At a time when sports world and industry is starving due to the menace of COVID-19 global pandemic, a non-descript league in the erstwhile Soviet Union nation has started thriving – sportingly and financially.
Loss of the sports world has become the gain of the Belarusian Premier League football competition, which started on March 23. The novel Coronavirus is becoming a blessing in disguise for the league, which otherwise would struggle to find a considerable mention on the global football map.
The unheralded teams and their talent are now getting the attention of the sports world, broadcast and other commercial deals are raining.
Belarusian football has reportedly seen an enormous rise in interest, not just in the country but also from abroad. Russia’s Match and Ukraine’s Futbol 1 TV companies have acquired the rights to broadcast the Belarusian Premier League until the end of the season, the first time in history anyone from outside Belarus has done so.
In India, the league streamed live on the FanCode app. The Belarus Football Federation has reportedly got broadcasting deals with sports networks in 10 countries.
Federation spokesman Alexander Aleinik has described it as an “unprecedented situation”. The broadcasters are also upbeat with the standard of the games in the league as it also attracts many Ukrainian players.
Belarus though is ignoring the COVID-19 threat even as the country so far has got has so far reported 94 Coronavirus cases. There are still 62 active positive COVID-19 patients while 32 have cured.
The leading Belarussian club Dinamo Minsk is also gaining in popularity as its fan base has registered a steep rise.
“All of us can benefit from it, not just the players but Belarusian football as a whole. I’m happy to be playing while most of my colleagues around the world are killing time sitting at home. But once again, our health and the health of our families and loved ones is still above everything,” a Belarussian football is reported by media as saying.
“The funny thing about it all is that Belarusian fans have started to watch our football,” Yuri Dovnar, head of Pressball and one of the top journalists in the country, told ESPN. “Of course, everyone was watching English Premier League or Spain’s La Liga, which you can do for free in Belarus, and didn’t pay much attention to the local game, especially when kick-off times clashed. Now it’s all changed and our football surely benefits from it.”
The country has not stopped other sports activities as local hockey games are also going on.