The World Championship in Riga 2021 was different from others. The global pandemic, the various security conditions and regimes forced some of the most passionate fans to think about ways to sympathize with their idols and how to support the players. A group of teenagers gathered at the service entrance of the arena and excitedly waved at the national team players passing by. Some of the most faithful tried to meet the players after the games and encourage them for the next battles. Niks Amelkovičs was among these young people.
“I started to watch and sympathize with hockey first of all because my dad took me to the first face-to-face game. I really like the speed and overall feel of the hockey field,” says Nick, who is 13 years old today. He represents the new generation of hockey fans on which the pyramid of hockey fans will be based for decades to come. “I liked hockey both because it is very popular in Latvia and because it is really a beautiful sport,” he added.
In everyday life, however, the boy turned to a completely different, one could even say the opposite type of sport – fast-paced beach volleyball. He passionately fights in the sand of the beach, winning two Latvian U-14 championship titles together with his partner, and he supports the hockey movement with the same passion.
“In hockey, of course, the most beautiful are the victories and those moments when you score a goal and you are in a full arena,” Nik explained his emotions.
As befits a real fan, he welcomes the players during the championship and already knows the schedule of how these or other national teams arrive for official training.
After school, I rush to the vicinity of the arena, watching the first two periods of the game on TV, then statistics and social media, to know whether to congratulate the players with a victory or cheer them on for the next matches.
“I have prepared slogans at home for the six teams that will play in Latvia, I always take them with me and before that I read about what the players will be, what the composition will be,” explained the teenager.
When asked if he observed any special customs, being so close to the sports arena and hockey players of different countries almost every day, Niks answers without hesitation: “It was interesting in the last championship, in 2021, when the German national team lost, they didn’t have to go change clothes and drive after the game at home, they had to come outside to sweat, run and do strength techniques for an hour. That’s when the coach made them understand that it was not good”.
At all times, even before live TV and online broadcasts,
the most valuable souvenirs from the championships were those received with a handshake and autograph of a sports star.
Nick’s sympathy and motivational posters have made him noticed by the players. The young man is happy with the attributes of the fans from the various teams that played in Riga in 2021, but is proud of the hockey sticks decorated with the signatures of hockey stars. The more valuable they seem because successful passes and even goals were scored with them on the ice of the arena.
Nick says no when asked if there are any other hockey memorabilia he collects.
“No, I used to collect cards of the Riga “Dinamo” hockey team when it existed, but that seems to be all. I didn’t think that I was creating a collection – they are memorabilia that comes back to me,” said Niks.
Meetings and encouraging slogans allowed the boy from Latvia to establish friendships with the idols of great sports.
“From 2021, I correspond on Instagram with a player from the US national team [un Losandželosas “Kings”] Matt Roy, who plays in Tampere this year, for example. I’ve wished him a successful championship and I’ve been following how his career is developing and we’re in touch,” Nick said.
“Being a fan here, in the field, I was pleased with the teams and players that they don’t miss seeing that they are supported. I think it is important for them to see that they are supported from another country, not only by their own fans.
Maybe countries that are far from the championship in Riga, their fans do not come, and then we are here – locals who also sympathize with them, who support them.
Let them feel welcome here”, explained Nik.
When asked if the success in studies is such that parents can calmly indulge in the boy’s passion for fandom and there are no anxious moments in school work, Nick smiles. Although they are already different, but since the boy is learning and improving his knowledge of foreign languages very purposefully, and on the day of the conversation with LSM.lv, his parents were pleased with another very good evaluation in the e-class, he hopes that everything will be fine when he learns the school program. Now is the time – we must support hockey!