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RIGA UNITED'S TOP MOMENTS: PART 1

18 / 12 / 2015

SOME OF RIGA UNITED'S PLAYERS AND COACHES LOOK BACK AT THEIR BEST MOMENTS

As the end of the year draws closer.  The Riga United Supporters' Group went out and hunted down some of the coaches and players from both the men's and women's team to ask them what their top moments were from this season in their own words.

In part one, we look in depth at the Riga United Ladies, who had a phenomenal debut season.  Led by head coach Justin Walley and assitant John Whitmore, they battled their way to the semi-final of the Latvian cup and got a shock 2-2 result against FK Liepāja in the final game of the season.  It was a season where we the development of many players, Riga United being recognised by football stars and welcomed three Latvian national team members to the squad (Ieva Bidermane and Liene Vāciete). The team was led by the tenacious Marit Gjerde.  

But more than that, this was the season where we saw the women support the men and visa versa in all aspects on and off the field.

We went out and found Justin Walley, John Whitmore, Ieva Bidermane and Liene Vāciete and asked them for their top moments.  This is what they had to say:

Justin Walley
"Top moment: Julian Lock [Riga United FC] coming down to training to see all the players a couple of days after leaving hospital. It was the top moment of the year because we all know that Julian had been in mortal danger. The relief upon hearing he had safely recovered from his terrible accident is hard to describe but seeing him in the flesh and blood at training and giving him a hug was truly the moment when we could all finally relax knowing he was OK.

2.The Ladies Team drawing 0-0 at half-time with the UEFA Champions League representatives for Latvia (RFS). We could even have gone in at half time leading 1-0. I remember the RFS manager staring over at our bench just as the referee blew the whistle for half time and I could tell she realised that one day in the future Riga United could be a genuine threat to their monopoly on the league title. In the changing room the girls were battered and bruised,we had a couple of injuries and, truthfully, we knew we didn't have enough to go the full 90 minutes with RFS. But I could see the pride in the players going in drawing against the champions.

3.Watching a live stream of the Latvian national team playing in Moldova in the European Championships Qualifiers, knowing two Riga United players were in the starting 11, representing their country in European competition. When you remember where the club has come from in these short few years, it was a wonderful moment for all of us who have been involved in that journey.

4.Watching the likes of Kareem Gouglou, Niels Krause and Anton Agebrant playing together in the same Riga United team. I remember sitting with Austin Nicholas (who founded the club in 2007) at the stadium watching the lads playing a league match and we both said we would happily pay to watch some of these wonderful players in action. That is a big statement, I think: realising that the club has players so good that you want to walk down to a stadium to watch them play - not because of a sense of loyalty - but because they are so exciting to watch.

As a sub note to that I cannot think about the 2015 season without remembering Kareem's overhead kicks. I love the fact that (as a player) I was the provider of the deep cross from the wing for one of these spectacular goals, while Kareem's overhead kick against Caramba is one of the best goals I have ever seen at any level of football.

5. Riga United 2 Liepaja 2. This is probably the biggest result in the club's history to date. A draw against the biggest club in Latvia (Men's team Latvian champions / Women's team national runners up). I just love seeing that score in print. There was a moment in that game when Anna Bang and Ieva Bidermane both raced to the back post for a free kick. They were both mere centimetres away from heading us into a 3-1 lead. Another side note .... Ieva Bidermane being voted the best midfield player in the Latvian league was also a wonderful moment for the club and was thoroughly deserved by Ieva [Bidermane].

John Whitmore
1) "RU Ladies 3 Ceriba 0 Why? Because we were down to the bare bones due to it being the summer and suffering from injuries. This meant that many players who hadn't had much (or any) pitch time had the chance to really represent the club - which they did magnificently. The commitment they showed that night equals the best I have seen from any RU team. All the players' attitude was inspiring, too. There was a big difference in the players' skills and experience, but they encouraged each other non-stop and played some terrific football.

2) Working with Ieva [Bidermane] in Justin's absence was great. I learnt a lot about how to organise teams on match days from her. I learnt a lot from Karim's [Gouglou] training, too. I think he will be a top-class coach, and it was a late-season highlight for me watching him work.

