True Lithuania

Football (Soccer) in Lithuania

When one French journalist saw a full basketball arena (where “Lietuvos rytas” fought in ULEB cup semifinals) close to an empty stadium (where a Baltic Football League match took place) he published an article that Lithuania is a land where “the king of sports” has to live in basketball’s shadow.

In reality, the popularity of football is on the rise and the very few games that are on par in terms of quality with the ULEB cup semifinals also attract full stadiums as well as a TV following. This craze is mostly imported from other European nations, such as England, where many Lithuanians emigrated since the country has joined the European Union in 2004.

However, very unlike basketball, Lithuanian football is weak. The national team never even qualified at the European Championships let alone the World Cup. In football the element of luck is bigger than is basketball, therefore there were times when the Lithuanians scored draw against major teams such as Germany, Italy or Spain. However, defeats to the likes of the Faroe Islands or Liechtenstein soon afterward dash the hopes of Lithuanian fans and decrease the popularity of football.

Football clubs of Lithuania attract less funding than their basketball counterparts and so they are weak, relying on Lithuanian players and foreigners who didn’t manage to get a hold into their national leagues. Not a single Lithuanian team ever took part in main stages of the Champions’ League or the UEFA Cup. Moreover, the Lithuanian national football league (“A lyga”) is frequently dipped into scandals of betting fraud. “Panevėžio Ekranas” from Panevėžys long dominated this league in the early 2010s, amassing a yearly budget of 2 million Euro (yes, this was the richest football club in Lithuania). “FBK Kaunas” used to prevail in the 1990s and 2000s (the Kaunas’s team left "A Lyga" amid controversies in 2009). “Vilniaus Žalgiris” was the best Lithuanian team in the 1980s and still has a larger fan base than other Lithuanian football clubs. It has recently returned to prominence.

Vilnius Žalgiris ultras sector during a 2013 season game. These are the most numerous football ultras in Lithuania. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Some of the major football clubs, including both FBK Kaunas and Žalgiris, are or were owned by controversial Russian businessmen whose irregular investments brought the clubs to the verge of collapse at one time or another. Vilniaus Žalgiris was saved only by its fans establishing an alternative club under the same name. In 2009 the A lyga was rejuvenated by accepting numerous clubs from minor towns (less than 20 000 inhabitants) that did not meet the official criteria but were arguably managed more transparently, such as "Banga" from Gargždai or "Kruoja" from Pakruojis.

Unable to see quality football in the local stadiums many fans follow leagues like England’s Premier League on TV (or, of course, the European Championships and the FIFA World Cup). The stadiums, which are not as modern as in the Western Europe, are thus left to the ultras. In the fields, however, football is a popular pastime.

Lithuania's largest stadium (S. Darius and S. Girėnas stadium in Žaliakalnis borough of Kaunas) has 9180 seats, while in general "A lyga" stadiums have some 1500-4000 seats each. Seating is typically only on a single side of the stadium and the football field is combined with an athletics track. Even these stadiums get full only during some national team games and rare matches against powerful Western European teams that usually end the UEFA tournament qualification bids of Lithuanian clubs.

An A lyga football game (Žalgiris vs. Sudūva of Marijampolė, 2013) in Lithuania's most modern stadium (renovated by the Football federation in 2011). The national team now plays its home games here as well. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Should you wish to see a football game in Lithuania take note that unlike in some Western leagues the Lithuanian season is held in summer (i.e. from spring to autumn) with a rest period in winter due to harsh weather. In addition to the top "A lyga" there are lower tiers known as "I lyga" and "II lyga".

