In the early days of March in the Baltic countries the ball will roll again. In the Lithuanian A Lyga, the Estonian Premium Liiga and the Latvian Viersliga the new football season brings two foundations of new clubs and a lot of transfers. The Baltic Review checked out the Baltic teams and their ambitions.
The first time after five years Ekranas Panevezys did not win the championship in the last season. In a heart-stopping finish against Atlantas Klaipeda Zalgiris Vilnius landed the championship trophy. Ekranas took a disappointing sixth position and will try to attack anew in this season with a young team. Therefore the contract of the experienced Giedrius Tomkevicius was not extended. Also last year’s champion Zalgiris lost a couple of important players. Defensive stalwart Andrius Skerla quitted his career and goal getter Kamil Bilinski left the club to Dinamo Bucharest. Lukas Wilk returns from Romania and is the new striker hope. Lithuanian national player Mantas Fridrikas (FK Siauliai), Linas Pilibaitis (Győri ETO FC/Hungary) and the returnee Deividas Semberas (Alania Vladikavkaz) should fill the gap. Vice champion Atlantas Klaipeda loses striker Valdas Trakys who ends his career. New for the defence is the Under-19 International Rokas Krusnauskas from Kaunas. Suduva Marijampole had a change of strikers as well. Nerijus Valskis left to Romania. The new man in the front is Arminas Vaskela from FK Siauliai. Keeper Sarunas Jurevicius also played for the FKS before he moved to Banga Gargzdai this winter. No big changes have been made by Dainava Alytus, Kruoja Pakruojis and FK Siauliai. Also the promoted teams FK Trakai and FK Granitas trust in experienced personnel.
Latvian champion FK Ventpils lost their strikers Daniils Turkovs (GKS Belchatow/Poland) und Federico Martínez (Oriente Petrolero/Bolivia). Vitalijs Recickis moved from concurrent Daugava Riga to Ventpils. The second of last season, Skonto Riga, had a great lose of players. Latvian Internationals Nauris Bulvitis (FC Aarau/Switzerland), Alans Sinelnikovs (Banik Ostrau/Czech Republic), Aleksandrs Fertovs (FK Sevastopol/Ucraine) and Renars Rode (FK Teplice/Czech Republic) left Skonto. Also Daugava Riga had to handle with the departure of an important player. The 29 year-old winger Andrejs Pereplotkins left to Aarat Erewan. The hopes for goals are pinned on Verners Apins (FK Valmiera). Two teams will compete in Viersliga from Daugavpils. Daugava Daugavpils gets concurrence from promoted team BFC Daugava Daugavpils. Jurijs Sokolovs switched to the competitor BFC. Ghanaian Under-20 International Patrick Twumasi left Spartaks Jurmala and moved to Amkar Perm. Pavels Davidovs (Suduva Marijampole) who returns to Latvian football league should replace him. From Finland the Under-21 International Moshtagh Yaghoubi (FC Honka) joins Spartaks. Rival FC Jurmala bound the Brazilian Diego Silva (AEK Kouklia). No big changes have been made by FC Metta. FK Jelgava loses Mindaugas Grigaravicius who left back to Suduva Marjiampole in Lithuania. Due to financial problems SK Liepaja Metalurgs was cancelled. But a few weeks later the FK Liepaja was refunded and thus supporters can continue watching Viersliga football in Liepaja. New president is Maris Verpakovskis who decided to hang up his boots to lead the project. “This is one of the most important and meaningful stages in my life – I’ve taken the decision to turn my life 180 degrees, taking one of the greatest challenges of my entire life; I stopped my professional career in the middle of the season to return to my home, my city, and continue live from a new and unusual perspective – becoming FC Liepāja’s president”, he explained on his facebook page.
Last year’s champion Levadia Tallinn must handle with the departure of top star Rimo Hunt (FC Kaizar Kyzylorda/Kazakhstan). Vladislav Ivanov (Khimik Dzerzhinsk) who won the Estonian championship with Levadia in 2004 should replace him.
Nomme Kalju FC was second last season. Now they start with a new club name – FC Kalju Nõmme. The Japanese keen hiker and midfield motor Hidetoshi Wakui was on try-out of FC Lahti. But he could not convince the Finish guarantors and thus signed a new contract with the Estonian vice champion. Meanwhile the Lithuanian International Marius Cinikas left JK Sillamäe Kalev and went back to Suduva Marijampole. Flora Tallinn trust in returnee Zakaria Beglarishvili (Sioni Bolnisi). No big changes have been made by Paide Linnameeskond. FC Infonet with their new manager Dmitri Skiperski hope for goals of striker Marten Saarlas. Albert Taar left JK Trans Narva in direction Wisla Plock.
The former Estonian national coach Tarmo Rüütli should continue the rejuvenating cure in Kalev Tallinn. JK Tammeka Tartu caused a lot of trouble in the winter time. The team of the German coach Uwe Erkenbrecher struggled with relegation but finally stayed in the Premium Liiga. But then in the beginning of February due to quarrels between team and president and because of open payments Tartu was booted out for the new season. But FC Kuressaare and Rakvere Tarvas had no interest in going up to Premium Liiga. Thus league president Aivar Pohlak decided to give Tartu a Premium Liiga team. The new created football academy of JK Tammeka got the license. “For us the most important thing is the budget balancing and the support of the entrepreneurs, backers and of the Tartu city and citizenship”, declared proudly Kristjan Tiirik, last year captain of Tammeka and the football academy CEO. MTÜ JalgpalliKool Tammeka is now the official name of Tartu’s new team. Johvi FC Lokomotive completes the ten teams of Estonian Premium Liiga.
Photo: Zalgiris captain Algis Jankauskas also want the new season to defend the title