RIGA - On March 28 the Domina shopping mall will be packed with soccer fans. The official dealership of Hyundai in Latvia - Skandi Motors - together with exuberant fans will create the official good-luck charm for the Latvian national team, which will soon travel to Portugal to begin training for the upcoming 2004 European Championship.
The talisman, according to reports, will be a 4-meter tall football dubbed the "goodwill ball."
Every football fan will have a chance to participate in the visual designing of the ball and to write a wish or greeting to the team's football players on this impressive ball.
What's more, the players themselves will attend. Fans excited about Latvia's unprecedented participation in a premier football event will have a chance to meet the players and get their autographs.
Skandi Motors director Ainars Lilje said that this would also be a rare chance for fans to extend their personal wishes to the players, which they will no doubt need in Portugal.
"Each time football players and their fans meet, it is a very positive moment. Football fans who usually watch Latvian football games from the stadium stands or on TV will now have a chance to meet their favorite players in person," said Latvian Football Federation general secretary Janis Mezeckis.
"This meeting is even more significant due to upcoming European cham-pionship. It's very important for the national team players to feel fan support, which will strengthen their fighting spirit in Portugal," said Mezeckis.
Similar events will take place in all 16 countries whose teams qualified for the championship. Then all 16 goodwill balls, replete with fans' wishes, will be brought to Portugal and displayed in pairs during the football games. During the final game all 16 balls will be displayed.
In accordance with the match-ups, the Latvian national team will have to play against some of Europe's strongest teams - Germany, the Czech Republic and Holland - in the first round of the championship.