If you’re going out of your mind without your football fix, well we’re sorry you just haven’t been looking hard enough. "What? There are no games anywhere!" we hear you cry. Not true, for 3,000 hardy souls gathered for a sell-out derby on Saturday as FC Minsk took on capital city rivals Dinamo in Belarus.
"It so happened that this derby was practically the only official football match on earth," read the Dinamo match report after they lost 3-2.
Yep, in Belarus, it is business as usual. Nothing is going to stop them.
President Alexander Lukashenko is not fazed at all, insisting drinking vodka and having a sauna will be enough to ward off Coronavirus which has put the rest of the world on lockdown. According to Sky News, the 65-year-old revealed sport too is the "best remedy" to ward off the disease having just played ice hockey.
Speaking to reporters he insisted, “It’s better to die standing on your feet than to live on your knees.”
Meanwhile, Belarus Football Federation spokesman Aleksandr Aleinik said precautions were being taken. “All those who are in contact with fans are supplied with gloves," he said in the same report. We’re pretty certain the Belarussian Premier League will not be postponed anytime soon then. Long live football!
With that in mind, it’s time to pick your new team to support.
So pick a team and get involved!
So, what do you know about the division already? Well, Aleksandar Hleb, the ex-Arsenal and Barcelona playmaker was plying his trade back in his home country as recently as 2019 during his FIFTH spell with BATE Borisov who you may recognise from previous Champions League and Europa League campaigns.
However, they’ve lost every game this season, though we have to admit, it’s only two games old! The season only kicked off this month, with Matchday 1 starting on Thursday 19th and the campaign continuing across the last weekend.
Dinamo Minsk, who have won the Belarus top-flight seven times, lost to FC Minsk, who currently top the table with six points. However, in a 16-team division, they only finished ninth last term so the glory-hunters among you may instead want to follow Dinamo Brest, who won the title last season losing just one game all year. They’ll be in the first qualifying round of the Champions League for the 2020/21 season too (whenever that may be!)
Dinamo Brest’s triumph, having finished the previous season in sixth, halted BATE from winning a 14th consecutive title and finally stopped the nation’s one-team domination; see it’s not just Italy, Germany and France where this occurs.
Then there is Energetik-BGU, only promoted the campaign before last, who may sound like a nasty-tasting drink you find in the gym vending machines but they actually beat BATE on the opening day of the season with a resounding 3-1 win.
Ilya Shkurin banged in 19 goals for Energetik-BGU last term and was the top scorer in Belarus by five strikes. Earning a move to champions Brest, just a day later he switched again to join Russian powerhouses CSKA Moscow, all before his 21st birthday this summer.
If you’ve become a fan of the Belarus league (in the last few minutes) perhaps you would like to follow a ‘new’ club, able to claim you were one of their very first supporters. In spring last year Luch Minsk merged with Dnepr Mogilev, and Dnyapro Mogilev was born, relocating from Minsk to Mogilev, about a 124-mile drive away. Shakhtyor Soligorsk will be in next season’s Europa League with BATE so they’re another one to keep an eye on.
Come the end of the campaign, the team in 14th face the side who came third in the second tier in a relegation play-off. That tie promises all the drama, so make sure not to back an underdog if your nerves can’t take such a nail-biter.
Depending on the duration of this lockdown, that match could easily be watched by millions around the world. Seriously, Belarus has been able to take advantage of the current situation. With fans across the globe starved of football, the Belarussian Federation have secured broadcast deals with networks in 10 countries, including India and Israel.
Whatever you expected to come from 2020, desperately waiting for Slutsk FC to take on Torpedo-Belaz Zhodino probably wasn’t up there but it may well be one of the highlights of your sporting calendar now.