Kristers Penkevics joined Valmiera FC on the eve of the new Virsliga season. The very attractive, always noticable boy has brought a work ethic, that has allowed him to earn playing time on the first team and that has given results – he has scored his first goal in Virsliga and also helped to earn an important victory in the Latvian Cup.
”Why football? Tukums has many places to train but in my family, we have football players – my cousin played for Skonto, and my godfather also used to play the game. That was the only thing that existed and early on I was placed in the football world. Of course, I looked up to players outside my family – for example, AC Milan and Barcelona players Ronaldinho, Kaka, and Messi. I also was familiar with my first football coach. When he was looking for new players in my age group, he called my mom and offered me the chance to train. I instantly agreed. At that moment in time, I didn’t understand much, I just wanted to do something. In Tukums there were many opportunities because football is a part of sports school which I managed to graduate.
I still remember my first Virsliga game with the Tukums team. Everything began the day before – pre-game training and everything was happening as it usually would, but I didn’t feel too well. My head was spinning and I had extra stress. The first time in the highest league, it was a big jump from youth to professional football. I was given 12 minutes on the pitch but those were fantastic, unusual 12 minutes for me. It was cool to make my debut on my hometown team.
I have to admit that every coach that I have worked with has given me something in my development. Each of them has put trust in me, but the one that stands out is my first coach – Artjoms Grucins. He brought me into the sport and we worked together until I was 13 years old. Then other coaches came – Kristaps Dislers, of course also Jurgis Kalns with whom I work today. He also trusted me, allowed me to play for Tukums in Virsliga and he also now trusts me to play and develop here.
I started at three years old, now I’m here in Valmiera. Previously I had played only in Tukums. For me – this is a first. I started out this pre-season campaign in Tukums, but as the season approached the president of the team called me and said that there is an offer from Valmiera. We met, and talked things through and I agreed. I wanted to progress because I felt like I had taken the foot off the gas and that this was a perfect step for my development.
When I first arrived I met my teammates that were waiting for me – I already knew Olgerds Rascevskis and Kristians Kauselis because I used to play with the youth national team with them. The next day I met the coaches, and the rest of the team and started to adjust to the new surroundings. Of course, things are different from the previous years, you have to adapt to everything. In my previous club, I was a starting 11 player, here I have to fight for everything. For me, it is an unusual experience. It’s fun to have a competition. I’m going forward, step by step in my career.
Of course, I was worried about how I would be taken in. The team plays a whole different football. In a new place, you have to learn to get along with everyone. From the very beginning, I was worried about how I would be accepted but in a matter of time, things sorted themselves.
During my free time, I like to spend time in nature. I don’t like to sit at home. If there is a chance I always like to go somewhere. Vidzeme is full of many beautiful places that you can visit – many places near the Gauja river, and many different lakes. The sea itself is a bit further away but it isn’t a problem either. I like to watch other sports, in Valmiera I attend basketball games. My favorite place is Sietiniezis. It is a very unusual place, sometimes it doesn’t feel like I am in Latvia. I can feel calm and free over there. It is the perfect place to sort my thoughts.
Valmiera isn’t that different from Tukums – also a small and calm city where you can reach everything at any time. The people here are great. I was in a deep shock when I saw the fan base of the team. I’m surprised that they go to every game – doesn’t matter if it’s in Daugavpils or Liepaja. I really like that. It gives me energy and is a motivation to go ahead. When I scored my first goal in Skonto stadium I heard them shouting my surname and that was really nice. Those were unforgettable emotions. I wanted to hear it, I wanted to experience it, and thank you to the fans who could make this important moment even better.
I remember the cup game against Riga FC with having to play shorthanded – it was like a kick in the balls. It was hard, we had to run a lot and I didn’t expect it. We were used to playing with the ball, to control the game but this time around it was different. The way I scored the goal was very simple – I was where I was supposed to be. Zhelizko crossed the ball and I scored with my head. I don’t remember much after that. Euphoria had set in and I didn’t understand what was happening. I ran to celebrate because I hadn’t scored a goal in a long time. A very emotional moment for me and my family.
The first goal in Virsliga was scored with the inside of my foot. Our coaches are telling us that you cannot kick with the upper part of your foot when in the penalty area. Yokota did a great job on that goal – he took the ball away and brought the moment to me. I saw a free zone, asked for the ball, and went ahead – a decent kick followed and I scored. Of course, that was my first goal in Virsliga, but the goal against Riga FC in the Latvian cup is more important to me. We knocked out their team in an important battle. Part of my family supports Riga FC where my cousin works, the other supports Valmiera. It felt really nice to score against them, especially while down a man on the pitch.
In near future, I want to be a regular of Valmiera FC. In two or three years I want to become the captain of this team. In the more distant future, I want to play well, to make it abroad to see what my potential can reach. I want a good transfer but not to the Top 5 leagues straight away. Poland, Czechia, or Slovakia would be a nice stepping stone. Also, the USA wouldn’t be a bad place. It feels like the world across the ocean is a whole different. I would want to experience it to understand the culture and football itself. This season I want to win the Latvian cup and also the Virsliga title. For the fans, I want to ask that they continue to support us and we will do everything to make you happy in each and every game.”