This offseason, Valmiera FC’s ranks were strengthened by Carlos Olses, a 22-year-old goalkeeper from Venezuela. His arrival and acquaintance with the team took place at the training camp in Turkey, but since then Carlos has been one of the most vocal and open players on the team. In a short time, the player managed to fall in love with Valmiera, Riga, and believes that Latvia is a very beautiful country. How did he get into football? What are his career goals and how did he manage to adapt in Europe? He himself tells about it.
How did you get to Valmiera?
My agent reached out and said that there was a possibility to join the Latvian champions – Valmiera.
It has a lot to do with the influence of my father. The game itself has grown a lot in Venezuela. The main sport used to be baseball but now I think that football has gotten more popular. My dad is Argentinian and they have a big passion for football. He has been a football fan ever since he was a kid. So I’ve had that influence back home and it had a lot to do with it. Since I was a little kid I always liked to play football and that is why it went that way. I started when I was three or four years old. I started playing as a goalkeeper when I was seven years old. I remember my hometown school – very happy times when I played with my friends. I still recall my first goalkeeper coach, his name was Bruno, he was Italian. Those are the first memories that come back to me. My nephew whos older than me was a goalkeeper – I remember that I and my brother always played with him and that inspired me to become one as well.
Which goalkeepers do you look up to and model your game after?
I think that there are many goalkeepers in the big leagues that I admire. For the longest time, I have liked Manuel Neuer and Gianluigi Buffon. Now I really like Thibaut Courtois and Alisson Becker, I think those are some smart players with great positioning. So there are quite a few actually.
When you arrived in Valmiera what were your first thoughts and impressions about the city?
It is a different city from what I was used to because I’m from the capital of Venezuela, Caracas. It is a big city with a lot of movement but here everything is quieter, there is more nature here, a very beautiful place. I find myself very comfortable and happy. I have also been to Riga a couple of times with my girlfriend when she visited for a couple of weeks. She came here in April and we went to visit the capital of Latvia. It is a very beautiful, very complete city with all the architecture, parks and the old town is something that you don’t see often. It is very beautiful to see the House of the Blackheads. In Valmiera obviously, I have seen the parks, all the nature, the country itself is very nice. I didn’t hear much about Latvia prior to coming here. It isn’t something you talk about much, the United States is next to us, and we know Italy, England, and Spain those cultures are closer to us than Baltic countries. I had practically no knowledge so it is interesting to get to know things. That also helps me as a human being to experience something different and that lets me grow.
We shall ignore snow because that one is obvious, but what did surprise you the most when you came to Latvia?
*laughs* This is going to be funny but the first thing that comes to mind is that when you are crossing the street, every car stops and allows you to walk past. That is something that I am not used to, a big surprise to me. Before coming here I didn’t want to make any expectations so there have been many positive surprises. I can only repeat myself, it is a very beautiful country, Riga is one of the most amazing places I have ever been. Valmiera gives you a sense of peace.
You joined the team in Turkey, what were your initial impressions?
When I first arrived I noticed that the names of people are much different and I had a bit of a hard time learning the names, but mostly all of my teammates and staff, goalkeeper coach Sergejs have made my adaptation easier than it usually is. They made me feel like a member of the group, a teammate instantly. That was very important to me. There are some teammates that I have gotten to know much better and talk to more than others have helped me plenty as well.
What are the biggest football differences between Latvia and Venezuela?
It has to be the stadiums. For example in my country, you have big stadiums, and teams either have one of their own or they share them. They all play in big arenas, some have more spectators, some do not, it does vary. Team wise here is a very good structure – a top-class gym, our home stadium is beautiful, and Jana Dalina stadium is very new, very complete. The approach to games is much different from South America. These people are more open, here people are more introverted, and more focused on themselves. Back home everything is louder, a lot of noise in the dressing room. Feeding off of emotions and energy, I think that is one of the bigger differences.
You are very talkative, you help coaches with translations, and you talk a lot on the pitch – does that come naturally for you?
