Last year, I was lucky enough to interview Brazilian-born Belarus international Renan Bressan, who helped me understand how extremely organized and winning-oriented the current Belarusian champions, FC BATE Borisov, are. The talented playmaker, who had recently joined APOEL FC from Cyprus, described the three seasons he’d spent at Borisov as the best of his professional career, not only for having received Belarusian citizenship and for having been considered the best foreign player ever to set foot in the country, but also for having scored the third goal in that memorable 3-1 win against FC Bayern Munich during a UEFA Champions League group stage match back in 2012.
Former Arsenal FC, VfB Stuttgart and FC Barcelona talented midfielder Aleksandr Hleb, who also took part in that unforgettable match, didn’t hesitate for a second to highlight how important such a win was for a team that were forced to hold their training sessions in local parks or at the gym just 15 years prior. In an interview published to the UEFA website two weeks after that memorable night at Dinamo Stadion in Minsk, Hleb took the opportunity to praise FC BATE’s solid developments over such short period of time, highlighting how important it was for the team to be a constant presence in both the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League.
The improvement of the team’s training facilities had also positively influenced the sudden development of the Borisov-based side, Hleb claimed, but it was the unity of the team and the healthy relationships between all those involved in the project that helped FC BATE Borisov to strive not only in domestic football, but also on the international stage over the last decade. Hleb’s friend, Viktor Goncharenko, was probably the “maestro” behind such sudden success. The current FC Ufa head coach spent almost six years at the helm of FC BATE Borisov’s first team, and he probably is the one responsible for the rise of a team that was only re-established in 1996 after being disassembled during the Soviet era in 1984.
FC BATE ended up being eliminated from the competition that year after only clawing to third place in the group behind FC Bayern Munich and Valencia CF, but solid wins against Lille OSC and FC Bayern Munich will forever remain in the minds of their committed and highly enthusiast supporters.
Almost four years have passed since that magical night and, although there have been several changes to FC BATE Borisov’s first team, the winning mentality is still there and they remain Belarus’ current league, cup and supercup holders. Goncharenko left Borisov back in 2013 to try his luck in the Russian top tier, and it was his former assistant Aleksandr Yermakovich who has been commanding the club since then. The 41-year old head coach has managed to continue his predecessor’s successful path, winning two Belarusian Premier Leagues, three Super Cups, and one Belarusian Cup since then. Along the way, Yermakovich was awarded with the Manager of the Year prize in 2014-15.
This season, FC BATE Borisov is still the country’s top team so far. After defeating FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk by 2-1 to lift the sixth Belarusian Super Cup of their history back in March, the Borisov team initiated another solid campaign at Vysheyshaya Liga and are currently at the top of the table, eight points clear of FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk after 15 matches.
In a team without top European stars such as Aleksandr Hleb – who left Borisov last year to rejoin Turkish side Gençlerbilirgi SK – one must highlight the immense quality of several Belarusian internationals, such as Vitali Rodionov (the team’s all-time top scorer), versatile midfielder Aleksandr Valadzko, and attacking midfielder Ihar Stasevich, all of whom still have extremely important roles in the team’s current success.
FC BATE Borisov were far from being Belarus’ most popular team back during the Soviet era, as they were never able to even threaten FC Dinamo Minsk’s dominance (a team that was even able to win the Soviet Top League back in 1982). Things have, however, changed dramatically after the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent fall of Communism in Belarus and, as the years went by, the dominance of the former Minsk powerhouse started to fade away. FC BATE Borisov have definitely turned a page in Belarusian football’s history in 2002, and since then they have won no less than 11 league titles and almost two hand-fulls of domestic cups. It is fair to say that they are bound to win more and more titles in the upcoming years.