‘We are aware someone is lying to us’: Belarus ultras call for FOOTBALL BOYCOTT due to covid-19
FK Neman Grodno fans have announced a boycott of their team's home and away matches in the Belarus Premier League - Europe's only operating football league - due to the covid-19 pandemic, calling on fellow ultras to follow suit.
Belarus’ ‘Vysheyshaya Liga’ (Premier League) remains the only league in Europe not to have postponed fixtures due to the coronavirus pandemic and still operate a full calendar of matches in the country, where 304 people have been infected by the disease, resulting in 4 recorded deaths.
Neman ultras say they will now boycott their team's matches and have implored fellow fan movements all over the country to take the “difficult decision” to “leave their teams without their support” in the interest of preserving health.
“We are aware that someone is lying to us, and because of the difficult epidemical situation in the country we will stop attending the home and away matches of our team,” Neman fanatics were quoted as saying on Belarusian sports portal sport.tut.by.
“This is not an easy decision, it is difficult for us to leave the team without support, but now the most important thing is the health of our people. We call on all fan movements of Belarus to do the same.
“Let’s stay at home, reduce the risks of spreading coronavirus, protect ourselves and our loved ones.”
The next scheduled game for Neman, named after the major Eastern European river which flows through the historic city, is a 318 km trip from Grodno in the extreme west near the Polish and Lithuanian border to Soligorsk to face FC Shakhtyor on Saturday.
The Belarusian Football Federation (ABFF) has come under intense scrutiny for continuing matches despite measures put in place by every other league on the continent to combat the spread of the disease, which has infected over 1 million people and resulted in over 50,000 deaths worldwide.
That was conpounded by the words of former Arsenal and Barcelona star Alexander Hleb, who gave an interview on the situation to Western media in which he said "no one cares" about the virus in his home country.
Nevertheless, a byproduct of Belarus' circumvention of self-isolation rules has seen forlorn football fans stuck in quarantine in other countries develop an unlikely interest in Belarus’ top flight in the absence of any live sport, flocking to choose a team to support to provide their football fix.
As a result English-language Twitter fan accounts for Belarusian top flight clubs have sprung up with a joining date of March 2020, to provide the influx of new foreign fans with info and updates on their new favorite team.
FK Slutsk became particularly popular among Western fans for their amusing name, which sparked talk of a deal with adult entertainment giants Pornhub and spawning a group of new fans naming themselves 'The Sluts'.Also on rt.com 'The Sluts' nickname? Pornhub shirt sponsor? - The story of FK Slutsk, football's unlikely Belarusian heroes
Last weekend’s Minsk derby between FC and Dinamo was the pick of the bunch in Belarus, and the league’s third round of matches is scheduled to kick off on Friday.
However, the same day as Neman’s Ultras’ words were published, Belarus’ football chiefs took the measure of canceling all junior matches, which makes it all the more odd that adult professional matches remain unaffected.
❗️@BelFootFeder suspends all junior matches and the junior football championships of the Republic of Belarus until further notice. The ABFF also postpones the start of the Youth Championship of the Republic of Belarus among girls until further notice. https://t.co/V1FuZJU6LG— Neman Grodno UK (@FansNeman) April 3, 2020
“The ABFF suspends the matches of the junior and junior football championships of the Republic of Belarus until further notice. The ABFF also postpones the start of the Youth Championship of the Republic of Belarus among girls until further notice,” the association tweeted.
Clubs have been advertising their upcoming games, their enthusiasm for football seemingly unaffected by the current global crisis and perhaps spurred on by Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko's outright denial of the virus’ presence in the country despite recorded instances of infection and death and lax attitude toward preventative measures.
Recently Lukashenko said cold temperatures were the best way to fend off the virus, speaking to reporters while taking a break from playing in an ice hockey match.Also on rt.com What coronavirus? Fans pack stadium to watch Minsk derby as Belarus remains lone league riding out Covid-19 storm