I’ve possibly been interested in darts longer than any other sport. My earliest memories of it all involve hating Keith Deller as he beat my hero Jocky Wilson in the 1983 World Semi-final. Darts doesn’t seem to be big at all in Latvia, which is odd since it’s an indoor sport and perfect for pubs in the winter months, yet I don’t know a single bar in Riga centre that has a dart board. Bars in Latvia never seem to have games like table football, pool tables and other things that you’ll find more in the west. Things like pub quizzes and even karaoke nights are also virtually unheard of. People just seem to go to bars to drink, talk or take part in visit all districts challenges pub crawls. Ahem.
A word on how darts is organised these days. During the 1980s the sport both peaked and declined. The game’s image was of fat drunken guys and this satirical sketch on the 80s comedy show Not the nine o’clock news cemented the image of drunkards stumbling around on stage. TV and sponsorship money declined in the late 80s, leaving frustrated players struggling to make a living. The world body responded with experiments like introducing a quadruple ring on the board, but it failed to stop the rot, so eventually the top players broke away and formed their own organisation, the Professional Darts Corporation in 1992. Since then, there have been two world championships. The PDC struggled at first but eventually overtook its rival, the British Darts Organisation. This year the prize money for the PDC World Championship, where all the best players play, is £1,050,000, the BDO version can only offer £329,000.
Watching the PDC the other night, I saw a guy who seemed very familiar, both in looks and demeanour. James Wade, a former World Champion, reminded me of a famous Baltic politician
or maybe it’s just my eyesight?
This weekend is an important one for the sport in Latvia. Madars Razma has become the first ever Latvian (and first Balt) to qualify for a darts world championship, starting this Saturday in the round before the last 32. It’s in the BDO variant, which has a winner’s prize of £100,000. Hopefully he’ll do very well and raise the profile of the sport. It would make a nice change to see people in pubs in Riga playing darts, rather than staring morosely into their drinks waiting for spring to come.
*Update* Madars Razma won his preliminary round game and will face Geert De Vos in the last 32 on Monday 6 January. His darting average though was 79.38, which at this level isn’t enough. Players need to be hitting 95 averages if they have serious ambitions of the title.