marketing department, and took on the role of deputy general secretary in the second part of 2017. Stankevičius was appointed as general secretary in October 2018.