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AFP
March 29, 2020

­Belarus football league continues

Sports

AFP
March 29, 2020

MINSK, BELARUS: As the rest of Europe shuts up shop to combat the new coronavirus, Belarus’ football league plays on.

Despite being at the door of a Europe grappling with the deadly COVID-19, life goes on here more or less unchecked.

The Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has dismissed the global health crisis as a “psychosis”, and refuses to follow the example of much of the globe by imposing a lockdown.

With less than 100 positive cases and no deaths in Belarus, Lukashenko this week suggested “there shouldn’t be any panic” over the virus.

He encouraged his citizens to work on the land. “There, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone,” suggested the straight-talking former collective farm director who assumed power in 1994.

A rare spotlight has been shone on the humble “Vysshaya Liga”, the Belarus first division.

Russian public television channel Match TV has bought the rights to screen its matches. And former Belarus star Alexander Hleb suggested in the German press that it could be lit up by the arrivals of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

“We’ve taken all the measures recommended by the Sports Ministry. All those who are in contact with fans...are supplied with gloves,” Belarus football federation spokesman Alexsandr Aleinik told AFP.

Crowds are well down though, by half last week compared to the week before, “enabling fans to distance themselves in the stands”, said Aleinik. Since Tuesday, however, there has been a shift in tone from the top.