SCOTTISH ARTISTS’ SELECT vs. BELARUS DIASPORA New Douglas Park, Hamilton 1 Sunday 26 September k.o. 1300
A Message from Pavel Latushko, Head of National Anti-Crisis Management For the Belarusian people, it is quite obvious that the current regime and its henchmen in the security forces are guilty of intentional murders and disappearances of their opponents; of torture and the expulsion of Belarusians from their country; of crackdown on dissent. Belarusian civil society is suppressed, the most active are either imprisoned or forced to go abroad. The Diaspora has become the voice of all Belarusians around the world, and we must do everything to make our voice heard.
We endorse all initiatives related to Belarus and the support of political prisoners, the initiatives whose goal is to tell about the problem of Belarusians abroad. We are very grateful to the Diaspora of Scotland and its partners for the initiative and we encourage them not to stop.
Alexander Ivulin is a brave and smart guy who’s wasting the best years of his life behind bars, and it depends only on us how soon he and more than 600 other political prisoners will be released. Pavel Latushko
Who Is Aliaksandr Ivulin, & The Origins of the Cup
Aliaksandr Ivulin during protests in Minsk, August 2020
Aliaksandr “Sasha” Ivulin is one of the bestknown figures in contemporary Belarusian football. The 29 year old is a journalist at the online football portal tribuna, the founder of the youtube channel ChestnOK, and a part time footballer. At the beginning of the 2021 season, he launched a reality television programme, entitled “А Саша выйдет?” (literally, “Will Sasha Come Out”?) This showed his attempts to make a competitive first team appearance for the Minskbased club, Krumkachy, who play in the second tier of Belarusian football. In an initiative mirroring similar TV programmes in neighbouring Ukraine, the series sought to provide “open all access” to the goings-on at Krumkachy, what is involved in the life of a semi-professional footballer, the hardness of the training, the sacrifices, the micro-dramas, but also the tremendous sense of camaraderie and fun that accompanies being part of a football club on a day-to-day basis. Ivulin’s project sought to maintain the DIY ethos and atmosphere of the youtube vlog, on mainstream television, determined not to take itself too seriously. 4
As a result, Ivulin was able to grow the profile of some of these rather ordinary domestic footballers, as well as combatting what he sees as the incompetence of the footballing authorities in the country, and the injustices in Belarus beyond the football field. It is this fearless persistence which earned him some powerful enemies in the client / crony politics of the Belarusian dictatorship. Sasha’s semi-pro career didn’t start overly well. Early episodes of «А Саша выйдет?» showed him struggling a little with the physical demands of training. The coach who agreed to sign him, the vastly experienced former BATE Borisov and Belarus U-19 coach, Oleg Dulub commented that “It is clear the conditions here are very weak”, referring to Sasha’s potential to make a competitive appearance for Krumkachy. Ivulin begins training at Krumkachy, February 2021 By the time Sasha signed for Krumkachy in February, he had already revolutionised the coverage of football in Belarus. His vlog ChestnOK channel broke stories and sought to engage a younger audience in the game using the media language and strategies of the youtube and tiktok generations. Whilst there are some really good writers on football in Belarus, coverage in official organs such as Pressball can be, well, a little staid.
