Hleb baffled by Belarus decision to ignore coronavirus and play on

Date published: Monday 23rd March 2020 10:47 - Jo Harrison

Former Arsenal star Alexander Hleb cannot understand why football is taking place in his homeland during the Coronavirus outbreak.

With the Turkish Super Lig finally suspending matches on Thursday, Belarus is the only country in Europe still committed to carrying on as normal.

Their new season kicked off as scheduled at the weekend with Energetyk-BGU  scoring a surprise 3-1 win over BATE Borisov in Minsk.

While crowds are traditionally small in Belarus, the attendance of 730 still meant the stadium at the city’s State University was around half full, reported The Sun.

Hleb, the country’s most famous footballer who enjoyed spells at Arsenal (2005-2008) and Barcelona (2008-2012), played out the final years of his career back home in Belarus.

But when his final club, Isloch Minsk, returned to action at the weekend, he was not part of the crowd.

The fact that football goes ahead reflects the country’s low-key response to the pandemic, with President Alexander Lukashenko stating: “People are working in tractors, no one is talking about the virus. In the villages, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone.”

But with 51 confirmed cases of coronavirus, Hleb believes action must be taken, including the suspension of football.


“The coronavirus has closed the Champions League and the Europa League. This is good, because you have to try and stop it. Uefa have done the right thing,” said Hleb.

“But in Belarus, it’s like no one cares. It’s incredible. Maybe in one week or two weeks we will stop here. Maybe our President is just waiting to see what happens with the virus.

“Everybody here knows what’s happened in Italy and Spain. It doesn’t look good.

“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.”

“Everybody’s been training as normal, getting ready for the new season. They just don’t care.

“I care about my health and my family. I’m keeping to minimum contact.

“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.”

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