Since I was young I was always have been taught that goalkeepers have a very good vision of the pitch, so especially in defense I can help my teammates to see things that they cannot. I am the last man on the lines so I see everything. They always taught me about the importance of communication, in my opinion, it comes naturally as well. It has been something that I have developed over the years. I have always liked to talk on and off the pitch. Making relationships with teammates is always important.
The closest person for you in the club is probably the goalkeeper coach Sergejs – what is it like to work with him?
The language barrier is not an issue, if there is something I don’t understand the other goalkeepers are there to help me. Every coach has a different approach and style and I think that Sergejs is very specific on details, he lives the game a lot and he likes to notice all the small things. He focuses and his approach is based on technique but also tactics. He’s always willing to get the technique right and that is one of his main traits.
Do you see yourself as a leader amongst goalkeepers and the team itself?
I think that being in my position when you have to talk and communicate a lot. In a sense, I think that being in my role you have to be kind of a leader to help the team. I have learned throughout my career that I can bring things to the team with my experience while also soaking up new stuff that I didn’t know before. My main task is to give to the team and take from the team as much as I can. I have to help other internationals, and players from Brazil and Columbia, it is important for them to have my support because we are from South America, and I can communicate better with both sides. I am pushing them to learn English and from what I have gathered, they have started taking English lessons already.
The pitches, the stadiums that you mentioned – season started on smaller pitches, school stadiums but now on natural grass we play in these big, beautiful places – is that a culture shock?
No, it is a motivating factor for the team. Obviously playing those smaller stadiums or pitches makes you feel a little bit less professional.. not even that – it is just not the same as the natural grass places. Artificial grass makes the game a lot slower, it never makes it as good as it is on natural grass. The intensity, the speed, and the quality are different and obviously playing in bigger stadiums is more motivating, especially because there are more people coming to watch us. At the start of the season, the motivation has to come from the team, from within the dressing room and you have to understand that the circumstances are the same for everyone.
The community is small but powerful, have you been able to notice the fans?
I’ve noticed the fans from the first game in the snow to yesterday when we played in the Dalina stadium. Their support is very important for the team and we always appreciate them. Some kids always come to say hi or want to take a picture. Almost every day outside of training I run into someone. Maybe at the shopping center or in a park I always see someone. I find that quite funny.
What do you want to achieve this season?
The main target is to remain champions and go as far as possible in the European competitions. It is very important and I think that if we can keep up with the energy and attitude that we have shown since after the game against Riga FC, we can achieve those goals and have a great season. There are many quality players in the team, we have a very good staff that understands the game. With that combination of things – if we make it a habit of giving 100%, I think that will make us a very good team that will be difficult to beat. It doesn’t matter – home or away, but we will be hard to beat.
There is an ocean between South America and Europe – do people follow European competitions like the Champions League closely?
Of course, we know what the Champions League is, I think for European football it is the most prestigious tournament. I have very big ambitions personally in my career so I have actually thought about playing in the tournament before. That is a very motivating factor. That is something that we have to be thinking about. When we reach those games, we have to make a habit of playing the games that we have ahead of us but we also have to look ahead at those games.
Is there a team that you dream to play against in the future?
Many of them actually. Milan would be a very nice team to play against, also Manchester City, Real Madrid. Those are the big teams that you think of. All of them, any of them. Premier League is the highest level of European football. You see those games, the intensity is incredible. But I would prefer to play in Serie A in Italy. It is a league that have always thought about. I would like to follow in the footsteps of Valmiera’s former captain Raimonds Krollis. Also for me, it was important to come to Valmiera because there is a chance to play in the Champions League tournament. One of my main goals has been to play in Europe and I want to make my career here. Playing in these kinds of competitions allows us to showcase ourselves. Everybody on the team should have the ambition to go to bigger leagues and play in the best leagues possible.
For the fans – keep up the hope, and keep up the support because this team will give everything in each and every game and every training session. We are doing all this for them, for the city, and for the entire club. We will not disappoint you.