Stalo Ritulio Istorija Lietuvoje

Article by Paulius Kestauskas, Vilnius, Lithuania

Introduction

This is a story about my home country Lithuania and the sport of table hockey. I will introduce you to our location in Europe, and provide some facts about our population, language, economy, governing membership and, of course, sports! 

Then I will introduce you to Lithuania’s history of table hockey, the four people who founded table hockey in Lithuania and who were also first to play in an international competition, and the challenges they faced.

So, you can better understand the size, quality and scope of table hockey in Lithuania along with our level of competition, I chose to compare Lithuania with our Baltic neighbor, Latvia.

I will also introduce you to Lithuania’s national table hockey team and when they earned Lithuania’s first trophy in international table hockey competition. 

Nearing the end of my story by talking about the growth of the sport in Lithuania, telling you about  Lithuania’s premier table hockey club (THC), THC Vilnius, who welcome and help new players develop their skills. 

Then at the end, if you think you might visit us here in Lithuania, I provide you with information to contact THC Vilnius or me!

Where is Lithuania?

So, first of all I want you to know where Lithuania on the map of our world. After, I will tell you about my country – Lithuania. Officially the Republic of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos Respublika). We are a country in the northeast of Europe, known as the Baltic region.

I want to underline that in our opinion Vilnius is the geographical centre of Europe!

Lithuania on the map:

Population:

Lithuania has an estimated population of 2.8 million people as of 2019, and its capital and largest city is Vilnius (500,000+ population).

Language:

The official language, Lithuanian, is one of only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family, the other being Latvian.

Economy:

Lithuania has open and mixed economy that is classified as high-income economy by the World Bank.

Membership:

Lithuania joined NATO and the EU in 2004.

Sports:

While Lithuania has won 20+ Olympic medals, few Lithuanian athletes have found success in winter sports. However, in 2018 Lithuania national ice hockey team won gold medals at the 2018 IIHF World Championship Division I.


The History of Table Hockey in Lithuania

The earliest dates that we find information about Lithuanians playing competitive table hockey is during the fall through spring, 2008-09.

Lithuania’s First International Competition

The “Riga Open,” International Table Hockey Tournament, 2010

Four Lithuanian players: Žygimantas, Tautvydas, Kęstutis Bagdonai and Sigitas Bagdonavičius wanted to test their table hockey prowess and skills at the “Riga Open,” Latvia, 2010. For this article, we will call them the Lithuanian Four.

Challenges and Comparison: Lithuania vs Latvia

Population Comparison

To give our readers perspective, Lithuania has a population of 2,793,284  (July 2018 est.). Latvia has almost one million less people at 1,923,559  (July 2018 est.).

Public Perception of Table Hockey as a Sport

In 2010, table hockey was perceived as a sport by the public of neighboring Latvia, but not in Lithuania.

Quantity and Quality of Table Hockey Players

Though having almost a million less in population, Latvia has more table hockey players than Lithuania. Many of Latvia’s players are highly ranked in international competition playing Stiga table hockey (source ITHF).

Organization and Official Recognition

The Lithuanian Table Hockey Federation did not exist in 2010. With no federation, Lithuania could not apply for admittance to the International Table Hockey Federation (ITHF). The ITHF manages Stiga (manufacturer) table hockey tournaments.

Experienced Opponents, International Competition

The Lithuanian Four, would go into competition against more than 165 players from 12 different countries.

The Weight of a Nation

As they became aware they were not just going as individuals, but would be perceived by the public as representing all of Lithuania.


The Lithuanian Four’s Fighting Spirit, Determination and Realistic Expectations

The Lithuanian Four directly thought and fought through its challenges or “big minus,” as K. Bagdonas is quoted as saying at that time, “We’ll represent Lithuania first time in history. We want to show our best. But we need to be realists. In Lithuania this game is taking its first steps.”

Lithuanian Four – Training Like Professionals!

The Lithuanian Four, Žygimantas, Tautvydas and Kęstutis Bagdonai and Sigitas Bagdonavičius, accepted the challenge to go up against 165 of the world’s best players and began in earnest training like professionals!

Sporto Draugų Klubo

To overcome not having an officially recognized national federation for Lithuania, they went to Riga as, “Sporto Draugų Klubo” or Friends of Sport Club.

Founding and Growth of Lithuanian Table Hockey Federation

Not long ago in 2013, the Lithuanian Table Hockey Federation was formally established and as a not-for-profit organization to invite and develop table hockey players in Lithuania.

