Virtual online tickets, cut-out portraits and mannequins – one Belarusian football club have come up with a new way to fill empty stands during the coronavirus crisis. The Belarusian Premier League is the only country in Europe where football is still being played, with the decision to carry on described as “not compehendible” by FIFPRO, the world players’ union.
As local supporters of reigning champions Dynamo Brest begin to stay at home, the club are filling their stands with mannequins sporting cut-out portraits of supporters. Fans from around the world have been invited to buy virtual tickets online and in return, photos of their faces have been pasted on top of a fashion dummy sitting inside the stadium. Supporters will also get a matchday programme sent to their home address. The money raised will be donated towards fighting the coronavirus pandemic. “Our fans from all over the world seem to be happy! Thanks for your support, guys!” the club posted on social media during their 2-0 victory over Shakhtyor Soligorsk in the Belarusian Cup on Wednesday. During the match, the stands featured supporters’ faces from countries including the United Kingdom, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Iran. The team next face Isloch at the Brestsky Sports Complex on Sunday and the club have put virtual tickets on sale again. While most European countries are quarantining their citizens and shutting borders, the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, is not worried and has even suggested citizens drink vodka to combat the disease. The Belarusian authorities have dismissed pandemic warnings as “psychosis” and have not officially enforced a lockdown in the country, with the pro-government media playing down fears about the spread of Covid-19.