The Belarusian Premier League has seen its popularity soar among football fans these past two weeks, as it is now the only competition on the continent to continue amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
Not only are the league fixtures being played out as scheduled, but fans are also still attending matches across a country that has not yet implemented restrictions on mass gatherings.
Saturday’s derby between two teams from the country’s capital, Minsk, drew 1,750 fans as supporters flouted World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for social distancing.
According to WHO statistics, Belarus, a country with a population of 9.5 million, has recorded 94 cases of coronavirus and zero deaths.
Fans had their temperatures checked before entering the stadium and very few wore protective face masks. Many even cheered on their teams while shirtless in the stands.
Aside from perhaps BATE Borisov, the country’s most successful team, Belarusian clubs are largely unknown, even among the most ardent of European football fans.
The league’s increased popularity has seen the country’s football federation secure new broadcasting deals in as many as 10 countries, Reuters reports, including Russia, Israel and India.
“This is an unprecedented situation,” Alexander Aleinik, a federation spokesman, told Reuters.