As the rest of the world’s sport went into lockdown to combat the coronavirus, Belarus football remained resolutely open for business.
The Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has dismissed the global health crisis as a “psychosis”, and refuses to follow the example of much of the globe.
And so, in stark contrast to all the leagues elsewhere, the Belarus championship ploughs on, with fans sitting side by side in the stands, and even taking off their shirts in shows of support.
The upset win by home side Mozyr over the country’s top team, BATE Borisov, on Saturday was watched by several thousand fans, and screened live on Russian television.
In the capital, FK Minsk’s humble ground was half full for the derby against Dinamo, fans behind both goals ending the game shirtless.
One fan, Igor, 33, said: “Even if we’ve turned up here, we try to self-isolate, we came by car, we wash our hands 10 times.”
However, he expressed concern at the complacency displayed by some of his fellow supporters.
“It’s as if they aren’t aware of anything, they go here and there, they’re laughing.”
Special measures were put in place, including thermal cameras to check the temperature of fans as they enter stadia which are disinfected twice a day.
Those precautions satisfied another fan, Ludmila, a 55-year-old schoolteacher who said that “people who are ill won’t be here”.
“We’ve taken all the measures recommended by the Sports Ministry. All those who are in contact with fans … are supplied with gloves,” Belarus football federation spokesman Alexsandr Aleinik said.
Earlier, Vladimir Bazanov, the head of the Belarus Football Federation, said there was no reason for not carrying on with the season.’