If you’re a soccer fan, there ain’t much left. The big European leagues have been shut down for awhile and our own A-League finally pulled the pin.
So what is there? Other than a few second and third tier leagues, there’s only one top-flight league still playing. And they’re even playing in front of fans, though crowds are down.
It’s the Belarusian Premier League and it’s heading into its second week.
Hard to say how long the season will go, but the President of Belarus says as long as the country’s Covid-19 infection rate stays low, the matches will go on.
So I’ve turned my attention from the A-League, US sports and the AFL and buried my head in the Book of Belarusian Football Facts.
Well I don’t actually have one of those, but I do have access to Wikipedia and plenty of obscure Eastern European webpages.
Where is Belarus?
Belarus sits just below Lithuania and Latvia, with Russia taking up most of its eastern border, Poland its western border and Ukraine (with Chernobyl close to the Belarusian border) to the south. The former Soviet Republic has a population of almost 9.5 million people, and the capital is Minsk, with just over 2 million.
What’s the story with the league?
This is the league’s 30th season and while the number of teams has varied over the years, there are currently 16 clubs. Unlike most European leagues, Belarus runs on a March to December schedule to avoid cold and snowy January and February.
Do we know any of the teams?
You’ve probably heard of BATE Borisov. They’re the only Belarusian team to qualify for the Group stages of the UEFA Champions League and have victories over big boys like Arsenal, Roma and Athletic Bilbao. BATE won 13 titles in a row until they were unseated last year by Dinamo Brest.
Speaking of which
BATE Borisov is a small town team that has done great things. BATE, which stands for Borisov Automobile & Tractor Electronics is the most successful club in Belarus.
BATE have won 15 titles, including 13 of the last 14. Their most famous homegrown player was Alexander Hleb, who also played for Stuttgart, Arsenal and Barcelona.
The Two Dinamos
Dinamo Brest are the team that ended BATE’s run last year. It was the club’s first ever title. Apparently they have a notorious group of right-wing ultras called the Blue & White Devils.
Dinamo Minsk (finished 4th last year) also have a fanatical ultra group, called the Blue & White Will. Dinamo have a large supporter base and are the only Belarussian team to have played in the old Soviet Top League.
A few Tongue Twisters
Shakhtyor Soligorsk finished 3rd last season. They’re known as the Miners or the Moles but they may as well be called the Bridesmaids, having won the league once but finished runners-up six times.
FC Vitebsk finished 13th last year and while they’ve gone through seven names changes, this one’s still kinda tough to pronounce.
Slavia Mozyr – which is in the city of Mazyr, not Mozyr, finished 8th last season. They were relegated in 2005 and only survived through a merger with ZLin Gomel. Yes, that ZLin Gomel.
FC Smolevichi are a promoted side that finished second in the Second League last season. Could call them FC Second.
Buy 3, get 1 Free
Belshina Brobruisk are a promoted side that won the Second League last year. Belshina is a tyre manufacturer.
No jokes please
FC Slutsk – c’mon, you’re better than that – finished 11th last season, are based in the city of Slutsk and used to go by the very catchy name of Slutsksakhar Slutsk.
For all your earthmoving needs
Torpedo-BelAZ Zhodino, who finished 6th last season are sponsored by BelAZ, a manufacturer of earthmoving equipment. Be sure to hit up BelAZ if you’re in Belarus and have a need for the world’s largest dump truck.
The Minsk Derbies
In addition to Dinamo Minsk, you’ve got Isloch Minsk Raion (finished 5th last year), FC Minsk (finished 9th) who took over the licence that belonged to Smena Minsk for those of you asking and Energetik-BGU Minsk (finished 12th). BGU stands for ‘Belarusian State University’ and the club has the smallest stadium in the league, with a capacity of 1,500.
Although Neman Grodno (finished 10th last year) sounds like a Belarusian comedian, it’s a club based in the city of Grodno and like Essendon or the Brisbane Lions, they were a power in the early 2000’s.
FC Gorodeya, who finished 7th, was founded in 2004 as a futsal club, while Rukh Brest finished 3rd in the Second League last year and won a promotion playoff into the big show.
We are currently offering markets on the Belarusian Premier League. Click here for this week’s markets and we will be bringing you previews and updates each week…as long as they keep playing.