Belarus derby goes ahead in front of full stadium despite pandemic

A capacity crowd turned out to watch FC Minsk beat derby rivals Dynamo Minsk 3-2 in Belarus' Vysheyshaya Liga on Saturday, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Belarus is the only country in Europe which has not suspended or cancelled its main league due to the virus' spread.

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Fans had their temperatures screened on their way into the game and some wore protective masks. The vast majority of the 3,000 people in attendance, however, did not take any precautions.

FC Minsk ran away with the game in the first half, scoring their first goal in the first minute and adding to it on twice right on the edge of half-time.

Things didn't improve for Dynamo Minsk when Miha Goropevsek was sent off in the 58th minute after receiving a second yellow card.

Dynamo clawed their way back into the game with a 77th minute penalty from Yevgeniy Shikavka and a goal from Ivan Bakhar.

They couldn't find an equaliser in the final 10 minutes, however, and the game ended 3-2.

The league kicked off on March 19 on the insistence of the country's president Aleksandr Lukashenko.

"[Coronavirus] is just another psychosis, which will benefit some people and harm others," Lukashenko said last week. "The civilised world is going nuts. It is absolute stupidity to close state borders. The panic can hurt us more than the virus itself."

A similar attitude exists among those who play in the league with players and coaches largely happy to continue.

"On the one hand, of course, we are all wary of this, seeing what is happening in the world," FC Isloch head coach Vitaly Zhukovsky told ESPN. "But on the other hand, in our country of 10 million people, during all this time there have only been 86 infected and not a single fatal outcome. You have to agree that these figures are pretty impressive and cannot be compared to other countries."

Belarus is ranked 32nd out of 56 UEFA member associations, between Liechtenstein and Israel, while the national team -- ranked 87th, between Haiti and Zambia, in the FIFA World Ranking -- has never qualified for any major tournaments.