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11 vilki: the early history of Latvia's national football team

Playing for two decades in the 1920s and 1930s

black and white photograph of a Latvian football team

In 1920, Latvia's first national team began playing football when the Latvian Football Federation was founded.

The national team's first game was played on September 24, 1922 against Estonia - the result was a 1-1 draw. In the game, forward Edvīns Bārda scored the first goal in the history of the Latvian national football team.

black and white team photograph of the Latvian team who wear vertical striped jerseys

In 1924, the team participated in the Paris Olympic Games, playing against France, who, with home advantage, beat them 7-0.

black and white aerial photograph of a large stadium
black and white photograph of team with one player being presented with flowers

In the 1930s, the Latvian national team became stronger and stronger, with the greatest success in the 1936-1938 seasons, under the leadership of Austrian coach Rudolf Stancel.

black and white group portrait of the Latvian national football team in 1934

The team mostly often played matches against Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Poland.

In 1937, the Latvian national team was close to qualifying for the 1938 World Cup, the third World Cup tournament.

In the qualifying rounds, they defeated the Lithuania - the score in the first match was 4-2, and the second match was a decisive 5-1 victory.

However, in the final qualification game in Vienna, Latvia lost to Austria 2-1.

In that period, Ēriks Pētersons is considered to be the most outstanding Latvian player, socring 21 goals in 63 games.

From 1939 onwards, due to World War II, the activities of the Latvian team were initially limited, and later stopped altogether.

On May 3, 1942, striker Jānis Rozīte - along with two FK VEF Rīga players Arnolds Boka and Leonīds Peičs - died in a bomb explosion at the VEF Stadium in Rīga.

black and white photograph of three coffins being carried through a large crowd of people

The Latvians' last game was played was on July 18, 1940 against Estonia. In the same year, Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union. It remained so until 1991, when the Latvian national team began to play once again, making the European Championships in 2004.

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