Growth

Eight years after four players represented Lithuania at the Riga Open in 2010, Lithuania more than doubled its team size going to the “Riga Open,” in 2018. (In 2018, the “Riga Open” was known as the “20th Riga Cup”). Lithuania’s team included: Žygimantas Remeika, Mažvydas Satkus, Simonas Pleikys, Šarūnas Jokubauskas, Audrius Pleikys, Sandra Komaraitė, Vladimir Voronov, Gintautas Remeika and Tomas Ulis.


Lithuania Scores its First International Trophy!

The best results were Mažvydas Satkus and Žygimantas Remeika, who reached the highest group, Division I. However, Simonas Pleikys won Lithuania’s first trophy in table hockey for Lithuania when he was the winner of Division II.

Lithuanian National Team, 20th Riga Cup, Riga, Latvia, 2018. 
Note: Four of the players shown in the photo are wearing green shirt is Lithuania’s National Table Hockey Team Jersey with Lithuania’s (Lietuva) Coat of Arms logo.
Photo Credit: THC Vilnius (Facebook)).

In the photograph above is our Lithuanian National Team. This photograph was taken at the 20th Anniversary of the Riga Cup, Riga, Latvia, 2018.

Table Hockey in Lithuania Today

Opportunity to Gain Skill

Today, there are tournaments within Lithuania every 3-4 months, mostly in Vilnius, our capital. At those tournaments, the more experienced competitive players can compete against other experienced players to maintain or improve their skills.

Growth of Clubs and Skill Levels

In addition, there is also a table hockey club where new or junior players are welcomed, mentored and developed by senior or more experienced players to gain skills and confidence to play competitive table hockey or simply have fun!

Beauty and Skill at the Center of the Lithuanian National Team

In the photo below, the Lithuanian National Team, 2017.

(Lithuanian National Team, XV. World Table Hockey Championship, Czech Republic, 2017. Photo Credit: THC Vilnius (Facebook))

THC Vilnius – Lithuania’s Top Club!

The logo of Table Hockey Club Vilnius (THC Vilnius).

Established in 2013, THC Vilnius’ founder’s were at least two of the original Lithuanian Four, who traveled to Lithuania’s first unofficial competition in Riga 2010, Kestutis Bagdonas and Sigitas Zakarevičius.

Since 2013, THC Vilnius remains Lithuania’s strongest Table Hockey Club. It organizes national championships and travel to the ITHF’s World Cup of Table Hockey.

THC Vilnius – Helping Other Lithuanian THC’s

In fact, THC Vilnius organizes almost all Lithuanian national championships, where all Lithuanian table hockey clubs can compete against each other.

The “100 Tournaments” Event

In March of 2019, THC Vilnius held the “100 Tournaments Vilnius championships”, playing 100 games of table hockey! In this championship twelve players participated. Whew! That’s a lot of table hockey!

(100 tournaments Vilnius championship. Photo Credit: THC Vilnius (Facebook))
(100 tournaments Vilnius championship. Photo Credit: THC Vilnius (Facebook))

Friendship and Fun

Christmas IV, Vilnius Championships

One of the more recent tournaments in Lithuania was, Christmas IV Vilnius Championship, 2019/2020. (Photos below).

(Christmas IV Vilnius Championship 2019/2020. Photo Credit: THC Vilnius (Facebook))
(Christmas IV Vilnius Championship 2019/2020. Photo Credit: THC Vilnius (Facebook))

Lithuania – Continuing to Improve and Grow!

We need not worry about the quantity and quality of Lithuanian table hockey players, because in a short period of time Lithuania will have many more table hockey players with improved skills to defend our honour at international table hockey championships.


In Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed reading this story as much as I did researching and writing it for you. I also hope that you learned something about my home, Lithuania.

During this story, I presented to you the history of table hockey in Lithuania, which included telling you about the founding members of the sport of table hockey in Lithuania, their challenges, our successes, and the growth and sustainment of table hockey today.

THC Vilnius invites you to contact them to learn more or visit them when you plan to visit Vilnius, Lithuania! I have provided two (2) links below to their website. One link to the Lithuanian language version and the other to the English version.

Lithuanian (original) https://lerodit.weebly.com/klubas-ir-taiskykl278s.html

English (translation): https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=lt&u=https://ledorit.weebly.com/klubas-ir-taisykl278s.html&prev=search

Thinking of Visiting Lithuania?

If you are visiting or living in Lithuania and want to make new friends who also enjoy playing table hockey then click below to learn more. Send THC Vilnius an email! They want to hear from you!

Ačiū! Thank You!

Thank you for reading! If you have questions or would like to know more about life in Lithuania, or about Lithuanian table hockey players, or events in Lithuania, please feel free to send me an email at Paulius.Kestauskas@wtha.eu or find me on Twitter at @PauliusWTHA_LTU

~Paulius Kestauskas

Copyright © Paulius Kestauskas, WTHA