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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Comments (13) Trackbacks (0)
  1. hello. I’m ebrahim gholami(male 57 years old, football couch no diploma football academi. but I know very good football.I am No.1 in teach and make team 10years until 20years). I have 2boy(9 and 15 years old).My boy(9 years) is very good technic and technical football player that I know he will be best player in world !?! because had very sport talent !?!he is playmaker and forward.he work jiminastic for football !?! My boy (15 years) is goalkeaper(190 cm long now). if he exercise to cants be best goalkeaper because have goodbody and good hand for goalkeaper. I and my family want go to the LITHUANIA country for life for usual, yes usual !.. for we come that we haven,t problem. we can to come to the your country(LITHUAIA). only I want to know that we can to havebeen normal or good life(live) in the Lithuania ? I can to make best football teams for LITHUANIA !?! No.1 in EUROP and WORLD !!!! because I have talent and you have very player. I make.I make! for me send information about life and economic life and work and football clubs and wich city is good for life and football please. I havebeen happy if you send to information . with I wish best for YOU… good bye. EBRAHIM GHOLAMI 57years old. see you in LITHUANIA that your country is My country…. good bye

    • I am waiting ( EBRAHIM GHOLAMI ) answer me please. please. LITHUANIA makes best football team by with me.. No. 1 football team as 12years until 35 years old national team in EUROP and WORD !!!!! good bye merci merci merci bye bye

    • I’m interested to join your team Sir, kindly contact me on Phone:00919604485521, Email:austylo@ymail.com, Facebook:STYLO AUSTINE

  2. I like LITHUANIA . we com to your country LITHUANIA . MY team is LITHUANIA football team. is no.1

  3. Good evening. I am currently looking at coming to Lithuania to set up some soccer camps for Easter and summer camps. We are a world named soccer academy and our coaches are english premier league coaches and scouts. Do you know if there would be much interest from the children of Lithuania would be interested in a 3 or 5 day soccer camp. I’m just trying g to see if there would be much interest.

    Thank you for reading.
    Mark

    • I personally think there could be interest – however, a lot depends on marketing and price. As for the price, Lithuanian salaries are generally smaller than those in the UK and thus the labor-intensive services, including teaching, tend to be much cheaper on average.

      • Hi Augustinas, thank you for your reply. I agree that the cost of living is less than the UK but our prices would reflect their standard of living. Would I need to go directly to LFF or should I just contact various centres that would have football facilities and ask them to put our advert on there websites or paper copies on their walls for the public to see. Would you have any suggestions or advise of how to promote our holiday soccer academy camp.

        • Dear Sir, with all respect and regards, my name is Augustine from Nigeria but I’m currently in India. I have been wanting to join any of the Lithuanian football team because I’m a very strong talented football player and also like the Lithuania country in general. I’m 21 years old, 210cm tall. Please Sir kindly contact me on the following contacts below. Email:austylo@ymail.com, Phone: 00919604485521. Facebook: STYLO AUSTINE. Thanks, looking forward to your kind response Sir.

        • I think all ways are possible – to maximize the potential you should contact the LFF, football clubs and centers. Some of them may agree to advertise for free on their websites, for example. Paid advertisements in magazines and websites that potential clients would visit may also help (if the budget allows). A press release should be e-mailed to Lithuanian magazines / newspapers / related websites – if written interestingly enough they may put it on without payment.

  4. I need your assistant to help my brother career,my brother is a very good sticker and he is very talented player that you will need in a team,he is from Nigeria but he is presently in dubai now.I will be very happy if u can help him to get a team over there.email. thanks. bayo700@yahoo.com

  5. hello sir, am Ali from Ghana a young talented soccer player, am 17 years ,interesting to play in Lithuania, but have no any contact there, with du respect sir, if you can help me out, contact me on ali.mamud55@yahoo.com, what’s app on 22791068373 call on 22789314923 , hope to here from you soon

  6. sir i am from Cameroon a goal keeper who have been playing for 7 years with second division teams, i am my 3 colleague will like to joint your team we are very determine in life for more information and to get our cv pls just contact us on the email princelovela@yahoo.com we will pay our flight our self to come and show you our skills

  7. hello sir am okechukwu by name from Nigeria am a young talented utility player, am much interested to play in any good team in Lithuania … thanks.. my email is jonahfank8@gmail.com….


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