Ahead of tonight’s clash with England, we give you the lowdown on all things Belarus.
1. Alexander Hleb
The former Arsenal man was a Gunners favourite (at least until he started shooting his mouth off about the club and making is very clear that he wanted to leave to join Barcelona. The midfielder is almost certainly ruled out of tonight’s clash with a knee injury, but that is not stopping Barca having kittens that he is going to play regardless!
2. Vyacheslav Hleb
Alex’s baby brother is likely to be the only Hleb troubling England tonight. The 25-year-old thought he had secured his move west this summer when a loan deal with Dutch outfit Roda JC seemed to be on the cards, but the move fell through at the last minute. He remains confined to the Belarusian Premier League with FC MTZ-RIPO. The critics say he has all of his brother’s talent and very little of his application. Judge for yourselves tonight.
3. Sergei Gurenko
Now retired from international football, Gurenko is one of Belarus’ most successful exports. He had enjoyed one-season spells of varying degrees of success with Roma, Real Zaragoza, Parma and Piacenza. It is Russia where Gurenko really carved a reputation for himself, and the 36-year-old still plays for Lokomotiv Moscow. The former national team skipper is Belarus’ most-capped player.
4. Vladimir Romanov
The crazy Lithuanian who brought his own unique brand of club ownership to Scotland with Hearts also counts Belarusian Premier League outfit FC MTZ-RIPO among his portfolio.
One of Belarus’ biggest export businesses is tractors. The country provides 8 per cent of the world’s tractors. The vast majority of these are produced at the Minsk Tractor Plant. The factory has produced a line of tractors named Belarus since 1950. MTZ (the team owned by Romoanov) takes is name from the initials of the plant’s name, and was formerly called FC Traktor.
6. The drunk referee
Sergei Shmolik, a FIFA-listed referee in the Belarusian Premier League, had to be escorted from the pitch during a match between Naftan and Vitebsk in July this year as he was quite clearly heavily under the influence.
7. Belarus 2-1 Netherlands
The Belarusians defeated the Netherlands 2-1 during Euro 2008 qualification. Goals from Vitali Bulyga and Vladimir Korytko secured victory for the underdogs, and only a last-minute goal from Rafael Van Der Vaart put a slight sheen on the defeat for the Dutch.
8. Sergei Shtaniuk
Belarus’ other notable contribution to English football was strapping centre-back Shtaniuk, who became a cult hero during his time at Stoke City. He arrived from Dynamo Moscow in 2001 and, long before the days of Tevezcherano, his contract stated that he was part-owned by his agent’s company. At one stage the defender was rated at £2 million and Premier League teams were interested, but eventually returned to eastern Europe instead because of family problems.
9. Putting Robert Green out of the World Cup
England B played Belarus in the build-up to the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The most notable incident of the match was an injury which ruled goalkeeper Robert Green out of the tournament.
10. Their international man of mystery manager
As we already mentioned, coach Bernd Stange has previously been accused of spying on his players for the East German secret police.