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Special attention is paid to the development of sport in Belarus. The state supports dozens of sports, first of all, the ones which enter the program of the Olympic Games. The most popular are football, hockey, biathlon and tennis.

Hockey

Hockey is loved in Belarus most of all. The open championship of the country includes two leagues: the Extraleague (division I) and the Major League (division II). 11 teams (10 from Belarus and 1 from Latvia) play in the Extraleague, the competition between which determines the champion of the country.

The leading hockey club of Belarus is “Dinamo-Minsk” which plays in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) championship. The team holds home games at “Minsk-Arena” – one of the largest hockey arenas in Europe.

The average attendance of “Dinamo-Minsk” home games in the KHL Championship of 2011/2012 amounted to 14.197 people, in 2010/2011 – 10.538 people. Both indicators are record-breaking for KHL.

National hockey team of Belarus attacks. Photo: interfax.by

But Belarus’ favorite team is the national hockey team. The national team of Belarus held its first game on November 7, 1992, and at the World Championship it was qualified for the third division. In 1997 the team entered the elite division in which it debuted at the World Championship of 1998. The national team of Belarus played 13 World Championships (1998-2001, 2003, 2005–present) in the strongest division. The most successful was the World Championship of 2006 in Riga, when the team placed 6th.

Following the results of the World Championship of 2012, the national team of Belarus places 11th in the world IIHF rating.

Not only professional, but also amateur hockey is developing in Belarus. There is an amateur “Night Hockey League” (NHL) in Minsk. Its games are held late at night. The nationwide hockey tournament “Golden Puck” is held for children and teenagers.

Football

Football is very popular in Belarus, just like in the rest of the world. The program of development of mass football has been passed in Belarus. Football fields are being constructed far and wide. But at the same time, the national championship doesn’t attract fans as much.

The football championship of Belarus includes three leagues. 11 teams participate in the major league, where the champion of the country is determined in the three-round tournament.

In recent years, the football club BATE from Borisov, which became the champion of the country seven times within the last 10 years (from 2002 to 2011), has been the undoubted leader of Belarusian football. BATE is also successful on the international arena: from 2008 to 2012 it has become the participant of the group round of the UEFA Champions League three times, and the group round of the European League – two times. BATE holds the home games of the Champions League in Minsk on the “Dinamo” stadium which holds 30.000 viewers. These games provoke great interest among Belarusian fans.

BATE is the most sensational football team of Europe. Photo: interfax.by

BATE achieved most of all success in the Champions League of 2012 at the start of the group tournament after beating “Lille” of France and Munich’s “Bayern” with an equal score, 3:1.

The national football team of Belarus, which has been headed by Georgy Kondratiev since 2012, hasn’t achieved significant success in its brief history yet and hasn’t participated in top tournaments. But the qualifying games of European and world championships provoke great interest among football fans. Right now the national team of Belarus is participating in the qualifying tournament of the World Championship of 2014 in Brazil, and after winning one victory in 4 games, it places 4th in the qualifying group. As of October 2012, the national team of Belarus places 87th in the FIFA rating.

The national football team of Belarus. Photo: interfax.by

The youth national team of Belarus (U-21) has achieved more success. It played in the final tournaments of European championships three times (2004, 2009 and 2011). In 2004 and 2009 the team wasn’t able to pull through the group stage of the tournament, and in 2011 it became the bronze prize-winner of the championship and won the right to participate at the Olympic Games in London.

At the Olympic Games the team wasn’t able to pull through the group tournament, after beating the national team of New Zealand (1:0) and losing to the teams of Brazil and Egypt with an equal score, 1:3.

The most famous football player of Belarus is Alexander Gleb who played for Germany’s “Stuttgart”, England’s “Arsenal” and Spain’s “Barcelona”. He now plays for BATE.

Biathlon

Biathlete Darya Domracheva is the favorite of Belarusian fans. Photo: interfax.by

Belarusian athletes are traditionally strong in biathlon. Almost all races of the IBU World Cup stages and the World Championships are broadcasted by the Belarusian television live. A lot of biathletes of our country achieved high results in these competitions: Oleg Ryzhenkov, Alexei Aidarov, Svetlana Paramygina, Alexander Popov, Vadim Sashurin have achieved success at the World Cup stages many times.

In recent years the attention of the fans has been focused on Darya Domracheva, one of the strongest biathletes of the world. Her competition with Magdalena Neuner of Germany became the adornment of the 2011/2012 season. In 2012 Darya Domracheva became the world champion in the pursuit race and the bronze prize-winner of the Olympic Games of 2010. The winner of the small crystal globe following the results of the World Cup of 2010/2011 in mass start, of two small crystal globes following the results of the World Cup of 2011/2012 in the pursuit race and the mass start in 2010 was named the best biathlete of the year according to Biathlon-Award. Right after winning the World Championship of 2012, she was awarded with the Order of the Motherland of the III degree.

Since 2012 the men’s national biathlon team of Belarus has been coached by the famous French athlete Rafael Poiree.

Tennis

Maxim Mirny is the tennis legend of Belarus. Photo: interfax.by

Despite the fact that Belarusian tennis doesn’t have such abundant traditions as England and Spain, the sports fans attentively follow the WTA and ATP tournaments. Belarusian athletes enter the elite of world tennis and always pretend to victories in tournaments. Among women it is Victoria Azarenka, the No. 1 in the WTA rating, among men – Maxim Mirny, the longstanding leader of the world doubles rating.

Victoria Azarenka is one of the most famous tennis players of the world, she is the champion of the Australian Open of 2012 among singles. She has won 14 victories in the WTA series tournaments. She was awarded with the Order of the III degree for her victory in the Australian Open.

Victoria Azarenka. Best world tennis player. Photo: daylife.com

During his career, Maxim Mirny won 45 titles in the doubles ATP series tournaments, including 6 victories in the Grand Slam tournaments: four victories in Roland Garros and two victories in the US Open. Moreover, he has 3 victories in mixed Grand Slam tournaments: 2 paired up with Serena Williams and 1 with Victoria Azarenka.

At the Olympic Games in London the two first rackets of the world – Victoria Azarenka and Maxim Mirny – paired up and successfully played in the mixed Olympic tournament and became champions. In the final they beat the British pair Andy Murray / Laura Robson.