A guide on who to support in the 2020 Belarusian Premier League
Football is suspended almost everywhere, but the Belarusian Premier League has decided to plough on. So which team should you support?
Against the advice of the world’s health experts, the Belarusian Premier League has decided it can play its way through the coronavirus.
And while we certainly don’t condone that decision, we’re curious about how the league will turn out. The new season is currently approaching its third weekend, with the nation’s most successful team, BATE, still on zero points.
With no other teams on the pitch, why not temporarily support a Belarusian club?
Here’s a brief guide to who you might side with over the long, arduous, definitely-not-going-to-be-abandoned campaign as we all desperately search for a sportsbook to take our bets.
2019 position: 2nd
For fans of: Arsenal, glory hunting, automobiles, tractors
As the most successful club in the history of the Belarusian Premier League, BATE (Borisov Automobile and Tractor Electronics) are a fine gateway into Belarusian football.
Former Arsenal midfielder Alexandr Hleb played for them over five separate spells, the last of which ended in 2019, shortly after he faced the Gunners in the Europa League.
Between 2005 and 2018, BATE won 13 league titles in a row, finally surrendering their crown last season.
They’ve lost their first two games of 2020. Unthinkable!
2019 position: (1st, second tier)
For fans of: a challenge
One of three newly-promoted sides, FC Belshina Bobruisk won the Premier League once, in 2001, when defender Aleksandr Sednev top-scored with 10 goals.
This year, they’ll be pinning some of their survival hopes on new signing Leanid Kovel, a striker with 17 caps and three goals for the Belarus national team.
If you fancy the challenge of supporting an underdog, get yourself a stylish Belshina beer glass for 12.50 Belarusian Rubles (£3.90).
2019 position: 1st
For fans of: Man City, toilet humour
Dinamo Brest are the reigning champions of Belarus, having ended BATE’s absurd winning streak last year.
They play in sky blue, and one of their strikers is former Ukraine international Artem Milevskiy — once tipped as the successor to Andriy Shevchenko.
Between 1972 and 1976, the club were officially named “Bug Brest”.
2019 position: 4th
For fans of: Barcelona, PSG, bottlers
The second most successful team in Belarusian Premier League history, Dinamo Minsk previously played in the Soviet Top League, where they won one title, in 1982.
In the 2018-19 Europa League, Dinamo somehow blew a 4-0 first-leg lead against Zenit Saint Petersburg, losing the second leg 8-1 after extra time.
2019 position: 12th
For fans of: Chelsea, Arsenal, teenagers, academia
Founded in 1996 as part of the Belarusian State University, FC Energetik-BGU Minsk are appropriately nicknamed “the Students”.
Their squad has an average age of just 23 years and three months, the youngest in the league. They also had the league’s top scorer last season, 20-year-old Ilya Shkurin, but he’s since moved to CSKA Moscow.
2019 position: 7th:
For fans of: sugar, sweets, Derby
FC Gorodeya, who play in a tiny settlement near Minsk, were originally the football team of a sugar mill. They were thus nicknamed “the Sugar Bowls” and focused their early efforts on futsal.
They made it to the Premier League in 2015, but they’re still owned by the sugar mill, which advertises its delicious-looking products on the club website.
Sadly, they’re currently bottom of the league and the only team yet to score a goal.
2019 position: 5th
For fans of: Mali
FC Isloch Minsk Raion played their first top-flight season in 2016 and have since cemented their place in the top flight. They had an especially good 2019, finishing 5th and reaching the semi-finals of the Belarusian Cup.
Getting the shirt? You’ll want #99, Momo Yansane on the back. The 22-year-old Malian scored 11 times last year.
2019 position: 9th
For fans of: FC United of Manchester
FC Minsk don’t have the most creative name, but they won the Belarusian Cup in 2013.
They sit top after two games of the current season, partly thanks to 29-year-old forward Vladimir Khvashchinski, who has two goals and an assist.
2019 position: 10th
For fans of: Norwich
FC Neman Grodno are one of Belarus’ oldest teams, having played in the Soviet league system for three decades before its dissolution.
They play in yellow and green, and their crest depicts a deer with a crucifix on its head. If that sounds like your thing, be sure to catch their game against Shakhtjor Soligorsk this Saturday.
2019 position: 3rd (second tier)
For fans of: multiculturalism
Founded in 2016, FC Rukh Brest’s squad contains a Brazilian, a Nigerian, two Ukrainians, a Kazakhstani, a Senegalese and a Moldovan.
They’re managed by Aleksandr Sednev, that defender who helped Belshina win the league in 2001.
Good luck to them.
2019 position: 3rd
For fans of: Newcastle, Serbia, silver medals
Another club to have played in the Soviet divisions, FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk won the Premier League once, in 2005, and since then have finished runner up to BATE on six occasions.
They’re the holders of the Belarusian Cup.
They’ve lost their best two goalscorers from last year, but they’re the league’s biggest spenders this time out, bringing in two Serbians — Igor Ivanovic and Zarija Lambulic — for a combined €900,000.
2019 position: 8th
For fans of: n/a
Winners of the league in 1996 and 2000, FC Slavia Mozyr have a (white) Belarusian midfielder called Gleb Shevchenko who wears #99 and has dreadlocks.
Don’t support them.
2019 position: 11th
For fans of: banter, old age
There’s one obvious reason why you’ll end up supporting FC Slutsk, buying the shirt of FC Slutsk and telling all your mates about FC Slutsk over Houseparty.
That’s right: their crest is a winged horse.
But if you needed another reason, they’ve got two of the league’s longest-serving players — keeper Ilya Branovets (12 years) and winger Igor Bobko (10 years) — as well as the oldest player to feature in the league so far this season: keeper Boris Pankratov, 37.
2019 position: 2nd (second tier)
For fans of: intimacy
Credit FC Smolevichi for having a badge more befitting a legal firm than a football club.
Along with league legends BATE, they’re one of five teams to have lost both of their first two matches this season.
They’ve also got one of the smallest stadiums in the league, inviting up to 1,600 spectators at the Ozyorny Stadium. Join them there once this all blows over?
2019 position: 6th
For fans of: heavy machinery
FC Torpedo-BelAZ Zhodino are sponsored by BelAZ, a manufacturer of haulage and earthmoving equipment, putting them in a similar category to BATE.
Unlike BATE, however, Torpedo-BelAZ don’t have much of a trophy cabinet, having won the Belarusian Cup once in 2016.
2019 position: 13th
For fans of: merch
Once known as Red Flag Vitebsk in the Soviet leagues, FC Vitebsk probably won’t win the Premier League this year.
On the plus side, you can buy yourself a Vitebsk-branded poncho that comes in a little plastic ball.