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Just an ice hockey championship?

  • 2000-05-18
  • By Elizabeth Belozerova
RIGA - Ole-ole-ole-ole! Latvija uzvara! The whole nation joined together during this world ice hockey championship, willing so much for the victory of the Latvian hockey team. For once it was normal for a 17-year-old hockey fan to talk to a 71-year-old lady about this championship, because despite their age difference they both had this feeling of patriotism, of love for their country. You could see the joy and happiness mixed with a feeling, "I wish so much for my country to get the 4th - 6th place in this championship, but the chances are a million to one," in the eyes of both people.

This championship has "erased" the differences among people in Latvia. Everybody felt that now is the time to tell the world about our country! Streets were silent, there was not a tiny hint of life in Riga for two hours on May 5 - Latvia was playing Russia. The clouds were dark, it was horribly silent, two minutes left till the end of the game. It's 3:2 - Latvia is winning, maybe the Russians will throw the puck into the goal... But thankfully not - the time is up and Latvia has won!!!!!

It's like an explosion. Suddenly the crowds of fanatic youths spilled out onto the streets singing, whistling, banging and playing drums. Sarauj Latvija! Maybe in other countries people are not so excited about a game, because their country has already succeeded in sport. Latvians had two aims in the game - the victory, and also they wanted to tell the world about their country. Latvia longs to enter the European Union, so this championship could help to speed up that process.

The game against the Russians was a very special match. Latvians and Russians were watching the game. They had for some reason this kind of thoughts: "Now is the time to show who is the winner, who is the monarch and who has to obey." Russians have this sickness here - they have a problem with remembering that they live in another country and that the Soviet Union has already passed into history, Latvia is an independent country which has its own rules which Russians have to recognise and obey. If they don't want to - Russia is a huge country which will always be glad to have more and more inhabitants. I'm happy for the Latvians - they showed that they are an independent country and they are leading here. My view on this game and the whole championship was more like a view of an outsider who stands in the corner and observes the whole thing with no special interest, but a strong desire for Latvia to win some games and take a satisfying place in this championship.

Of course, I think that it's stupid to "tag" this political "tail" to the championship and the game between Latvians and Russians only for one simple reason: None of the players who were playing for Latvia or Russia live in Latvia or Russia, and these political problems are like thin air for them. I'm glad Latvia has taken the eighth place in this championship. I like the words of the Latvian goalkeeper, Mr. Arturs Irbe. He said: "As long as Latvia is on the map I'll play for this country, because I was born here and I love this country!"

Let's fight for a place in this world, because those who fight - they succeed!

Elizabeth Belozerova, 14, of Latvia is a former Muscovite.