🇧🇾 Belarus 🇧🇾
The last dictatorship in Europe and the star country of Football Manager, the Belarusian championship was created in 1992 and is largely dominated by two clubs, BATE Borisov and Dinamo Minsk.
The sixteen best teams meet twice within the Belarusian championship. At the end of the 30 matches, the 1st is crowned champion and qualifies for the Champions League. The 2nd, 3rd and the winner of the Belarusian Cup go to the Europa League. At the bottom of the ranking, the last two are relegated to the second division. The 14th plays a play-off match against the 3rd of the second division in a return match.
The origins of football in Belarus date back to 1910, when the country’s first club, aptly named the First Gymnasium Football Team, was founded in the southeastern city of Gomel. The sport soon spread to the capital Minsk as well as to major provincial cities such as Borisov and Mogilev, giving rise to the Belarusian championship in 1922. That same year, the country became part of the USSR.
FC Dinamo Minsk, soon to be the country’s biggest club, was founded the following year, in 1923. Dinamo took part in Soviet football from 1936 onwards and in 1982 became the only Belarusian club to win the Soviet First Division. This success came after ten years of good results for the capital club, which had notably shone in UEFA competitions. Dinamo had reached the quarter-finals of the European Champion Clubs’ Cup (1983/84), the UEFA Cup (1984/85) and the European Cup Winners’ Cup (1987/88).
The Belarusian Football Federation (BFF) was founded on 21 November 1989, but it was not until after the implosion of the USSR in 1991 that the independent development of football began.
Football is now one of the most popular sports in the country and has a central place in physical education programmes. More than 25,000 people are involved in football, a figure that includes the 840 professional coaches responsible for training. The football infrastructure includes no less than 200 stadiums (the largest, the Dinamo Minsk metropolitan stadium, has a capacity of 40,000 spectators), as well as 1,700 fields. More than 1,000 active referees are affiliated to the BFF. The championship runs from spring to autumn.
Following the fall of the USSR, Dinamo Minsk took over, winning five consecutive Premier League titles. But between 1995 and 2006, the championship went to a different club each season, with FC Dnepr-Transmash Mogilev, FC BATE Borisov, FC Slavia-Mozyr, FC Belshina Bobruisk, FC Gomel and FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk all winning. Then BATE Borisov took over, winning eight titles in a row and reaching the group stage of the UEFA Champions League in 2008 and twice more thereafter.
The national team made its official debut in Minsk on 28 October 1992: a 1-1 draw against another Soviet republic, Ukraine. The team’s progress was helped by the appointment of Eduard Malofeev, who was in the USSR‘s 1966 FIFA World Cup fourth-place squad and was the coach who led Dinamo Minsk to that Soviet crown in 1982. He led the team in the early 2000s before German coach Bernd Stange took over at the end of that decade.
Belarus failed to shine in the 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cup qualifiers but narrowly missed out on a play-off place at the 2002 edition in Korea and Japan. The country’s best performances came in UEFA European Championship qualifying, beating the Netherlands at home in the EURO 96 qualifying round, taking four points against France in the 2012 campaign and drawing twice against Italy and once against Denmark in the UEFA EURO 2000 qualifying round.