Read also – 2019 season: one year of football in Belarus (1/2)
9. FK Minsk – 36 points
The country’s best training center, FK Minsk had decided – in parallel with a few financial problems which also forced the decision – to have more confidence in its young players at the start of 2018. After a complicated season spent on the brink of relegation, the club of the capital, which has found correct finances, turned to a rather hybrid workforce sticking more to the reality of football, between young people trained at the club and more experienced players to supervise them.
A rather damn squad, by the way, led by Andrey Razin. Relatively young (40), Razin spent the last 6 years of his club playing career before reorienting himself to the coaching profession and to becoming assistant to Georgi Kondratiev in particular. For his first year as head coach, Razin gave FK Minsk a fairly quiet season, although the start was complicated with 10 games without a win to start the season.
The club then recovered well thanks to a few individuals, Oleksandr Vasilyev at the head. Midfielder, the Ukrainian scored 10 goals and some magnificent ones. Minsk had the good idea to keep his player for the coming season, but the neo-international Ivan Bakhar (20, Dinamo Minsk) and Evgeniy Shevchenko (Dynamo Brest) went to play at the top of the table with their new respective clubs. To compensate, FK Minsk brought in the very interesting Anton Shramchenko (Gomel) as well as return Oleg Evdokimov (Neman Grodno) and Vladimir Khvashchinsky (Shakhtyor Soligorsk). Important for the development of football in the country, FK Minsk should also continue this season.
Note that FK Minsk also has the best women’s football team in the country. It has been seven years since the ZFK Minsk (Z for zhenskii, “feminine”), has achieved the double cup – championship with results even more overwhelming than Lyon in France. According to tribuna.by, 700,000 dollars are allocated to the women’s section of the club for 100,000 more on the men’s side. Elimination in the eighth would have brought between 200 and 300,000 dollars for the operation of the club. Quite a sum for a club like Minsk.
10. Neman Grodno – 36 points
Igor Kovalevich has been coaching Neman Grodno for four years. Like Vitaliy Zhukovskiy in Isloch, he is a figure in the Belarusian championship, always interesting when he talks and much loved by his players. The Neman is a historic Vysshaya Liga club and it has never gone down since the creation of the championship in 1992. However, apart from a second place in 2002, it has never been on the podium. It was not the case in 2019. It certainly will not be the case in 2020 either.
With less than one goal per match, the Neman was a rather painful team to watch, especially on its home games with a Neman stadium (the names of the stadiums are regularly similar to those of the clubs) rather empty with its 8,500 places available and a lawn at the edge of the road. Of these 28 goals scored, many are linked to the revelation of the season in Belarus: Gulzhigit Alykulov.
It is already rare enough to see a Kyrgyz being exported to Belarus. But that “the Kyrgyz Messi” impresses from its first entries in a championship deemed rather physical, the height of its 1.70m made him a real darling. On his left wing, Alykulov quickly became important. From a few entries at the start of the season, he went unchallenged before mid-season. A Messi-like profile that we unfortunately don’t see in Belarus, very lively, dribbling and quite clever in the area of truth. Convened to the right and to the left, Alykulov chose Kairat Almaty and his Belarusian trainer Aleksey Shpilevsky to continue his development.
Neman Grodno received around € 200,000 for the 18-year-old Kyrgyz. An interesting sum that surely made you want to try the experience again. Another Kyrgyz arrived this winter in the person of 18-year-old Emir Shigaybaev, also from youth teams in Antalyaspor. This is the curiosity of a fairly active transfer window in Grodno, but with no real big name on the departure or arrival side. We note the retirement of Paul Bebey Kingue, Cameroonian who spent four years in Grodno and even took dual Belarusian nationality, become one of the favorite players of the supporters.
11. FC Slutsk – 34 points
If the first seasons of FC Slutsk had gone without a hitch, 2019 proved to be very complicated for one of the poorest Vysshaya Liga teams in the game. Two days to go, Slutsk was still in a very good position precarious but had the chance to “face” the Torpedo Minsk during these two days, guaranteeing them three welcome points. Advanced statistics, including expected goals, show that Slutsk should perhaps have ended up in the cart.
