Belarus

Capital: Minsk
Population: 10.3 million
Currency: Belorussian Rouble
Official Language: Belorussian and Russian
Borders: Lativa (North), Russia (North/East), Ukraine (South), Poland (South/West), Lithuania (West)
GNP per Capita: $2,150 (84th in world)
Main Airport: Minsk International – Minsk

Formally known as White Russia due to the harsh winter temperatures.  It was one of the last states to give up Soviet rule as it was unable to cope without its lord and master.  The south of the country was deeply affected by the Chornobyl disaster in 1986 in neighbouring Ukraine.  Tourism still hasn’t reached the country and entry restrictions still remain.

The Belarusian Premier League or the Vysshaya Liga is the top division of professional football in Belarus. There are 14 teams in the competition. At the end of the season two teams get relegated in Belarusian First League and get replaced with two top First League teams. It is organized by Belarusian Football Federation.

FC BATE are the current Belarusian Premier League champions.

History
Belarusian Premier League was organized in 1992. In it’s earliest years it was dominated by FC Dinamo Minsk, which won the league 5 times in a row. Of late however the league has been more evenly fought with the four main teams being FC Dinamo Minsk, FC BATE, FC MTZ-RIPO and FC Shakhtyor.

Season Champions
1992 FC Dinamo Minsk
1992-1993 FC Dinamo Minsk
1993-1994 FC Dinamo Minsk
1994-1995 FC Dinamo Minsk
1995 FC Dinamo Minsk
1996 FC MPKC
1997 FC Dinamo Minsk
1998 FC Dnepr-Transmash
1999 FC BATE
2000 FC Slavia
2001 FC Belshina
2002 FC BATE
2003 FC Gomel
2004 FC Dinamo Minsk
2005 FC Shakhtyor
2006 FC BATE
2007 FC BATE
2008 FC BATE
2009 FC BATE

Premier League in 2009
In 2009 the Belarusian Premier League will consist of the following 16 teams and the league was expanded from 14 teams to 16 teams, with FC Minsk being relegated, who subsequently won the 2nd division with ease and will replace Daryda in 2009.

Overall – 2009 Season (2008 in brackets)
Team
1 (1) BATE Borisov                 62
2 (2) Dinamo Minsk                50
3 (9)  Dnepr Mogilev              40

Relegated:-

FC Smorgon, FC Gomel and Granit Mikashevchi

DETAILS ON FIXTURES FOR THE FORTHCOMING SEASON CAN BE FOUND HERE.

FC BATE – Reigning Belarussian champions who are based in the city of Borisov.  Their stadium is the intimate Horodskiy Stadium which holds 5,500 fans. They will be competing in the Champions League Group Stages for the first time ever this season, drawn in a group along with Real Madrid, Juventus and Zenit St Petersburg in what can only be described as the ultimate group of death.

FC Darida – Small club from Kuntsaushchyna.  They play in the newly constructed Darida Stadium which seats 6,000 fans but were relegated at the end of the 2008 season.

FC Dinamo Brest – Cup winners in 2007, Dinamo play in the small town of Brest.  Their 10,168 Dinamo Stadium is one of the biggest in the country. Pictured left.

FC Dinamo Minsk – Based in the capital Minsk.  They play at the national stadium.  More details can be found by clicking her

FC Dnepr Transmash Mahilyow – Located in the eastern city of Mahilyow close to the Russian border.  Their stadium, the Spartak holds 6,800 spectators.

FC Gomel – League champions in 2003, and finished in 5th place in 2006.  They play at the Central Stadion in Gomel which is a brand new 14,000 seater arena.

Hranit Mikashevichy – Promoted to the top league in 2008.  Located in the small town of Mikashevichy.  Their stadium holds 3,500.

FK Vitebsk – Located in the town of Vitebsk in the Tsentral’nyi Sportkompleks which is a 8,300 seater stadium.

FC Minsk – Potentially relegated from the top league in 2007 but will be back for the 2009 season.  They play at the Tarpeda Stadion in Minsk which holds 7,000.  More details can be found by clicking here.

FC MTZ-RIPO – Club with a good European pedigree, they finished in 3rd place in 2006.  They play at the Traktor Stadium in Minsk which holds 17,600,Pictured left. More details can be found here.

FC Naftan – Based in the small town of Navapolatsk at the Atlant Stadium which holds 4,500.

FC Neman – With one single cup win to their name, FC Neman are one of the smallest teams in the league.  They are based in Grodno and play in the Nema Stadium which holds 6,000.

FC Savit Mahilyou – Promoted at the end of last season to renew their rivally with inter city rivals FC Dnper.

FC Shakhtyor – Champions in 2005, the club are based in Salihorsk and play at the Shakhtsyor Stadium which holds 3,000.

FC Smarhon – Small club that play home games in the 3,000 capacity Junost stadium in Smarhon.

FC Torpedo Zhodino – Another small club located in Zhodino.  They play at the Torpedo stadium which holds 3,000.

