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Ordinarily, Belarusian soccer doesn’t get a lot of attention. But these are not ordinary times.
Around the world, action-starved sports fans are trying to figure out how to stream Dinamo Minsk vs. Torpedo Zhodino. That’s because Belarus’s idiosyncratic president, Alexander Lukashenko, is not worried about COVID-19. His country is the only one in Europe that hasn't shut down its soccer league during the pandemic.
Instead, Lukashenko suggested remedies for combating the virus include: taking hot saunas, working the fields, and vodka, “to clean your hands and your insides.”
President Lukashenko also thinks sports are important during the epidemic — which he insists, hasn’t yet come to Belarus. “It’s better to live standing up than die on your knees,” the president declared last week, fresh off the ice rink.
But according to the Belarusian Health Ministry, the number of coronavirus cases in Belarus topped 1,000 on Wednesday, with 205 new infections, a record daily rise. The number of deaths is 13.
The country is a third of the way through its Premier League. As recently as last week, crowds of thousands turned out to watch the playoffs in the country’s stadiums, while fans around the world put bets on the result.
But this weekend, stadiums were practically empty. Fans, unconvinced by their government’s approach to the virus, have boycotted the games.
It’s now believed a soccer match played in February in front of a crowd of 70,000 in Bergamo contributed hugely to the spread of Covid in Italy.