FC Slutsk will therefore live another year in Vysshaya Liga. In any case, the idea is there. The realization may be more difficult. Sportingly, on the one hand, since Slutsk lost a lot of important players: Dmitriy Dudik, co-top scorer with… 4 goals and went back to Shakhtar Donetsk after his loan, Pavel Nazarenko (Vitebsk), Murat Khotov (Gomel) and Joseph Adah (best passer with 4 passes, Pyunik). Some names of a fairly large exodus replaced rather obsolete, with among others several African players, Slutsk being one of the Belarusian clubs trusting the African sector.
On the other hand, it could quickly become very difficult to survive financially. Like Gorodeya, Slutsk is supported by the local sugar factory, affected by a corruption scandal. But unlike its alter ego, the Slutsk refinery announced that it would stop sponsoring the local club, putting its future in great jeopardy at the same time. Slutsk can start the season. Finishing it will be tricky.
12. Energetik-BGU Minsk – 33 points
Promoted, the Energetik-BGU had an already interesting profile. Linked to the Belarusian State University (BGU) and the Ministry of Energy (Energetik), the club gives way to young people, whether they are trained in the club, undesirable in others or even foreigners. He is supervised by Anatoliy Yurevich, a kind of highly respected guru in Belarus. A person with a rather old mentality, known for his severity in discipline. The Energetik has had a four-month pre-season this season. If the players are young, the leaders are too: some legends of the championship make their ranges on his bench: Artem Radkov is the assistant coach, Aleksandr Pavlov coaches the reserve and Vitali Rodionov is the sporting director.
The last game of the season sums up the Energetik-BGU perfectly: a cleaver match against Dnyapro Mogilev. Led 2-3 in the 75th minute after leading 2-1, the Energetik scored three goals and won 5-3 to hold on. With Ilya Shkurin, top scorer in the previous year’s reserve championship with Vitebsk, the Energetik hit the jackpot. With 19 goals, he finished top scorer in the championship. With 52 goals scored against 66 conceded, the Energetik was extremely spectacular. A real breath of fresh air in the championship, which attracted a lot of sympathy among the neutral followers.
Belarus has discovered a whole bunch of very interesting young players. Among them, midfielder David Tweh (21, Liberia), left piston Jeremy Mawatu (22, France), central defender Artem Shkurdyuk (21, Belarus) or Aleksey Nosko (22, Belarus). But here Ilya Shkurin is now at CSKA Moscow and the orphaned Energetik-BGU. Especially since Vsevolod Sadovskiy joined Dynamo Brest – as did the best passer Vladislav Vasilyev (already gone this summer) – and Daniil Poluboyarinov left for Spartak after his loan. Three important departures, offset by the arrivals of Jasur Yakhshiboev (Pakhtator, Uzbekistan), Dusan Bakic (Buducnost, Montenegro) and Shakhboz Umarov (AGMK Olmaliq, Uzbekistan). All recruits are 25 years of age or younger. The Energetik will again offer an unbridled, modern game full of goals.
13. FK Vitebsk – 31 points
Vitebsk had been the good surprise of the 2018 season. In the fight for second place throughout the season, the club from north-eastern Belarus had finally finished fourth. A logical result for the club which played the best football in Belarus, led by Rafael Ledesma. The 2019 exercise was much more complicated, in particular due to the loss of the Brazilian playmaker, who left for personal reasons.
Besides Ledesma, Vitebsk had lost before the start of the season Nikita Naumov, the central defense jailer who had established himself as one of the very best in his position. And it has been seen. Both defensively and offensively, Vitebsk struggled. A goal difference of -15, a lost Belarus Cup final and a season in the stomach, the four consecutive losses at the end of the season making the situation much more dangerous in the standings than it really was. Vitebsk ultimately represents all the evils of Belarusian clubs outside the Top 4: a good season and then impossible to confirm during the next.
