Roberts Veips will start his third season in Valmiera FC this year. Before coming to Valmiera, the football player started at the Skonto Academy, but later his path led to Italy, where he gained rich football experience. Returning to Latvia, his goals are still big – to prove his abilities and get to one of the top-ranked championships. A place in the Latvian national team is also on his dream list. The 23-year-old defender shares his experience.
The team has been preparing for the new season for a couple of weeks, how do you feel in this tight schedule?
I will say that this season it’s calmer, the amount of work is not as big as last year. I think it resonates with the fact that the team had a lot of injuries last season. Therefore, physical training coach Ivo Lakuss has prepared a slightly easier plan for us. For now, it seems that I feel very well physically and there is a noticeable increase in strength. If you compare the previous two years with this one, the amount of workload has changed. In the year of the championship, the team was already complete and adjusted to the workload, so it was much more difficult for me to settle because I was a newcomer. After two seasons here, I have adapted to the specific conditions. The fact that I did not have such loads before arriving in Valmiera also played a role. Preparation usually lasted about a month, with fewer training sessions. Also, when playing in Italy, we worked significantly less in the gym, everything was focused on football there. In Latvia, there is weightlifting, which is meant to improve power.
What is the daily routine of the players?
The schedule is constant from day to day, which I like, because the body has adapted to it, and entered work mode. We get up in the morning, eat breakfast, and get ready for training, where you have to arrive on time. After training, try to eat lunch as soon as possible, then there is an hour and a half for rest, followed by the second training. There was enough rest in the offseason, so I believe that timely preparation before the general camp was self-evident. This season I spent my vacation in an exotic country – South Africa, an atypical place to go, but a valuable experience. All the conditions were there to be able to lay a base, which can then be improved by working with the team. Even if there was no training scheduled on a certain day, there was still something active to do. This helped me start the pre-season training process successfully.
Last season saw ups and downs – how did you feel after the season?
Here we can talk more about the balance. There are always highs during the season, the climax in terms of emotions, there are also low points, so you have to find a balance in life, you have to learn to find motivation in the most difficult moments. I won’t say that there were stages where I didn’t want anything, it certainly wasn’t, I was always thinking about how to improve both my performance and that of the team.
What happened at the end of the season? Why couldn’t the fans see you on the pitch?
It seems that everything happened in September, in an away game against Liepaja. There was a collision with an opponent where, strangely enough, I got an ankle injury that is not typical for football. Several examinations were required, and I was diagnosed only after the third examination. A very unpleasant moment, because all the time it seemed that nothing bad had happened, I would be able to run, walk, and play. However, it turned out that the best option was to put an end to the season so that everything would heal faster.
During the season, you competed with Niks Sliede, you started the season, but then he took advantage of his opportunities and became a regular player, how did you feel about this mutual competition?
In football, you have to make the most of your opportunities, if you do, you deserve to play. As a player, I have to take it professionally and adapt. My job is to help the team as much as possible because in football everything is about and around the team, not individual personalities. There are no antipathies, I respect all the players, and all the coaches’ decisions. During my career, I had also played as a midfielder, mostly at a young age, so getting there was not a surprise either. In this position, you have to think much more, it was not difficult to adapt and play the given minutes in this role, I think I played very well. I consider myself a universal player, I can be both a central defender and a midfielder. I think that every player should be able to acclimatize to a new position, not quite turn from a defender into a striker, but at least a defensive type player should be able to play both as a full-back and defensive midfielder and also be a defender in the last line. In modern football, we very often see that players change positions and prove themselves very well.
How did you get into football in the first place?
I started training in football at the age of five, it was my initiative, and I liked kicking the ball. My parents decided to take me to a football school, at that time the Skonto Academy was the best in the country. You also had to pay for it, you had to buy equipment and uniforms, and participation in tournaments was also not free. Step by step, I got to where I am now.
You went to Italy at a very young age, how did you make that decision?
After one of the training sessions, the director of Skonto came and offered to go to Italy for trial. I was only 15 years old then, I was immediately very nervous, but I agreed. He hasn’t finished the ninth grade yet and he has to go somewhere. My first test was at the Bergamo “Atalanta” club – still one of the best academies in the country. It was no surprise – the best Italian players were selected there, and if foreigners came, they also had to be at a very high level. I don’t think that I showed myself badly there, but the club management didn’t like something, so I didn’t stay there. Shortly after that came an offer from Genoa “Sampdoria”: come, show yourself. When I went there, the first thing that caught my eye was that the city is located by the sea, everything is very beautiful, so I saw myself staying there. Perhaps it gave me additional strength and motivation. However, I was shocked by the conditions in which I had to train – the football field is difficult to compare with any of those in Latvia because there is no such bad field here. I almost sprained my ankle in the first practice, but somehow I got through it all. I could feel that the team management wanted me to stay.
How would you describe your time there?
I stayed in Italy for four or five years, understood a lot, and learned a lot. It is an integral experience, I train with high-level players. In the club system, rules were introduced that young people should be used, so I got to train with the first team as well, and I was immediately impressed by what I saw on the pitch. Everyone there was welcoming, encouraging, and helpful in the training process. I didn’t understand why everyone was talking to me, because who am I? I came from U-19. On the contrary, from the side of the coaches, if they saw that I was not giving all 100 percent, then they could no longer call me. I had to fight with fatigue, despite the pain. It used to be that the training of the first and second teams took place at the same time, and suddenly someone ran up and called the players up, you had to be able to switch quickly – a very interesting experience.
After that, you returned to Latvia, and got to Auda – how can you get into the first league of Latvia from Italy?
It was a very interesting story in general. I was called up to the youth team, thanks to coach Basovs, who trusted me. During the call, I was approached by an agent who said that there was an offer to play in Latvia, to join a Virsliga club. I asked what the club was, and found out that I had to go to Valmiera – I agreed. The situation was complicated there, I came to Latvia from a Serie D team, which is considered an amateur club. Because of my amateur status, I was first told to stay in Auda. Thanks to Uldis Pucitis, who trusted me and helped me when I was in a difficult situation. A lot of downfalls – coming to Latvia from Serie D, not finding a club, being an amateur – complete chaos. Valmiera was the best thing that could have happened to me. Step by step we got to the championship title, I think that event was written in the stars. Everything that happened, that year was something unreal. No one played in the team was redundant, everyone gave their part in everything. We did something impossible. In the previous season, I hoped that there would be a chance to enter at least the list of candidates for the national team, I believe that I showed myself well, but I did not receive a call. Now there are opportunities, there will be a new coach, and there will be an opportunity to prove myself.
You mentioned the national team, but what are your other goals?
I have thought about the possibility of returning to Italy in the future if there is an opportunity and offers – why not? I still have many acquaintances there, contacts, and good relations with that environment. I hope that someday there will be such an opportunity – in a year or two, at least on loan. Actually, I wouldn’t be against going to other countries, the main thing is to play at a higher level. This year the focus is on Virsliga, I wish myself and the whole team to fight for every centimeter of the pitch. Last season there were many moments in which we played individually, it will not bring results, you have to understand that you can achieve something only with team play, and team spirit. This is what I expect and if it comes true, then there will be a result and the Top 3 will not be left behind.