Belarus Continues to Play Football as COVID-19 Outbreak Halts Competition Across Europe
April 2nd, 2020 1.00pm
The outbreak of COVID-19 put an end to the national football competitions all over the world… or at least in the vast majority of the countries. One nation, however, decided to kick off the new football season without any sort of restrictions whatsoever.
The Belarusian Premier League (BPL) has become Europe’s most popular football league over the last couple of weeks, with football fans and sports bettors alike. No wonder, as it’s the only ongoing competition on the Continent, and one of the few leagues being active at the moment.
But only a couple of months ago, the BPL wasn’t so appealing to football fans outside of this former Soviet republic.
Surreal Scenes while Neighbouring Countries Go into Lockdown
As we’ve pointed out, the new season started without any restrictions, which means the stadiums are open for visitors, with no social distancing at football games. Many fear the policy of the country’s President Alexander Lukashenko is a health hazard and that it could put lives at risk.
The BPL is the only professional football league still in business at the moment, as the matches of the Australian A-League are played in front of empty stadiums. But while the Ozzies are trying to quickly end the current season before a nationwide lockdown, the BPL has just started. So far, stadiums have remained open for fans, and no precautionary measures have been taken. That may sound a bit unusual, given the fact the world is in the midst of a global outbreak.
Six matches were played last Saturday, while the local derby between FC Minsk and Dinamo Minsk was watched by more than 3,000 spectators at FC Minsk Stadium in the nation’s capital.
President Alexander Lukashenko is the man responsible for the country’s relaxed approach to a global crisis. Lukashenko stated on several occasions that the world was overreacting to the outbreak, and added the best way to keep safe was vodka and a sauna, though he didn’t recommend drinking at work.
In an interview recently published in The Times, the controversial leader explained the psychosis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak had dealt a staggering blow to economies around the world.
He advised his countrymen not to panic and told them to continue with their everyday work.
Tractors, Vodka, and Sauna
“Tractors will cure everyone“, said Lukashenko during one of his public addresses made in March.
According to him, the sauna is also one of the best measures to avoid the disease. Washing hands is also recommended, but combined with 100 millilitres of vodka on a daily basis. For many, the President is only trying to prove that the rest of the world is panicking without a reason.
Official figures state there are around 100 COVID-19 cases in the country, with only 1 recorded death. However, the real number of infected could be much higher.
Commenting on the country’s decision to start the football as if everything was “normal“, Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, General Secretary of the global football players’ union (FifPro) said such a move had been incomprehensible.
He appealed for the country’s Football Association to take cautionary measures that would protect the safety of both players on the pitch and spectators on the stands.
For the time being, the teams from Belarus are enjoying their new popularity, with officials hoping to keep the international audience once other European competitions return to their normal schedule.
Dinamo Minsk spokesperson Alexander Strok explained they were hoping all this attention would help improve the quality of the football in Belarus, as players could become more responsible.
The women’s football competition kicked off on April 1, after FC Minsk and Zvezda-BGU faced each other in the Super Cup match.
The BPL has become Europe’s most popular football league over the last couple of weeks.