The players of HC Dinamo Minsk were encouraged to show a spectacular and effective play during a meeting with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko on 25 August.
At first the head of state told the players and coaching staff of the hockey club about the reasons of the meeting. “It has nothing to do with your disappointing start in the KHL’s new season. I believe you have already analyzed the game. I have no concerns about it yet. I understand that you have gathered recently. We can say that the pre-season did not go well due to different reasons. So we will be waiting for great games from you. I think that, with your current physical form, you will be able to show your best in the coming games. At least, you have everything necessary for it,” said the President.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, a month and a half ago, when the team was being formed, he promised the coaches of the club to find time for such a meeting. Due to different circumstances the meeting coincided with the day of the game. The President expressed confidence that the meeting at the National Olympic Committee will not affect the quality of the forthcoming game.
The head of state mentioned the role that ice hockey plays in the system of the Belarusian sport. “I would like you to understand that this is not because I play hockey. If we talk about my sporting faith, I am not an ice hockey player. I am actually a footballer. The destiny wanted other things from me. After getting a knee injury, I took up ice hockey,” the Belarusian leader said.
He said that he played ice hockey as a child. “We made a rink on the river and played hockey there. At first I played in the net. As I grew older, I became a forward. Then I switched to football and got an injury,” Alexander Lukashenko recalled. “I decided to return to hockey in order to get children interested in the sport. In fact, we did some progress in the area,” he added.
The head of state believes that ice hockey is loved by Belarusians because it is a team game. “Ice hockey is a passion, the sport for men, although women have already started playing it as well. Ice hockey is a great ideology. Sport in general is the ideology. It is difficult to think of any bigger ideological events than sport. Sports competitions are watched by billions all over the world. If the team plays well and wins, there is no need in encouraging people. Victories keep people’s spirits up. In the Soviet times they noticed that the labor productivity went up after Soviet athletes won. This is the essence of the sport,” the President said.
Everyone understands that big money is invested in ice hockey, Alexander Lukashenko said. “The biggest sums are injected into HC Dinamo Minsk. As far as I know, the sponsors of the club (those who are ready to give their own money) are few. The investment goes mainly from the budget. Today we are thinking over where to take this money from in order to provide the team with everything necessary and avoid the situation we had at the end of the previous season when the players did not get their salaries in time,” he said.
“Money, actually, is not the main thing here. The main thing is people, fans who come to see your games. I do not think I need to tell you about the mood your fans have when they leave the arena when you lose. It is even worse when you do not show a good play, when you give up,” the President said.
Alexander Lukashenko said that sport is not about competition only. Sport has turned into politics. “Whether you want it or not, you are becoming very strong political players. This is what I wanted to tell you. I ask you to respect your fans. You cannot let them down,” the Belarusian leader said.
“We need commitment from you. Do not be afraid to play, take a shot. The Belarusian people and I are waiting for a good team play from you. Everything depends on you. If you play well, win and make your fans happy, you will have the same attitude from me in return. The team will get everything if you play well, fulfill your promises,” the head of state said.
“For the time being, we have no team, unfortunately. The head coach shares this opinion. No team, no team play so far. There are objective and subjective reasons for this. I cannot say that you have no talent or that you cannot play. Your game is rough. You started the game poorly, allowed many penalties. Having netted the goal you had your moment and you showed a true game. But that was only a flash. Then due to poor discipline you allowed five goals. We know the final score. You can play, but the game is absolutely rough, there is no teamwork,” the President said.
In his view, the players were not ready psychologically. “As a colleague I would like to ask you to remember one simple truth: when you go out to play against anybody, do not look at them in awe, from bottom up (Oh, they are such great players!). They are like you. They are human beings,” the head of state noted.
“I have told this to your coaches: If you can't overplay them, then overrun them. Don't let them play. You can do it, especially the young people. Taking to the ice, you must look them in the eye, feel equal or even believe you are better. This is the psychological pressure. You are lacking this skill. Come out and play! Don't yield them a single inch,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
“I would like to convey some of my requirements to your team. This applies to anyone. The backbone of the club is the coaching staff and the players. All others should revolve around them like the planets around the Sun. There should be no extra requirements to the coaches on the part of the club's functionaries and bureaucrats,” the head of state said.
“On the ice or in locker rooms there's room for athletes and coaches only. Outsiders can be there only on the invitation of the coaches. This is the rule that must not be broken,” Alexander Lukashenko said. “I was informed that sometimes some people go out on the ice, contrary to the wishes of the coaches, and act as if they are the boss,” he said.
Another fundamental requirement is the brainstorming of the games. “This is the essence of democracy on the team. But the final decision is on the coaching staff. If they cannot agree, the head coach takes responsibility and makes the decision. I do not want to see you operate on the principle “I am the boss, you are the fool.” Players must be involved in the discussion about the problems of the game on equal terms with the coaches. This is the teamwork. Coaches will listen and decide. A player is not a silent artist. He is a partner of a coach, other players. If this requirement is not met, then you will never become a team,” the head of state said.