27.04.2018 20:59 h

Former Latvia captain takes over troubled federation from ex-KGB agent

Former Latvia captain Kaspars Gorkss was elected head of the scandal-plagued Latvian Football Federation (LFF) on Friday, taking over from a Soviet-era KGB officer after complaining to UEFA and FIFA that his main rival was trying to buy votes.

Tainted by a long string of match-fixing and other corruption scandals, the LFF manages one of the world's worst-performing national sides, with FIFA ranking them 139th out of 149 teams worldwide and the worst in Europe.

Latvians, who are ardent ice hockey and basketball fans, traditionally also pay little attention to the game on the pitch.

Gorkss submitted his complaints to UEFA and FIFA on Wednesday, accusing his main rival Vadims Lasenko, head of the Indoor Football section, of trying to buy votes by promising LFF members an all expenses paid football conference at a luxury resort.

Gorkss also notified the local betting watchdog that OptiBet, an online bookmaking service, of promising 100,000 euro ($120,000) sponsorship payment to the LFF, but only if Lasenko wins the election.

Gorkss neverthless beat Lasenko in Friday voting, winning 56 votes to 45 from a pool of 110 delegates.

LFF executive director Edgars Pukinsks, who presided over the congress, told delegates to "stop acting like fools" before Friday's vote.

The former national captain (2012-17) replaces millionaire businessman and former high ranking Soviet-era KGB officer Guntis Indriksons who announced his retirement in 2017 after 22 years as the LFF chairman amid a dire losing streak.

Representing the Baltic EU state of 1.9 million people, Latvia recently lost to Kosovo, Gibraltar and Saudi Arabia.

Before Indriksons, the LFF was headed up by notorious Latvian crime lord Vladimir Leskov (1990-1995).

The LFF earns little income from advertising contracts, ticket and merchandise sales but FIFA and UEFA youth football support payments help boost its annual budget to around 7.5 million euros.