The vision of the Latvian Football Federation (LFF) is to develop players, coaches and facilities in the Baltic state, strengthening a network of sustainable clubs with long-term goals.
The biggest challenge for Latvia in terms of football development is the creation of solid facilities for training and matches.
The LFF’s efforts are paying dividends: the national boys’ championship has expanded from 106 teams in 2015 to 203 in 2021. In the period between 2016 and 2020, 16 new artificial pitches opened in Latvia with the help of the national association.
As far as women’s football is concerned, the LFF is striving to bring more players into the game, and ensure a sustainable competition environment for each girl to fit into and play, while simultaneously investing in the development of local clubs. From 2016-20, the number of registered women players increased from 1,129 to 2,216
“Opportunities for development are endless and we are eager to improve football facilities, coach education and the number of players involved in football so that everyone gets a chance to play, follow a healthy lifestyle and build strong and friendly relationships in the game.”
Arturs Gaidels, LFF general secretary
UEFA’s HatTrick programme, which channels EURO funds into football development across Europe, has been fundamental to the LFF’s football development programmes, especially in women’s football where UEFA’s Women’s Football Development Programme (WFDP) has provided important guidance for the development of the game.
HatTrick funding has helped to encourage the sustainable development of clubs and participation programmes, supporting the laying of artificial pitches and the improvement of natural turf pitches, and playing a crucial role in the opening of the national youth training centre at Staicele, which has residential facilities for young players.
UEFA’s Football and Social Responsibility (FSR) goals have also inspired the LFF, with new projects geared towards creating gender equality and equal access to football, and focusing on inclusion for people with mental health issues.
The first recorded match takes place in Latvia during a sports festival held in Riga by the local Keizarmežs sporting union. The first football clubs are established in 1907 and 1908 by British and German expatriates in the capital, while the first Latvian club in Riga, Amatieris, is formed in 1910. The game would become popular in Liepaja too, where FC Olimpija were founded in 1909.
The Riga Football League is created in February 1910, running competitions until 1915.
Latvia gains independence from Russia after the First World War, and the Latvian Football Union (LFS) is set up in June 1921, and organises a national championship until 1927, when the Virslīga (Premier League) would come into being.
Latvia becomes a FIFA member.
The Soviet Union’s invasion of Latvia leads to most local clubs being disbanded, and the Soviet Latvian championship (introduced in 1941) is almost immediately interrupted by German occupation. Games are played from 1942-44, but are interrupted again by a Red Army offensive that heralds Latvia’s reincorporation into the USSR.
The Soviet Latvian championship is introduced, running until 1991 and operating in a variety of formats until the introduction of the A Klase in 1963. As many as three Latvian clubs would also be involved in the USSR championship
Latvia regains independence in August 1991, with the newly established Latvian Football Federation (LFF) deciding to reorganise its competitions within the Virslīga from 1992. The same year Latvia becomes a member of UEFA, with Skonto becoming the first Latvian side to play in a UEFA competition when they beat KÍ Klaksvík 3-1 in Iceland in the UEFA Champions League preliminary round.
FK Ventspils become the first Latvian team to reach the group stage of a major UEFA club competition as they qualify for the UEFA Europa League.
National team history
The national side's first match is a friendly against Estonia in Riga in September 1922, which ends in a 1-1 draw. The sides then draw 1-1 again in a return fixture in Tallinn the following year.
Latvia compete in the Olympic Games football tournament in Paris, losing 7-0 to hosts France after receiving a bye to the round of 16.
The national team wins twice against Lithuania in their first official qualifiers, for the 1938 FIFA World Cup, but misses out on the final tournament after a defeat against Austria.
A squad coached by Aleksandrs Starkovs and featuring key players Māris Verpakovskis, Aleksandrs Koļinko, Marians Pahars and Igors Stepanovs finishes second behind Sweden in their UEFA EURO 2004 qualifying group, before then beating Turkey 3-2 on aggregate in a play-off to reach the finals in Portugal. The team were unable to win a game, but their impressive achievements put Latvian football on the map.
Date of birth: 7 April 1984
Association general secretary since: 2020
Date of birth: 24 June 1984
Association general secretary since: 2021
Latvian Football Federation website