But, through trademark persistence, he won the sceptical coach around in time. Oleg Anatolyevich kept him on and he played, and scored, in friendly games for Krumkachy’s reserve team. However he had yet to make his full league debut at the time of his arrest. Shortly before then, Dulub had warmed to Sasha the player. “There is some football in him”, he noted, approvingly. Behind the scenes, Ivulin did a power of work, greeting and taking photos with Krumkachy’s fanbase, and representing the club’s PR side, on matchdays. 5
Since the 3rd June this year, the phrase “Will Sasha come out?” has acquired a really sad double meaning. Since then, the footballer has been imprisoned. He was initially jailed for thirty days for allegedly displaying a white-red-white flag in his window, something he and his flatmate Yaroslav Pisarenko, deny was ever there. Yaroslav was released after his own fifteen-day sentence, and subsequently left Belarus to continue the work of the ChestnOK youtube and telegram channel unmolested, outside of the country. It really suits someone that Sasha stays in jail, however. At the end of his fifteen-day sentence, he was re-arrested, this time under a criminal investigation under article 342 of the Belarusian criminal code, “Preparation of Acts that grossly violate public order”, and remanded in custody for an indefinite period. If convicted eventually under this article the journalistfootballer faces 3-5 years in prison. This sad story is the origin of today’s game. Football journalists- largely because of who they work forhave suffered disproportionately under the regime’s persecution of the independent media sector this year. Tribuna journalist Dmitry Ruto spent fifteen days in prison for the heinous offence of leaving a red and white Belarusian national team scarf on his car’s passenger seat. A scarf that can freely be bought at the Macron
store in Minsk is apparently now deemed “an extremist protest symbol” by the Ministry of the Interior- one can only hope for the few remaining fans of the national team that some new, redesigned, non-“extremist” stock has been ordered. As we kick off another former Tribuna journalist and one of the best writers on football in the region, Andrei Maslovsky, is in the notorious pre-trial prison at Akrestin Street in Minsk, accused of “distributing extremist propaganda”. The trouble for many of the Tribuna journalists is that it was deemed an “extremist” publication by a Vitebsk court at the end of August, so everyone in Belarus who even reads it- never mind works for it- risks arrest. The absurd Vitebsk ruling- equivalent to a British court deeming FourFourTwo or WorldSoccer magazine an extremist publication- is an attempt to snuff out independent media sympathetic to the regime’s opponents. Tribuna still appears online and is one of the best sources for Belarusian sports news- but the staff and editors now have to be more circumspect in their work. As a result of the Vitebsk ruling, Uladzislau Tatur, the very well-known commentator and writer on football- is obliged to publish his weekly analysis of the Belarusian 6
Ivulin during a game of “mini-football”, late 2020
league in the Ukrainian version of Tribuna, to circumvent possible arrest and imprisonment on charges of writing for an “extremist” publication. Ivulin’s has become one of many faultline issues in contemporary Belarus. He is seen as one of many symbols of a future free country, by many. Football fans and officials have continued to support him; one Krumkachy fan was arrested and jailed for the crime of wearing his team’s replica shirt with Sasha’s name and squad number- 25- on the back. The former Rukh Brest head coach Kirill Alshevsky was fired as a direct result of expressing support for Ivulin during a press conference. Unknown opposition supporters spray-painted the number “25” in the home courtyard of the head of Minsk’s OMON riot police, as a gesture of defiance. It’s sobering for us here in Scotland to think that merely wearing one of the Belarusian shirts we have designed for today’s game, in public, in contemporary Belarus, would result in a minimum of fifteen days’ imprisonment, possibly worse. These are the origins of today’s game and why we have come together. It’s a chance for Belarusians to cheer on a team they can get behind, and it’s a chance for us in the Scottish Artists’ Team and our supporters, to show
empathy and solidarity for a guy who seems just like us. The game is also to let him know that people who only know Belarus on a map or through the internet are thinking of him, and earnestly hoping for his releasealongside all of the 667 political prisoners currently in Belarusian penal colonies. Sasha will come out, nothing’s surer. This game today and the result- who wins the cup named after him- isn’t so important. But, whoever wins it, will I’m sure look forward to presenting the trophy to him one day as a souvenir of a time which, hopefully, by then, he’ll have put behind him. Before then, if you’d like to support Sasha inside, you can do so by writing a letter or a card in the Russian language here: Ivulin Aliaksandr Nikolaevich, SIZO-1, Volodkarskogo 2, Minsk 220030, Belarus. If you need help in writing or would like your message translated, see here: https://bit.ly/3AeCbdT 8
Scotland v Belarus- Previous Matches The full national teams of our countries have met only four times since Belarusian independence in August 1991. Belarus and Scotland were drawn in the same qualifying groups for the World Cups of 1998, and 2006. In the 1998 qualifying competition, the Scots had already recorded a turgid and narrow 1-0 win in Minsk, thanks to a Gary McAllister penalty, before the Belarusian team flew into the eye of a media storm when they arrived to play the return fixture at Aberdeen’s Pittodrie Stadium in September 1997.
