The attention of all football fans in Europe is drawn to Belarus. They have nowhere else to look. Our country is the only one on the continent with a running national football championship.
How does it feel to suddenly switch from the English Premier League to Energetik-BGU taking on BATE Borisov or to watch a modest Minsk stadium on Siamashka Street instead of San Siro?
We have collected comments in the press and fans from around Europe about the Belarusian football championship.
Quote of the day
For starters, here are the words that have been quoted almost all over the world in the last week.
"Have we had a state of emergency declared in our country? No. Our neighbors have closed their borders? Good for them. We don't have the prerequisites for that yet. You know how many people are infected, how many are under suspicion, how many have recovered. There's no critical situation. So we thought we'd start the championship on time."
This was Uladzimir Bazanau, head of the Belarusian Football Federation. All European countries have stopped their championships. The Champions League and the Europa League have been suspended. But Belarus is playing. And it's becoming the only escape for football fans in Europe.
"Why Dinamo? Easy: their stadium is magnificent."
Craig Turp, a columnist for Emerging Europe, explains that because of the coronavirus, all football fans have to do is indulge in nostalgia: "With leagues shut down everywhere fans have been left without their fix, and many have resorted to scouring YouTube for classic matches from the past as a way of easing the craving".
Then he asks a question if there ever before has been so much interest in the Belarus Premier League? Almost certainly not.
"On Thursday, however, we finally had real, actual football to watch, as the Belarus Vysheyshaya Liga kicked off the 2020 season with a match between Energetik BGU Minsk and BATE Borisov. Games are not being played behind closed doors, but crowds are limited to 1,000 people".
Since the Belarusian football, according to Craig Turp, will soon become the only source of sport for Europe, he decided to choose the Belarusian club to support. And he chose Dinamo Minsk:
"Why Dinamo? Easy: their stadium is magnificent".
"So often when football clubs renovate or rebuild old stadiums all trace of the past is obliterated. Dinamo bucked the trend when renovating their home, the Minsk Olympic Stadium, from 2012-18 by preserving the gorgeous arches of the original stadium, first built in 1934. For that alone, they get my vote," writes Turp.
The British tabloid The Sun has contacted Belarusian midfielder Alexander Hleb, remembered in England for his star performances for Arsenal and a short spell with Birmingham. Hleb decided not to be modest and created a myth about the Belarusian high league invulnerable to coronavirus: "No one cares about coronavirus in Belarus!"
“All the world now watches the Belarusian league. Everybody should go to their television and see us." “When the NHL closed the season, a lot of ice hockey players went to Russia to play. Maybe Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo might come to the Belarus league to continue. You know?"
The Sun journalist writes about football as if he doesn't believe what he says: "Minnows Energetyk-BGU pulled off a shock 3-1 win over the country’s most successful club in front of 730 fans — meaning the stadium at the city’s State University was half full."
There was no choice
Associated Press also couldn't stay away from the championship, which began in Belarus:
"European gamblers had a choice Thursday evening of Belarus, a Brazilian state championship game or a friendly between two Swedish fourth-tier clubs. Australian competitions in various sports are still going on in empty stadiums, but the time difference makes them hard for many to follow."
The other one liked the name Torpedo BelAZ.
You won't believe it: the official Cinnabon account in Egypt urges to buy their sweet pastries to watch the matches of the Belarusian Premier League.
Twitter users have not been left out. They began to choose teams vividly, focusing only on the emblems or colors. So one chose FC Nyoman (Hrodna).
The Sun sports editor asks the question: "Where would we be without the Belarusian Premier League?"
And they still had the guts to joke:
— Ма-а-а-ам, переключи канал!
2020: иностранцы гадают, кто победит в белорусской премьер-лиге. Выбирают, за кого болеть: “Витебск” или БАТЭ.
Here the man confesses that he likes (WHAT?) the Belarusian Premier League:
This is the kind of frenzy our top league has never seen. No kidding, the whole of Europe is watching, bets are accepted on amateur matches held in Belarus, while football fans are trying to pronounce the words Shakhtar (Salihorsk) with Italian, Spanish and French accents. There will be no other alternative for football fans in Europe in the near future.
So feel free to order scarves and shirts with the emblems of the Belarusian clubs while you still can. Gather to watch matches together in online bars. And hope that Belarus will not suspend the championship. Because Alexander Hleb said: "No one cares about coronavirus in Belarus." And Alexander Hleb is not mistaken.