Vitālijs Astafjevs

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Vitālijs Astafjevs
Vitalijs Astafjevs.jpg
Personal information
Full name Vitālijs Astafjevs
Date of birth (1971-04-03) 3 April 1971 (age 47)
Place of birth Riga, Latvian SSR, Soviet Union
(now Republic of Latvia)
Height 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Playing position Midfielder (retired)
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1990–1992 Daugava Rīga 26 (11)
1992–1996 Skonto 99 (43)
1996–1997 Austria Vienna 26 (1)
1997–1999 Skonto 55 (17)
1999–2003 Bristol Rovers 108 (16)
2003–2004 Admira Wacker 28 (2)
2004–2005 Rubin Kazan 30 (10)
2006–2008 Skonto 26 (6)
2009 RFS/Olimps 14 (1)
2009 Ventspils 5 (0)
2010 Skonto 14 (2)
Total 431 (109)
National team
1992–2010 Latvia 167 (16[1])
Teams managed
2010–2014 Skonto Riga (assistant manager)
2012 Skonto-2
2013 Latvia U-21 (assistant manager)
2013–2018 Latvia (assistant manager)
2014–2016 FK Jelgava
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 2 May 2018
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 2 May 2018

Vitālijs Astafjevs (born 3 April 1971 in Riga) is a Latvian former football midfielder, and former assistant manager of the Latvia national football team.

Astafjevs won nine Latvian championships with Skonto Riga. He also played abroad for clubs in Austria, England and Russia. At international level, Astaefjevs captained Latvia at UEFA Euro 2004. With 167 caps for his country Astafjevs held the European record for the most international matches played, until being overtaken by Gianluigi Buffon in 2017. He is currently the joint sixth-most capped male footballer in history, alongside Iker Casillas.[2]

Club career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Astafjevs started his professional career with Skonto Riga in 1992, shortly after Latvia had regained its independence from the Soviet Union. He played there for 5 seasons, until 1996, becoming a vital first eleven player. They won the league in each of his first four seasons. Twice, in 1995 and 1996, Astafjevs was named the Latvian footballer of the year. In 1995, atypically for a midfielder, he became the top scorer of the league with 19 goals in 28 matches. In 1996, he moved abroad for the first time in his career and joined Austria Vienna in Austria. He played there just for a season and then, in 1997, returned to Skonto. He played there for three seasons, and won three more league titles. He went abroad again in 2000, this time joining Football League Division Two side Bristol Rovers in England.

Bristol Rovers[edit]

Astafjevs was signed for Rovers by Ian Holloway, who then managed to persuade authorities to issue him with a work permit. He arrived in the second half of the 1999-2000 season when the club were in second place. His fifth match was away to Oldham Athletic and saw him score and set up two more in an eventual 4-1 win, despite being stretchered off. Rovers fell to seventh by the end of the season, missing the play-offs. The following season had them relegated to the fourth tier for the first time in their history. He scored only twice during the 2001-02 season, but in the following campaign he scored four in the last six league matches to avoid a further relegation. He was then released by manager Ray Graydon.[3]

Later career[edit]

In 2003, after being released, he returned to Austria and joined Admira Wacker Mödling. In 2004, after the European Championship, having spent one season in Austria, Astafjevs joined the Russian Premier League club Rubin Kazan. Once again he was one of the team's leaders there. Finishing the 2005 season, Astafjevs decided to join Skonto Riga again, where he became the Latvian champion 8 times (previous years of playing also included). In 2007, at the age of 36, he was once again named Latvian footballer of the year.

On 9 September 2008, alongside his teammate Marians Pahars, Astafjevs announced his retirement from professional football. After a few days Astafjevs declined this fact, stating he could play for a different club. After the new year it was announced that Astafjevs would play for Olimps/RFS and he would also be the assistant manager alongside Andrejs Štolcers and Mihails Koņevs, whilst the manager of the club would be the Dutch coach Anton Joore.[4] Olimps/RFS then hadn't secured themselves a place in the higher league yet, but there was a possibility if the club merged with another team from Riga. After a half season spent there he joined last season's champions Ventspils, who were completing their squad for the upcoming UEFA Europa League matches.[5] Appearing in the tournament's group stages, Astafjevs played only 5 matches there and was released in November 2009. In 2010 Astafjevs returned to Skonto Riga once again and became the Latvian champion with them. After the 2010 season Astafjevs retired from professional football.

International career[edit]

Astafjevs debuted for Latvia at the age of 21 on 26 August 1992, against then-European champions Denmark in qualification for the 1994 FIFA World Cup. From that time he was a vital player in the national team, playing there for 18 years. Astafjevs scored his first international goal on 2 July 1993 on his 14th cap, a friendly 2-0 win over Estonia.[6]

In 1999, after the retirement of Vladimirs Babičevs, Astafjevs became the captain of the team. His first match as captain was his 58th in total, against Greece on 31 March in qualification for Euro 2000. On 31 March 2004 he became the first ever Latvian player to play 100 internationals, as they beat Slovenia in an away friendly. As the team's captain, he participated in the Euro 2004 championship in Portugal, playing in all three of Latvia's games. His last international appearance was a friendly match against China on 17 November 2010. There was a special ceremony after the game to honour him. After his retirement, defender Kaspars Gorkšs was elected to be the next captain of the team.[7]


On 14 October 2009 in a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification match against Moldova Astafjevs equalled the European record for the most matches in a national team; Astafjevs went level with the then-record holder Estonian Martin Reim on 157 caps.[8] On 15 November 2009 in a friendly match against Honduras, Astafjevs set a new European record with 158 caps. His European record of 167 caps was matched by Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon in June 2016 and November 2016 respectively, and was later broken in March 2017 by Buffon.[2]

Coaching career[edit]

After his retirement from professional football, Astafjevs accepted an offer to become the assistant manager of Skonto Riga.[9] At the start of 2012 he was appointed as the manager of Skonto-2, but was later succeeded by Tamaz Pertia.[10] At the start of 2013 he was selected to be the assistant manager of Latvia national under-21 football team, coached by his former club and international team-mate Marians Pahars.[11] On 11 July 2013 Pahars became the manager of Latvia national football team[12] and chose Astafjevs to be one of his assistants.[13] On 4 June 2014 Astafjevs became the manager of FK Jelgava.[14] In April 2018 Astafjevs left the assistant manager's position of the Latvian national team, following the sacking of head coach Aleksandrs Starkovs.



Latvian Champion (9)
Latvian Football Cup winner (4)
  • 1992, 1995, 1997, 1998


Baltic Cup winner (5)


Virsliga Top Scorer (1)
Latvian Footballer of the Year (3)


External links[1][edit]

  1. ^ "Oficiālās personas". Latvijas Futbola federācija. Retrieved 2016-11-08.