3) Seeing young players turn out for the team. I am thinking of players like Selga [Vitmore], Marte [Gr ønvold] and Helena [Briede] playing in the friendly games at Olaine. It gives me hope that RU can be a decent, welcoming place for girls to start playing 11-a-side football. On a personal note, seeing Selga selected for the U15 Latvia squad will probably be a highlight for life, but...

4) RU Ladies 2 Liepaja 2 Why? Well many of the players were unhappy after the game because they thought they could have won it (except Aina who was just happy:)), but for me, it showed that we can really compete with the top teams.

5) I don't know if it counts as last season, but the spirit showed by the youth team players (and, of course the older players who were helping out) against a really strong RFS team was a highlight for me. They were outclassed for long periods, but their heads never dropped, and by the end of the game they were beginning to dominate. It was heartwarming to see Selga win tackle after tackle, Alice dominate their right winger and to see Larisa leave their defenders trailing in her wake. For me spirit and attitude are the two most important qualities a team can have: and these young girls set a great example of how all Riga Utd teams should play: win, draw or lose."

Liene Vāciete
1) "Taking part for the first time ever in the futsal league – This gave a good opportunity for all the girls to get some playing time in and let the other teams know that Riga United is something that will be here for a while and it’s not just a one-time project.

2) Having men's/women’s season opening party – This just was a nice way how to kick off the new season as having the both senior teams get together and be United as one.

3) Taking part in the SFL (Sieviešu Fubola Līga/Women's Footbal League) for the first time – The first season is always there to give us an opportunity to see where we stand and where we could possibly be in the future. We took part and we saw what it’s about. We got some burns during the season but we sure left a mark after ourselves as well.

4) Trip to Liepaja joined by some of the men's teams’ members – Just another moment that really reflects what our club is about and what some of our core values are. Just a great feeling to realize that both men’s team cares about women’s team and women’s team cares about men’s team. Amazing that some of the guys would travel all the way down to Liepaja with us just to see us play and spend the weekend together.

5) Having academy girls join in for the friendly with the reserves and getting that connection built – I believe this was a major point in our season because The RUFC Academy is finally being connected with the senior team and it’s fulfilling the main reason why we have one. In the future we will definitely keep building that connection even stronger and work on our future senior team players in the Academy.

6) Getting our first trophy in the tournament in Estonia – This was a historic moment and I believe that it’s not the last trophy we get either, many more to come. All the girls should be really proud of themselves, who took part in this. Tournaments like that are great to have because it gives you an opportunity to build up the team, not just on the pitch but off the pitch as well"

Ieva Bidermane
1) "The semi-final against Liepāja. It was THE game of the season. . Also mainly thanks to all the supporters who came down for it to support us. It was a fantastic atmosphere and eventhough we lost, I consider this as one of the most memorable games of the season.

2) The SFL game against Liepāja in September. We finished 2-2 against the 2nd best team in the league and we were even leading most of the time. I think this was one of our best games we played as a team and it was a pleasure to be on the field.

3) The trip to Liepāja. The game itself was not that good, but the evening spent in Liepāja with the team was a nice team building time. And that was also the first game I played again with the team (if only for 10 min, but still) after coming back from the injury. And I have to say that this game for me was also a memorable game in a sense that well in first half time we got 4 goals scored against us, but in the half time talk and after corrections given by the coaching stuff the girls came on the field as a completely different team and managed to not loose another goal. I remember myself thinking after these 45min that if we have a team like this, we can do great things. We showed that [spirit] some other times later in the season and I hope we will show it even more in our next season

4) My favourite memory off the football field is by far the pre-party at Hanna&Maria’s [Morad] before one of the events which I dont remember even now (and that is not the important stuff here anyway), where some legendary phrases were born and which truly represents why this team is so dear to my heart. As with these girls it is not just great to play side by side with them on the field but they are awesome to party together with as well."

In part two tomorrow, we shall be looking at top memories of the members of the men's team.