Belarus Premier League may not be high-profile football, but it is still going despite coronavirus
The Belarusian Premier League or the Vyšejšaja Liha or the Vysheyshaya Liga (Belarusian: Вышэйшая ліга, Russian: Высшая лига, “Top League”) is the top division of professional football in Belarus, and is organized by the Belarusian Football Federation.
That’s right, the Belarusian Premier League, or Vysheyshaya Liga, has captured the imaginations of football-starved fans from around the world by playing on despite the risks of the coronavirus pandemic.
With virtually no other football being played around the world, the Belarusian league has continued apace — and fans worldwide have begun to take an interest in the competition and its clubs.
So seeing as the league appears to be set to continue, who should you support?
Who are the key characters in this little-known league? And should you favour a team because its mascot plays the accordion?
Well, in all of this situation, foreign fans are watching us.
Can you tell us where are you from and why you decided to follow the Gorodeya FC from Belarus? pic.twitter.com/QRAMSNAkKN
— ФК Городея | Gorodeya FC (@GorodeyaFC) March 31, 2020
Why is the Belarusian Premier League still on?
FIFPro, the global players union, described the continuation of the league as “frankly not comprehendible” in the face of the escalating coronavirus outbreak across Europe.
The reason the Belarusian league is charging on is due to President Alexander Lukashenko’s unique take on the threat of coronavirus in his country.
Mr Lukashenko, who has been in office since the position was created in 1994, told his countrymen at an ice hockey match in the country on Saturday, which he also played in: “It’s better to die standing on your feet than to live on your knees.”
The 65-year-old added that people should drink vodka, continue to work and visit a sauna to stay healthy.
He did clarify that people should not drink their vodka at work — although it is not recommended that you drink and visit a sauna either.
Give me some background
The league has been in existence since 1993, when Belarus gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Featuring 16 teams, who play each other home and away, the league is not known for being one of the better supported competitions in Europe, with clubs normally only attracting a couple of hundred supporters for each match.
Dinamo Minsk was the first dominant side, claiming six of the first seven Belarusian league championships but has only won the title once since 1997, despite finishing as runners up on eight occasions.
Dinamo Minsk was Belarus’s only representative in the top flight during the Soviet Union era, winning the Soviet Top League in 1982.
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