Team captain Daniels Balodis joined the Valmiera FC team in July 2020. He was the player whose transfer hit the summer transfer window with a bang. A little more than three years have passed, during which Daniels has proven himself as a core value of the team and earned his first call-up to the Latvian national team. The 100th game in the Optibet Virsliga is long behind him, but another critical point in his career has been reached – 100 games in the shirt of Valmiera FC.
From his home yard to Skonto
I started playing football in the yard in Vangazi, I went out with my friends, and we kicked the ball. Slowly, I received a recommendation from a coach – I need to try this thing more seriously. I went to the Skonto Academy, started training, and gradually settled into this sport. I was born in Riga, but I live in Vangaži, but this did not cause any problems. I went to Skonto because it was the only club I knew at the time, I think I was seven years old then – I didn’t even have any ideas about other options. It turned out that I was really drawn to football at the start of school. It was a pleasure to train at Skonto because I had to fight for a place in the team, of course, I started from the bottom of the pyramid until I made it to the first team. I remember the hall near the Skonto Stadium, the first training sessions took place there, it also seemed like something new to me. I had been running outside with the ball all the time, suddenly there was a roof over my head and an artificial surface. As an adult, I represented the Skonto 1st League team, We were a youth team, but I remember that Viktors Morozs still played with me, he was the playing coach.
First professional contract
After Skonto broke up, I went to RFS, and they offered me a contract and accepted me as a professional player. It was my first professional contract, which seemed pretty impressive at the time. I trained with the first team for a long time, took part in training sessions, and collected game practice with the second team. We won a lot, we were also the strongest backup squad for a long time. After that, I went to Daugavpils to get game practice. The previously mentioned Viktor Moroz invited me, and I immediately agreed and went on loan. No matter how it sounds, it didn’t seem like I was a young boy, on the contrary – I knew that I had to play in the highest league and that was the most important condition. In the end, of course, everything there turned out very positively, and I gained valuable experience.
Road to Valmiera
The next step was to Jelgava, it seemed to be a very strong club. It seemed that after Daugavpils it would be a great step forward. Everything turned out so that I played in this team for about half a year because the club disbanded. I was lucky that an offer came from Valmiera that I couldn’t refuse. It was very nice to be looked up to by a team of this level. I also knew coach Tamaz Pertia, who approached me with an offer, the club management also approached me confirming that they wanted to see me here. In principle, I didn’t have to wait long – a prospective and development-oriented club was exactly what I needed. Valmiera was also fighting for medals, and Eurocups at that time, of course, it was also a step forward. A strong team that knows how to put together a team and create a game. Everything turned out so that my choice fell in favor of Valmiera.
Before going to Valmiera, of course, I also talked with some of the players, I knew Alvis Jaunzems best, with whom I played in the U-21 national team. He was the least calm of me, even in the first training I asked a lot of questions: What and how everything is going on here? When I arrived, I immediately realized that there were quite a lot of foreigners there, It’s an unusual environment, and the intensity was palpable, but you could also immediately feel the atmosphere that reigns in the team. All of this gave me a lot of motivation to work hard from the very beginning, maybe that’s why I didn’t even pay attention to it when I went on the pitch for the first time in a Valmiera FC shirt.
Valmiera FC – now and then
Now I have already become a part of the team’s main composition, but I remember the very beginning – quite a lot of quality footballers, a result was demanded immediately, but it took me time. The competition was great, there were also experienced players; I liked that there was something to learn from and polish the art of football. After that, the most important stage followed, when I played and felt the taste of the game. During these three years, quite a lot has changed – players have left, and new ones have arrived. The approach to football and life outside football has changed a lot, the level has increased. The vision of the club and the internal atmosphere remain at the previous level, I believe that it should remain so.
I have many bright, positive memories associated with Valmiera FC. The championship title is like icing on the cake, I will always remember it. Then the Euro Cup matches are definitely next on my list – always a completely different atmosphere, with tension and intrigue in the air. I’m always happy to score a goal or provide an assist, I’ve experienced everything here. We should also highlight our training camps in Turkey, with many strong opponents. It must be said that the duels with Kyiv Dinamo are worth highlighting, if only because we are always able to show a quality performance against this opponent, to fight with the greats.
100 games with Valmiera FC
To be fair? I didn’t know that I managed to play a hundred games in this team’s shirt, it’s not something that players tend to pay attention to. I don’t follow it, I think about the quality of the games, not the quantity. There are very mixed feelings – a hundred seems like a lot, but if I look at things from the outside, it’s all just started, I’ve only recently made my debut, but now I’ve already reached such a number. Of course, it is pleasant, but the time has passed very quickly. I had the chance to leave before the season, but I decided to stay. Why? Because Valmiera is a club fighting for the Eurocups, this year we started in the Champions League, this is a huge argument for the career choices of any player. I have a lot of playing time here, which is also not insignificant. Of course, the collective, teammates also played a huge role in this selection process. There is still unfinished business, this year it failed again, but I would like to win the Latvian Cup, Maybe we should focus on that in the context of the next season. This year, we must win the highest possible place in the tournament table, be effective, and try to return the power of the team that was last year.
Speaking of Eurocups, we must admit that this was another valuable experience, there is no doubt about that. I really liked both Champions League games, you could feel that we were able to fight against a very strong opponent, and we could compare our qualities. We played well, there were moments when we were not in our skin, but in the end, we opened up, Of course, it didn’t happen until the end. I would like to play at this level more often. The San Marino club was not such a strong opponent, but still, a very valuable experience. We didn’t show our best performance against Partizani either. I don’t want to say that there was a lack of experience, but let’s be honest – it was true, it failed once again in the decisive moments. We know what to work on.
The national team
After the RFS game, I will go to help the Latvian national team, they will also have to play their games at a very high level. Each of them in the national team has a very high-level game, I felt it in the previous matches. Little by little I have figured out what is what. I am very happy if I get minutes on the pitch, I enjoy playing against a strong opponent. It’s a cool feeling when you fight as an equal, especially when you take away valuable points from one of the greats. I see similarities between club internationals and national team games – the atmosphere is very similar. In the national team, of course, everything is much more stressful, because playing for your country is a great honor, but also a great responsibility. The fact that we come from different places in the national team is also different, we have to be able to play together. It’s not a huge problem, we know each other and we are ready to fight to represent our country and the clubs we play for every day.