Monday 25 September 2023

Riga II - Mezaparks Sports Village

Riga FC
Mezaparks Sports Village
Ezermalas iela 30
Ziemeļu Rajons
Rīga, LV-1014

Ground Number: 1229
Sunday 24th September 2023
Riga FC II 3-0 JFDS Alberts
1. Liga


The club was established in 2014 but it was not until the following year when a merger of two Riga-based teams – FC Caramba and Dinamo Rīga gave them a football side. In the 2015 season, the team played in the Latvian  (second tier) under the name of FC Caramba/Dinamo, since Caramba had won promotion to the 1. līga after winning the 2. līga in 2014. After winning the 1. līga and promotion to the Virslīga, the club changed its name to Riga FC. They won three successive top-flight titles from 2018 to 2020. Last season they finished as runners-up to Valmiera. FC Riga also won the Latvian Cup in 2018 and have played 33 games in European competitions. They reached the playoff round of the Europa League in 2019 losing to FC Copenhagen and the same stage of the Conference League in 2022 where they lost to Gibraltar side Lincoln Red Imps. The club plays at Skonto Stadium, the former home of Skonto Riga most successful team in Latvia. They won 15 titles before going bust in 2016. Their second team play in the second tier of Latvian football at the Mezaparks Sports Village.


On the third day of my trip, I would be in another new country, Latvia. I managed to secure a Flixbus for £9.99 to take me from Tallinn to Riga, hoping I'd actually get on it this time. I seemed to have been cursed when using their service, but it wasn't their fault. Firstly, I had a trip to Holland booked, seeing PSV Eindhoven via Belgium. But then the pandemic hit and all plans were put on hold. Then, another trip across Holland saw me get the stop wrong and I had to get a train instead. At least I'd only 'wasted' a voucher that time that I'd got due to my previous cancelled booking. Then, in January, I booked a coach to Nottingham for March, assuming that the weather would be OK. We had torrential snowfall and even games on 3G pitches were off. I was hoping it would be my fourth time lucky on this occasion, as I would be stuck otherwise.
After a reasonable night's sleep, I awoke around 7, well in advance of my alarm. This gave me plenty of time for a shower and to get dressed and get my stuff together before leaving. I was sure to get to the bus station well in advance of my scheduled departure time but 08:35 came and went with no sign of the coach. The platform full of fellow passengers was annoying at first as I'd have preferred a double seat but later on, it was reassuring. There was also no tracking available on the coach and it appeared as if my Flixbus curse was continuing. Eventually, it turned up 40 minutes late, and then the driver took an age to get everyone on. We finally departed 53 minutes late. It was quite comfortable and spacious though but a couple of people had already given up on it before the bus came.

The driver did his best to make up time but it was still a long journey. The trip gave me the chance to catch up and plan ahead for midweek. Tuesday will probably be a trip to Sporting Club Inkberrow which is the nearest new ground to me, at least on that night. A lot of the journey had patchy mobile data with that irritating exclamation mark next to the signal bar. We got to Riga at 1.40. I had just enough time to check in and dump my bag in my room before heading out. Google Maps was helpful but not perfect, navigating me to a closed tram stop first of all. It was the second time lucky for a bus. It turned up a few minutes late but the 9 to Mezaparks would just about get me there on time. The USB charging worked and the app for purchasing tickets was fairly easy to use. Running late, the last thing I needed was to go to the wrong pitch. There were two on site and I thought the game had been cancelled originally. But then I heard the noise of players and found the pretty much identical ground. Eight minutes in, it was happily still 0-0.
Riga FC II were 2nd in the league whilst JFDS Alberts were 6th. They had travelled around 14 miles, being based in the far north of Riga. The hosts had tumped Rezekne 9-0 in their last game and had also beaten Valmiera II 3-1 and won 2-1 at Rigas FS II. They'd also drawn 0-0 at JFK Ventspils and 1-1 at Grobina. Though they had recorded a 2-0 victory at Salsus SS / Leevon in their last game, it was the visitors' only win in 5. They'd lost 4-1 at Rigas FS in the cup, 4-0 to Dinamo Riga and 1-0- at Beitar. They'd also drawn 1-1 against Rezekne. Riga were the better side and took the lead on 21 minutes. A penalty awarded for a trip was slotted in the bottom right-hand corner. Alberts put a header narrowly wide before Riga extended their lead on 28 minutes. A ball from the left and a low shot from around ten yards out. A similar ball produced another goal on 33 minutes, this time a finish from just inside the six-yard box to make it 3-0. JDFS had a lot of chances and play in the second period but they lacked a cutting edge. Much as they tried, Riga threw bodies in blocking all manner of shots.

MEZAPARKS SPORTS PARK is a series of pitches and facilities for various sports. There is a nice cafe and a boating lake amongst other things. The football ground, one of two on site is one-sided for spectators. There is an uncovered stand for around 500 and that is it aside from a couple of portaloos. It is well-served by public transport. 

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