Wednesday, June 29

Dissidents from Belarus denounce that Lukashenko uses football as a “propaganda weapon”


The complainants have submitted a report to UEFA detailing the abuses and calling on the body to take action against the local association.

They accuse of favorable treatment towards Dinamo de Mink to the detriment of FC Bate Borísov.

Slogans to referees before key-matches, favoritism towards clubs headed by prominent members of the Aleksándr Lukashenko, pressure players to sign letters of support Y manifestos in favor of the Government and the authorities, ostracism to those footballers and members of the federation who make critical public statements or have attended opposition demonstrations … All these accusations have been included in a report prepared by prominent personalities from the world of football in Belarus who have fled the country due to the climate of repression that prevailed after the controversial 2020 presidential elections. The document demands that the European Union of Football Associations (UEFA) to adopt sanctions against this state of affairs, including the possibility of suspending the participation of the small ex-Soviet republic in the international competitions.

Andréi Chepa, a man who for years has headed the body of the federation that manages arbitrations before resigning his post and settling in Poland last August, claims to know what he is talking about and points an accusing finger at Vladimir Vazanov, President of the Belarusian Football Federation, and Yuri vergueinchik (vice president) of serious abuse. “They entrusted me to talk to the referees so that they, let’s put it like this, were not wrong against Dinamo Minsk; in favor of Dinamo Minsk it was possible to make mistakes, against Dinamo not …”, he details sarcastically. “This happened every Monday, every Tuesday, when we valued the arbitrations,” he complains over the phone from Warsaw. “The arbitration had to be in favor of Dinamo and against the defeats Borisov“, keep going.

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Everything seems to indicate that for the current Belarusian authorities, the team from the city of Borisov, the winner for 13 years followed by the national league, a squad that has played up to five times in the group stage of the Champions League and to face Barça, it has become something similar to what the Catalan team meant during the Franco dictatorship. Mikhail Zalevskii, former director general of the club, also exiled, tries to explain why: “It all has to do with the structure of football in Belarus; there are no private clubs, they all depend on government institutions, an inheritance from the USSR, Dynamo Minsk is linked to the Belarusian Sports and Physical-Cultural Society, a pro-government organization, the Shakter of Soligorsk, to the state mining company ‘Belaruskali’ “.

Independent budget

However, Bate, with his 13 leagues and his permanent participation in European competitions, he had managed to “break this scheme and be independent” from the authorities, indicates Zalevskii from Kiev. “Participating for 13 years in European tournaments allowed us to earn a lot of money, have our budget, and not depend on government funding.” The favoritism towards Dinamo, the main capital team, to the detriment of Bate even has a name of its own: the Minister of Sports, Sergei Kovalchuk. “He personally supervises this team,” Chepa denounces.

In the text sent to UEFA they also denounce intimidating practices towards footballers or officials of state sports structures with oppositional sympathies, an attitude typical of a dictatorial regime and currently unthinkable throughout the European continent. Ilia Shurin played in the CSKA Moscow when in August 2020 the controversy broke out around the presidential elections, described by the opposition as “fraudulent”. “They called him to the national team, and he refused to play with the national team while Lukashenko continued to be president; from that moment, they went to hunt him down and Vazanov wanted to send him to military service,” accuses Chepa, who remembers that for the selected players there is the dispensation of the military. The footballer has left Russia, a close ally of Lukashenko, has settled in Ukraine and plays in the Dynamo of Kiev. He cannot return to his country, because he knows that “from the first minute, they will send him to the Army and they will not let him leave again,” concludes the former Belarusian referee chief.

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Deteriorated environment

The atmosphere around football, one of the most popular sports of the small Slavic nation along with the ice Hockey, It has been deteriorated a lot. The public hardly goes to the games, after the presidents of the fan associations of most of the First Division clubs called for a boycott and declared that they would not go to the stadiums to see their favorite teams. “Interest in football has fallen, due to the manipulation of the results and the repression against athletes”, summarizes Zalevskii. The reason, according to the former director of Bate, is only one: “The basic principles of the Olympic movement, UEFA and FIFA are being violated.”


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