«There is no critical situation in the country. Therefore, we are continuing the championship». Uladzimir Banazaw, president of the Belarussian Football Federation, made this statement in a interview with the national TV. It’s the most direct answer why the Belarussian Premier League is the only European football competition still in action. According to the state media, the league (which started a couple of weeks ago) will go on as scheduled.
“We feel no pressure from UEFA and FIFA”, said Bazanaw. “We’re taking decisions on our own. However, we’re not saying that we’re going to play the whole championship. If there’s a critical situation in the country, we will suspend the league”.
This looks like a responsible attitude, according to facts. Belarus, a country of nearly 10 million inhabitants, has recorded only 304 COVID-19 cases and only four deaths until April 2nd. Of these, 53 have recovered and only 11 of them are hospitalized in serious condition. Belarus has an 0,4 deaths per million inhabitants, which is one of the lowest globally.
But, there’s a lot of suspicion around. Are these numbers real or the government of president Lukashenko (which is labeled as “Europe’s last dictatorship” by the Western press) is hiding the active cases and deaths? Neighboring Poland has already recorded some 3.000 cases and 57 deaths and Ukraine some 900 cases and 22 deaths.
President Lukashenko some days before advised his compatriots to drink vodka (unless they’re at work…) and visit a sauna at least twice a week to stay healthy. However, many health scientists are saying that Lukashenko is refusing to accept the new reality of the coronavirus pandemic”.
The majority of football players don’t agree with these statements, but they cannot do anything else than playing. Some of them are complaining to the media, saying that they feel in danger when being in the locker room with their teammates or visiting hotels and sports facilities for an away tie. Joao William, a defender for minor Premier League team Rukh Brest, stated that he hopes the league will be suspended in a short time.
Managers are trying to handle a bizarre situation. Apart from advices to players to wash their hands and avoid coughing on one another (!), they can’t do anything else to feel protected. It looks like they were waiting from UEFA to suspend the league and they’re disappointed from the European Association’s lack of taking initiative.
Fans are free to watch the matches live, but many of them decided to protect themselves by staying home and suspend all unnecessary activity. Official supporter clubs of Neman Grodno have taken a step beyond, as they accused the authorities of lying about the numbers of cases and deaths and advised not only their fans, but all Belarussians, not to attend matches.
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