History of the league
In 1936 the first championship of the USSR was held, and since 1937 the Belarusian team Dynamo (Minsk) was included in the list of participants. This year, the first international match with a strong foreign team was also played. In August 1937 in Minsk at the stadium “Dynamo” Belarus team lost to Spain 1:6.
The Belarusian Premier League was organized in 1992. The first participants were: Dinamo Minsk, the only Belarusian side in the former Soviet Top League, five teams from the lower tiers of the Soviet league system, and ten teams who were previous competitors in the Belarusian SSR First League.
After the league creation, it was decided to change its schedule from a Soviet-style summer season to a European-style winter season. In 1995, the winter season experiment was proven unsuccessful due to poor weather and field conditions in Belarus in the late autumn and early spring. The season was changed back to summer, and the 1995 championship was once again held as a single round-robin tournament. Every season since 1996 has been played in the summer.
After the split of the Soviet Union, Belarus played their first match against Lithuania on 20 July 1992. Before that, several Belarusian players played for the Soviet Union national team. The first FIFA-recognized international was a friendly against Ukraine on 28 October 1992, and their first win came in a match against Luxembourg on 12 October 1994.
Belarus have never qualified for either the FIFA World Cup, or the UEFA European Championship. Despite the lack of any significant success during the 1990s, some notable results were still achieved, like a home win against the Netherlands in the qualifiers for Euro 1996, and two draws against Italy during Euro 2000 qualifiers.
Belarusian Premier League
The top league in Belarus is called Vysheyshaya Liga (Higher League), but it also referred to simply as the Belarusian Premier League.
There are, as of now, 16 teams in this top division, though that number has fluctuated throughout the season. Throughout the season, each team plays each opponent twice (once home and once away), with a traditional point system that dictates the standings.
Well known clubs
As the most successful club in the history of the Belarusian Premier League, BATE (Borisov Automobile and Tractor Electronics) are a fine gateway into Belarusian football.
Former Arsenal midfielder Alexandr Hleb played for them over five separate spells, the last of which ended in 2019, shortly after he faced the Gunners in the Europa League.
Between 2005 and 2018, BATE won 13 league titles in a row, finally surrendering their crown last season.
The second most successful team in Belarusian Premier League history, Dinamo Minsk previously played in the Soviet Top League, where they won one title, in 1982.
Always on the top, but not yet ready to fight for victory in the championship.
Dinamo Brest are the reigning champions of Belarus, having ended BATE’s absurd winning streak last year.
In 1992 Dynamo Brest joined Belarusian Premier League and have been playing there ever since. Their best result was a third place in inaugural 1992 season, and they were finishing in the middle and bottom parts of the table ever since. In 2007 Dynamo Brest won Belarusian Cup, also securing their only UEFA Cup participation. During 2012 season they were using the name FC Brest due to legal issues with using a Dynamo brand name the rights to which were claimed by Belarusian Dynamo Sport Society. This issue was resolved only by the end of the year. In the 2017 season, Dinamo Brest drew an average home league attendance of 5,689, the highest in the league.
They play in sky blue, and one of their strikers is former Ukraine international Artem Milevskiy — once tipped as the successor to Andriy Shevchenko.
Live attendance at Belarusian Premier League matches is a popular activity, particularly where the bigger and better clubs, as well as the nicer stadiums, are concerned.
Borisov Arena in Borisov certainly stands out given that it’s the home of both the national team and FC BATE Borisov, which is far and away the most successful club in league history. Dinamo Stadium in Minsk, home of FC Dinamo Minsk, is another popular venue, particularly in its newly renovated state.
Fans who don’t attend live matches will watch from afar, and sometimes at public venues. A great place to watch football in Minsk is an area next to the Sports Palace, which used to be a fan zone during the 2014 Hockey World Cup in Minsk and 2018 Football World Championship in Russia. There are also many unusual bars to watch football in Minsk with a glass of Belarusian (or any other) beer.
In recent years, dozens of amateur leagues have appeared in which any team of non-professional players can take part simply to maintain football culture.