Belarusian Premier League keeps playing soccer – ‘It’s like no one cares’ about coronavirus
Former Arsenal and Barcelona star Alexander Hleb wonders if some of soccer’s greatest stars will come play in his native country for the Belarusian Premier League.
As the rest of the world is on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, Belarus remains “the only place in Europe you can play football.”
“In Belarus, it’s like no one cares (about coronavirus). It’s incredible,” Hleb, who retired in 2019, told The Sun and Fox Sports Australia. “All the world now watches the Belarusian league. Everybody should go to their television and see us.
“When the NHL closed the season, a lot of ice hockey players went to Russia to play. Maybe Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo might come to the Belarus league to continue. You know?”
Europe’s UEFA Champions League has suspended play like so many major sports leagues around the world, including American leagues such as the NBA, MLS, NHL, MLB and NCAA. Belarus, a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, is the last European nation on the continent still playing.
“The coronavirus has closed the Champions League and the Europa League,” Hleb said. “This is good, because you have to try and stop (the coronavirus pandemic). UEFA have done the right thing. … It’s very difficult to explain our country. All leagues have closed but we don’t seem to think it’s a problem. Why? I don’t know. Everybody’s been training as normal, getting ready for the new season. They just don’t care.”
Hleb, a longtime member of the Belarusian national team who played last season for the Belarusian Premier League’s Isloch Minsk Raion, said he’s noticed a trickle down from that mindset.
“Everybody here knows what’s happened to Italy and Spain. It doesn’t look good,” Hleb said. “But in our country, people in the presidential administration believe it’s not as extreme as the news says. … A lot of young people and students here think like this. I’m keeping at home with my family. But when I go out, the streets and restaurants are still busy.
“Maybe in one week or two weeks we will stop here. Maybe our President is just waiting to see what happens with the virus.”