The Dinamo Stadium – Dynamo Mink – 41,040 All Seater Stadium

About the Dinamo Stadion
The national stadium of Belarus is a typical Soviet affair. Big imposing floodlights towering over an open air bowl of a multi-purpose stadium. What that basically translates to is a visitor experience that is unpleasant to say the least. This means that for 10 months of the year it is either too wet, too cold or too hot to really enjoy a game in the open air seats. Come spring time and it is a wonderful venue though! The presence of the athletics track is an irritation – especially if you are in the stands behind the goals where the height of the converted terracing means views are poor.

The two tiered main stand does offer some better views, and is worth the extra few roubles for a seat here if you can. During the qualifying tournament for Euro 2008 the national team averaged 21,000 for the games played in Minsk which is almost ten times the average attendance when Dinamo are at home meaning that you should have no problems at all getting in to see a ticket here.

The stadium was originally built in the early 1930’s and opened in 1934 with a capacity of over 50,000. It was badly damaged during the conflict in the 1950’s and was completely re-constructed before opening again in 1954. The stadium went through a major re-construction and redevelopment programme in the late 1970’s in time for it to be a major venue in the 1980’s Summer Olympics football tournament. Whilst the stadium did not host the most attractive matches, it provided enough interest to sell out the quarter final match between Yugoslavia and Algeria.

Who plays there?
The Dinamo Stadion is currently home to the National team as well as Belaruses most famous club – Dinamo Minsk. Dinamo are the only club from the state of Belarus to have played in the Soviet Top League – and actually winning the title in 1982. They played the following season in the European Cup for the first time, reaching the quarter finals before they lost 2-1 on aggregate to Dinamo Bucharest.

Since the fall of the Soviet empire the team have had limited success in the newly formed national league. They won the first six Belarusian Premier Leagues – a similar situation to the position of Dynamo Kiev and Skonto Riga in Ukraine and Latvia respectively. However, as with many other Dinamo teams (teams controlled by the State Police), since the fall of communist rule, funding has become more and more difficult to get hold of and so performances on the pitch have declined.

Since 1997 the club have won one single championship in 2004, although they also won the Belarusian Cup in 2003 beating FC Lakamatyu Minsk 2-0. Although they finished runners up in the league to FC Bate, they look painfully short of talent on the field under the leadership of Peter Kachuro. The current squad is a mixture of young Belarusians and the more and more common smattering of 2nd rate Brazilians and Africans.

The national team have not yet made an impression on European football. Their most famous result ever was actually against England B in Reading when they won 2-1. Their first ever competitive international was on the 7th September 1994 when they lost 1-0 in Oslo to Norway. They did win their first home game though against Luxembourg 2-0. They finished bottom of the next few qualifying tournaments but in 2006 they nearly upset the apple cart, losing their last game away in Cardiff to Wales which if they would have won they would have qualified for the Play offs at the expense of Ukraine. Under the captaincy of Arsenal’s Alexander Hleb the team struggled in a tough group for Euro 2008, finishing fourth in the end behind Romania, Netherlands and Bulgaria.

How to get there
The stadium is no more than a 5 minute walk north east of the main station. Simply exit the station and follow Ульяновская to the ground. From the Palast de Republik simply head south down Ул ленина – approximately a 10 minute walk.

Getting a ticket
It has been along time since a game at the Dinamo stadium sold out. During qualifying for Euro 2008 they averaged just over 20,000. Any empty seats in the stadium tend to be filled up with the Belarusian army, giving the impression that the stands are fuller than they really are. Tickets for home internationals are sold via the Belarusian website at http://www.bff.by. Tickets for Dinamo Minsk games are sold from the small cabins around the stadium – with an average attendance of under 2,000 you will have no problems getting a ticket. Tickets for the upper tier of the main stand cost 5000BYB.

Getting around
The Minsk metro runs from 5.30am to 1am daily, and offers regular safe trains, in a network similar in design to Moscow. Fares are 600BYB for a single journey. The network has two lines, running across the city with 25 stations. The two lines cross at Oktyabr’skaya. To complement the rest of the network there is an extensive route map of buses and trams – with single tickets also 600BYB.

Nearest Airport – Minsk International (MSQ)
Telephone: +375 17 279 14 36
Website: http://www.airport.by

Minsk airport is the main point of transit within Belarus. It was opened in 1982, and expanded in 1989. The airport is served direct from the UK by Belavia from London Gatwick and Manchester, as well as indirectly via Prague and Paris amongst others. The airport is around 40 km from the city centre, and local transport is provided by shuttle buses (check with your hotel if they offer one), mini buses which cost around €1 and taxis. Buses terminate at the Central Bus Terminal next to the railway station. Avoid the Taxi sharks that congregate in the arrivals halls and head instead for the ranks outside. The standard fare into the city should be $50.

You will also need to ensure you have your visa sorted before you arrive. The process is very similar to Russia where you will need to obtain an appropriate letter of invitation first and then take your application to the Belarusian Embassy at 6 Kensington Court London W8. The current price for a 2 day Tourist visa is $60. There are dozens of companies such as http://www.waytorussia.com who can help fasttracking this process.

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