All equal at the start?

21st Belarusian Football Championship launches, promising to be the most intriguing to date

By Yuri Kovalev

For five years in a row, BATE Borisov has won the championship and has no intention of relinquishing its title. If BATE wins again, it will set two national records: for number of titles and number of gold medals.

This year, BATE enjoyed a unique break between championships; this is the first time that it has opened its season of official matches so early. In February, Victor Goncharenko’s trainees played against Paris Saint-Germain, drawing 2:2 at home and 0:0 away. Clearly, at this time of the year, Belarusian clubs are fit and ready.

Between seasons, the yellow-and-blue Belarusian squad changed its line-up, replacing Sergey Veremko, Sergey Sosnovsky and Mauro Alonso with Filipp Rudik, Andrey Shcherbakov, Alex Porfirio, Yegor Filipenko and Marko Simic. The new-comers have already proved their worth in the matches against Paris Saint-Germain.

Shakhtyor Soligorsk and Dinamo Minsk — BATE’s main rivals — have also reinvigorated their teams. Shakhtyor, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, has acquired leading Belarusian junior Vladimir Yurchenko, and a number of other skilled players. The head coach of last year’s runner-up in the Belarusian championship, Vladimir Zhuravel, seems to be happy with the addition to his squad.

However, Dinamo has demonstrated greater activity on the transfer market. Oleg Vasilenko from Russia, who has headed Dinamo since last year, boasts such new-comers as Vyacheslav Hleb, Leonid Kovel, Alexander Bychenok and Eduard Zhevnerov, alongside some players from the junior team and famous legionaries.

With three obvious bidders for gold, the championship is set to be especially spectacular and intriguing. The remaining nine teams are hoping just to survive amidst such strong competition. This year, the event will have three rounds, with fans anticipating much excitement.

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