Without being a candidate for retention, Vitebsk shouldn’t have too much trouble maintaining itself. The club still trusts Sergey Yasinski on his bench but has lost some important players again, like Kirill Pechenin whom he managed to keep for one more year last winter (Dynamo Brest), Nikolay Zolotov (Ural) and the metronome of midfielder Mikhail Kozlov (Dinamo Minsk). Artem Stargorodskyi, the Ukrainian artist, has retired. Recruitment is not a dream, far from it. Yasinski will try to do miracles.
14. Dnyapro Mogilev – 30 points
The Dnyapro season started surprisingly. The club is a kind of fusion between Dnepr Mogilev and Luch Minsk. The Dnepr having been relegated at the end of the 2018 season, he somehow swallowed the Luch, still in Vysshaya Liga, to offer himself a license. From there came out the Dnyapro Mogilev, with a majority of players from the old Dnepr and a few units from the Luch, all these little people trained by Ivan Bionchik and financially supported by Vladimir Telpuk, the businessman who was behind the Luch. He said he wanted to make Mogilev the stronghold of Belarusian football.
Spoiler: It didn’t really go as planned. Eleventh after twelve days, Dnyapro has chained seven consecutive defeats to find itself penultimate. A good end of the season when the staff and the players were no longer paid was enough to qualify for the play-offs and thus offer one last chance of maintenance. The defeat on penalties against Rukh Brest at home was all the more cruel.
Dnyapro Mogilev is now a defunct club. Vladimir Telpuk withdrew the infusion in mid-season when he saw that his project was falling apart. The Dnyapro season, however, allowed the hatching of Dmitry Podstrelov, a young 21-year-old right winger who left for Shakhtyor Soligorsk today. Dnepr Mogilev will be reborn from its still hot centers and resume service, probably in D3. Ivan Bionchik has a good reputation as a player coach and has found a job in Gomel.
15. FC Gomel – 29 points
FC Gomel is a Belarusian football institution, but also one of its most inconsistent clubs. It has one of the largest stadiums in the country, which notably hosted a Belarus – France when the Borisov Arena was not out of the ground, was champion in 2003 and played the European Cup, against Liverpool, no later than 2012. Since 2015, however, it’s been the elevator. The descent in 2016 for financial concerns could sound like the opportunity to rebuild. Niet.
Gomel nevertheless had the fourth best attack in the championship with 44 goals, led by a trio Schramchenko, Bolov (9 goals) and especially Kvashuk. The Ukrainian left winger was one of the best players of the season with 14 goals and five assists, often silky. The 50 goals conceded do not make much stain for a relegated, but the difference in goals of -6 hurts. In the end, Gomel’s ranking does not really reflect the team’s performance and especially the potential. A lot of losses from just one small goal (9 out of 15) sent the club to Pershaya Liga.
Reperdre Gomel is a blow for the Belarusian championship. This is the guarantee of a big city club, which loves football with its almost 4,000 average spectators. The cleaning was done this winter, the workforce has almost completely changed. Logical, because Gomel surely did not expect to go down and the payroll had to be substantial. Schramchenko signed at FK Minsk, Ruslan Bolov in Uzbekistan and Vitalyi Kvashuk at Riga FS. Recruitment should nevertheless allow Gomel to rise immediately, with Ivan Bionchik in charge.
16. Torpedo Minsk – 6 points
A classy logo, superb jerseys, refined communication almost exclusively in Belarusian and a beautiful website: the rebirth of the Torpedo Minsk was going rather well outside the field. Rebuilt in 2018, the Torpedo had managed to keep a goal difference last year. This time, the club could not even finish the championship.
Because if the Torpedo only finished with six small points, it is because it has only played fifteen games. Businessman Mikhail Mironenkov decided to stop supporting the club in the middle of last season due to lack of satisfactory sports results. The Torpedo failed to find a new sponsor. He shut down and his last fifteen games have been forfeited.
The team of the season
Featured image : © by.tribuna.com