When a French journalist saw a full basketball arena (where “Lietuvos rytas” fought in the ULEB Cup semi-final) near an empty stadium (where a Baltic Football League match was held), he published an article that Lithuania is a country in Live the “king of sport” in the shadow of basketball.
In fact, the popularity of football and the few games that are on par with the ULEB Cup semi-finals in terms of quality are also boosting full stadiums and a TV episode. This craze is mainly imported from other European nations, such as England, where many Lithuanians have emigrated since the country joined the European Union in 2004.
But unlike basketball, Lithuanian football is weak. The national team has never qualified for the European Championship, let alone for the World Cup. In football, the element of luck is bigger than basketball, so there were times when the Lithuanians drew against big teams like Germany, Italy or Spain. However, defeats such as the Faroe Islands or Liechtenstein are brimming over with Lithuanian fans shortly thereafter, reducing the popularity of football.
The Lithuanian football clubs receive less money than their basketball counterparts and are therefore weak and rely on Lithuanian players and foreigners who have failed to get into their national leagues. No Lithuanian team ever participated in the main stages of the Champions League or the UEFA Cup. In addition, the Lithuanian football league (“A lyga”) is often entangled in scandals of betting fraud. Panevéio Ekranas from Panevéys dominated this league in the early 2010s, setting an annual budget of 2 million euros (yes, that was the richest football club in Lithuania). In the 1990s and 2000s, the “FBK Kaunas” prevailed (both the Kaunas and the Panevéys teams were excluded in 2009 and 2015 because of debts and controversy from the league). “Vilniaus Algiris” was the best Lithuanian team in the 1980s and still has a bigger fan base than other Lithuanian football clubs. In the 2010s, it has regained importance and dominated the league again.
Big Football Clubs
Some of the big football clubs, including both FBK Kaunas and Algiris, are or were owned by controversial Russian businessmen, whose irregular investments eventually brought the clubs to the brink of collapse. Vilniaus Algiris was only rescued by his fans, who founded an alternative club under the same name. In 2009, the A lyga was rejuvenated by accepting numerous associations from smaller towns (less than 20 000 inhabitants) that did not meet the official criteria, but were more transparently managed, such as “Banga” from Gargédai or “Kruoja” from Pakruojis ,
As many fans in the local stadiums can not see quality football, they follow leagues like England’s Premier League on TV (or, of course, the European Championship and the World Cup). The stadiums, which are not as modern as in Western Europe, will be left to the ultras. However, football is a popular pastime in the fields.
Lithuania’s largest stadium (S. Darius and S. Girénas Stadium in the city of Kaunas) has 9180 seats, while in general “A lyga” stadiums have about 1500-4000 seats. The seating is usually only on a single side of the stadium and the football field is combined with an athletics track. Even these stadiums are only full during some national team games and infrequent matches against powerful Western European teams, who usually finish the UEFA tournament qualifiers offered by Lithuanian clubs.