Belarus takes two things very seriously, their food and football! Football is by far the most popular sport in this country. People from all strata of society either enjoy watching football or indulge themselves in the game first-hand.
Since 1910, the popularity of this sport has only seen an upward graph. Belarus is an active participant in many of the competitions organized by FIFA and UEFA. Both senior and youth teams participate in these competitions and have fared well as teams.
The three crucial leagues of the country
Belarus majorly has three significant leagues indigenous to their country. These are the Belarus Premier League, Belarusian First League, and the Belarusian Second League. The Belarus Premier League is the top tier football tournament held in the country every year.
Recently, the world saw Belarus Premier League in a new light. This was because the football League continued even after the COVID-19 pandemic led to the suspension of many other tournaments in Europe.
How did it start?
The Belarusian Premier League first originated in 1992. Around this time, Soviet Style football was very popular in Belarus. Dinamo Minsk, a football club that was started in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, dominated all football leagues in their path. They were top contenders in such leagues and were a force to be reckoned with when it came to European football tournaments.
The Belarusian Premier League started with a total of 16 teams in their first tournament. These teams included Dinamo Minsk, five teams of the lower tier Soviet League system, and finally ten teams from former competitions in Belarusian SSR First League.
Initially, the Soviet Leagues were played during the summer season. However, after the inception of the Belarus Premier League, this was changed to a European-themed winter season. This resulted in a very short first season, and no transfer of teams took place from the Belarus Premier League.
Fluctuation in the number of teams
In the succeeding years, the number of teams participating in this tournament kept fluctuating between 17 and 16. However, this was not the only fluctuation seen in the Belarus Premier League. In 1996, after careful thought and consideration, the league reverted to its original summer season schedule. This was done after the league endured terrible weather conditions during the winter months.
Dinamo Minsk dominated this tournament for the first five years since it began. From 1992 to 1995, this club won the title 5 times in a row. However, after this, a change in trend was observed where seven different teams took home the title for the next ten seasons.
These teams include BATE Borisov (1999, 2002), Slavia Mozyr (1996 who played as MPKC Mozyr, 2000), Belshina Bobruisk (2001), Dinamo Minsk (1997, 2004), Dnepr-Transmash Mogilev (1998), Gomel (2003), and Shakhtyor Soligorsk (2005).
BATE Borisov was seen overshadowing the tournament post-2006. This team ousted Dinamo Minsk off its throne and became one of the best teams in the league. BATE Borisov further went on to become the first Belarusian team to reach the group stage in UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
Belarus Premier League 2020
The coronavirus pandemic halted many sports events across the world. Almost all football tournaments were either cancelled or postponed indefinitely to fight the spread of this virus. However, the Belarus Premier League did not take either of these actions.
By March 2020, almost all European Leagues had suspended all actions except the Belarus Premier League. This was the only football league in all of Europe to continue. Their decision to remain active during this pandemic caught everyone’s eye.
This additional attention made the league a lot more popular than it was. The viewer counts shot through the roof, and the league gained audience from overseas. People from all over the world watched this football league from their homes through online streaming platforms.
Exciting as ever
The semi-finals of this year’s Belarus Cup were played between Dinamo Brest, who beat Shakhtyor Soligorsk, and Slavia Mozyr, who beat BATE. The first leg of the semi-finals took place on the 29th of April 2020.
If you are curious and wish to keep up with the best football league in Belarus, live stream the finals from your respective homes. The virus may have brought the world down to its knees, but it did not succeed in crushing the spirit of football fans everywhere.