Lockdown times have been hard for everyone – and arguably for football fans even more so. With all sporting events having been indefinitely suspended (some European football leagues like in France and in the Netherlands have already announced that the tournaments will not resume), the only consolation for football lovers is to watch classic old games, like the Istanbul 2005 Champions League final, or the best skills of the Brazilian Ronaldinho. For most football fans lockdown days are days of nostalgia. For people who still want to watch a game without necessarily knowing the result in advance, there is still a European country where football games have not been suspended – Belarus.
Belarus is, along with Nicaragua, the only country in the world where sports events have not been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. As of today 6 May, the country has registered 18.350 CoVid-19 cases, but only 107 deaths.
The Belarusian league is only 30 years old (its first season was in 1992, after the collapse of the USSR) and one of the few European tournaments that instead of going from late summer to late spring or August/September to May/June, starts in spring and ends before the winter sets in. This year the Belarusbank Belarusian Premier League started on 19 March (when football in most European countries had already been suspended) and will end on 5 December. Many supporters have stopped going to the games anyway, so social distancing does not appear to be a great problem in Belarusian stadiums.
Belarusian football had never received a lot of international attention until the latest extraordinary measures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Champions League fans may have been familiar with names like Dinamo Minsk or Bate Borisov, the team that won the league every single year from 2006 to 2018, was a regular presence in the Champions League and once famously defeated Bayern Munich 3-1. Others still do not take Belarusian football too seriously: in the sudden spike of interest towards it, probably the club that received most international notoriety has been FC Slutsk, because of its name that makes it prone to puns (it sounds like “slootsk” in Belarusian/Russian, so unfortunately the joke is lost on locals). Incidentally, after seven rounds of the league this year, Slutsk are top of the league, two points clear of FC Torpedo-BelAZ Zhodino, showing that in football the love of fans is a factor that can never be underestimated.
You can watch Belarusian football highlights and lately whole games live on the Youtube Channel of the Belarusian Football Federation here.
And football fans do not need to despair if they get tired of the Belarusian league: matches have recently, on April 19, resumed in another ex-Soviet country, Turkmenistan, after having been suspended for almost a month. Use of the word “coronavirus” had reportedly been banned in the country.
Stefano Di Lorenzo