Report on state and prospects of Belarusian football

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Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko ordered to put things to rights in sports clubs as soon as possible as he heard out a report on the state and prospects of Belarusian football on 29 February.

“I have invited you to talk about the situation unfolding in our sports community and, above all, in football. The most popular sport, the favorite sport in our country. A sport that can be played at any time of the day in Belarus and in any weather conditions,” said the head of state. “In general, if we assess our sporting achievements, they are negligible considering the investments and the overall government support for sports.”

“You receive certain preferences. It is necessary to come to grips with the situation in the near future - in the first quarter [of this year]. No gravy train for anyone anymore. Otherwise, you all will be stripped of benefits. Clubs should earn money for their managers and inner circle on their own. They should ask sponsors to give them money. So far, our state is the main sponsor,” the Belarusian leader noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that many “have started to lament” and complain about sanctions banning Belarusian athletes and teams from participating in international events. “Where are you not allowed to compete? Are you not allowed into Russia? This is the biggest sports power on our planet,” said the president. “I keep tabs on the developments in Russia’s sports industry (more than any of you, I’m sure). The performance of their athletes keeps improving. Their skiers run faster. Their hockey is alright. And their football is a matter of envy. I say: beat the Russians. Compete with them and then come back and say that you outperformed them in all sports. I will not ask anything else of you. The country will be happy,” the president noted.

Assessing the overall performance of the domestic sport, the president minced no words saying: “It is embarrassing and even disgusting.”

He also noted that good results are inconsistent and major victories are intermittent and overshadowed by mediocre performance.

“People don’t need such a sport. It will get no funding from the budget. I’m afraid even to talk about football. We used to be head and shoulders above some teams from neighboring countries. What about now?! Yet, what really gets me is that the new head of the football federation fell out with the sports minister. They can’t work together. Incomprehensible! But there’s nothing to fight over!” noted Aleksandr Lukashenko.

The president demanded: “Guys, if we don’t see substantial progress and good performance in sports this year – your careers will be at stake. Understand me as you wish.”

Of course, the overall picture is not that bleak. Sports and Tourism Minister Sergei Kovalchuk listed achievements of domestic athletes. For example, medals in taekwondo and swimming have been won at major international competitions for the first time in recent years; good results were shown in wrestling, weightlifting and track and field athletics.

However, the president emphasized that it was not enough. “You benchmark it against the time when our swimming was at the nascent stage and we had one ‘puddle’ to train. Today we have enough swimming pools, but only one person showed some results and another two or three made it to the final. I followed developments in this sport. So where is the return on the funds that we are investing? We are building a national swimming pool; we are building a national football stadium. What are we doing this for?” Aleksandr Lukashenko asked.

“The return is coming,” answered Sergei Kovalchuk. “We are nurturing a new generation of talents that are catching up with these athletes...”

“It’s a pity that neither you nor I will live long enough to see this wonderful time,” Aleksandr Lukashenko responded.

He also called on sports officials not to be overly excited or complacent about victories at European championships. After all, it is much more important to win at world championships where Belarusian athletes are not always at their best.