FS Metta, a club based in Riga, the capital city of Latvia, is one that is on the rise, not just in the Baltic region, but also in the European arena as a whole. Said to have arguably the best youth academy in the Baltic area, FS Metta have been making waves in the under 11, under 14 and other junior level international and European tournaments, where they have succeeded in fighting fire with fire with clubs like Paris Saint-Germain, Napoli and Hertha Berlin.
Metta aspire to make sure that Latvian football prospers and do just as well as the other football giants in the world. They don’t just lay emphasis on making sure that the youngsters coming through its academy do well in their future careers, but also make sure that these youngsters, a vast majority of whom are from Latvia itself, do well on the international stage as well. It’s this well-rounded approach for the players which makes this club unique.
Based in a country where temperatures can often touch minus ten degrees, the club's fitness and health department is a vital cog in the wheel. Around 800 boys and girls train at the club's youth setup, which has strong collaborations with the University of Latvia. The collaboration with an educational institution helps the club make sure that a players' complete development takes place.
Founded as late as in 2006, Metta currently lies sixth in the Virsliga table, with chances of winning the title almost extinguished. But for a club as old as ten years, avoiding relegation for four consecutive years is an achievement in itself.
FS Metta manager Andris Riherts is a frank, honest and a really intriguing football man, who seems to love the game. Also an assistant manager at the Latvian national team, Riherts is someone who is more than just intent on helping the country achieve something special. And I caught up with the former defender for a small interview.
On the future of Latvian national football team
“In Latvia, there are a lot of sports teams. We are good at Basketball, hockey and even take part in the Olympics. The country has 2 million people, while football requires only 11 talents. So, we need to work a lot. But football is really close to basketball here,” says Riherts.
“We qualified for the Euros in 2004 and what Iceland have achieved is fantastic. We can learn a lot from them.”
Metta is a club which lay a massive amount of emphasis on youth development and the grooming of youngsters. And Riherts believes the club has a big role to play.
“We have some good talents at school. We watch them everyday and make sure that they work better. We've got really good facilities out here as well, but in the end, it’s their choice whether they want to stay here or move.”
“There's an availability of good players in every age group. And it's important for our academy to play against big clubs, who we are not afraid of. We have what it takes to show quality in front of big opponents.” he says with a glimmer of hope on his 35-year-old face.
“We watch young and talented players with BIG motivation to be the best and grow up to highest level of football. Everybody needs a striker which can score at least 15 goals in the season. “
“And we also waiting for our academy products - our academies players are important values for teams future and we believe in that.”
On Roberts Uldrikis, arguably the best youngster at Metta
18-year-old Roberts Uldrikis is someone who is making waves in the European fora off late. A tall, strong number ten by trade, Uldrikis is a player who defies logic which says that tall players can't play anywhere apart from a centre-back or a striker on the pitch. The FS Metta manager sounded optimistic but admitted that the youngster has to work hard.
“Roberts Uldriis is one of the biggest talents in Latvian youth football. His height, technique and game awareness make him something special when compared to others - that is talent. Of course to become a more mature player, he needs to work very very hard.”
On title hopes
The title has virtually slipped away from Metta' reach already, but Riherts is increasingly confident about club's chances in the near future, considering how young it is: “Of course everybody wanted to win a title. But to be honest, it is not so easy for our young team. We try to do all the best and with hard work we aim to become better and better.
“Our team and club have got a 15-year long plan and in the end of this plan in 2020, we desire to compete for a title. First five years we had planned to gain promotion into Latvian Highest league and build up the academy.
“Next 5 years we desire to be in highest league and compete with other clubs and start to be of Highest value in the league and furnish our academy building system. For the next five years, we will fight for a title and develop our academy to a European level.”
The contribution that this club is giving to the Latvian football is unique, for a club of its stature. The way it is looking to set up its academy and youth facilities is something that is quite unique in the modern day environment, where money has pervaded football to a large extent.
Progress goes hand in hand with youth development, according to the club. This policy can do wonders for the club in a nation where football isn't as prominent as other sports. This plan of laying down the foundation first and then building on it is something that is a unique, brave and a bold step in the current environment.
It is also because of the resources that are at FS Metta's disposal. They strive to make the best use of what they have. The collaboration with the University allows a complete development of an individual, not just as a footballer, but also as a person. Education combined with sport, with the help of sport itself is a pioneering concept that few or rather no club has adopted till now.
And looking at the way, Mr. Riherts' club from Latvia is looking to make an impact in Europe, and their way of doing things will surely be successful someday.