Unfortunately, the extra day didn’t help the visitors. Two goals apiece from Blackburn winger Kevin Gallacher and Leeds United’s David Hopkin, enabled Scotland to complete a very comfortable 4-1 victory over Belarus, whose consolation came from a penalty scored by Pyotr Kachura, then of Sheffield United.
The game was scheduled to be played on the same day as the funeral of Princess Diana, who had been killed in a car accident in Paris. The UK government had mandated a day of national mourning, with sporting fixtures postponed, but the Scottish FA, under the late president Jim Farry, insisted that the Belarus game would have to go ahead as scheduled. Eventually, the obliging Belarusian officials, for once the spectators rather than participants in a political dispute, agreed to stay in Aberdeen for an extra day, and play on the Sunday. Pyotr Kachura of Sheffield United & Belarus 9
In the end, Scotland managed to qualify for France 98, finishing second in the group, behind Austria. Belarus had a poor campaign, finishing bottom of the table with just one win in their ten matches. It was a different story entirely in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers, when the Belarusians exerted some measure of revenge. By then, of course, the Scots team were in a prolonged and barren period of transformation, with routine qualification for tournaments a distant memory. Belarus, meanwhile, had very narrowly missed out on qualification for Euro 2004, under Eduard Malofeev’s charge.
Vitaly Kutuzov, then of Sampdoria, Scored at Hampden
The Scots’ German coach Berti Vogts had resigned after a dire 1-1 draw in Moldova in late 2004, to be replaced by the sometime Rangers and Everton manager, Walter Smith. Smith oversaw the 2006 qualifying campaign, and his work did show signs of improvement, despite the game in Minsk being a goalless draw with no redeeming features whatever. When Belarus came to Hampden in September that year Scotland needed a win. Smith sent out quite an attacking line up but unfortunately a poor defensive error saw Vitaly Kutuzov, then of Sampdoria, fire Belarus in front, after just six minutes. Vitaly, now a football agent and fronting a group of business investors at Krumkachy in Minsk, could have had a hat-trick before half time, as Scotland simply failed to turn up. Although Scotland exerted a lot of pressure in the second half, talismanic striker Kenny Miller, of Wolves, had an offday, and the Belarusians hung on for a surprise 1-0 victory. Vasil Khomutovsky, now a coach at BATE Borisov, had a fine game in goal and a talented Belarusian team also featuring Aleksandr Hleb, of Arsenal, deserved the win. Scotland were eliminated later that night as other results went the wrong way. Scotland finished third in the group, whilst a talented Belarusian squad under-achieved severely under manager Anatoly Baidachny, finishing 5th of 6 teams. Baidachny was replaced by Yuri Puntus after the campaign ended. 10
Of the Belarusian squad for that fixture, only Leonid Kovel, an unused substitute, is still playing in the Belarusian top flight, a veteran for his home-town team, Smorgon. Vyacheslav Hleb retired last season, his last club being Arsenal Dzerzhinsk. Many others in that squad are now involved in coaching, or in other behindthe-scenes roles. Anatoly Chelyadinsky, who played in the Minsk fixture against Scotland, but was on the bench at Hampden, is now the head coach of Dynamo Minsk, where former team-mate Andrei Lavrik is now the sporting director. Vladimir Korytko is the Belarus under-19 coach. Baidachny, approaching seventy, is still a coach, but in the Armenian league, with FC Ararat. That defeat at Hampden was the last competitive international between the two countries.
Leonid Kovel of Smorgon
About Belarusian Football It’s the 110th anniversary of football in Belarus this year- a year that should be one for celebration, but, like every other aspect of life in the country, is overshadowed by the ongoing political crisis and the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gomel team-group from 1911
A game in Gomel in 1911 is the first recorded match in the country, commented on by the local press of the time, in the late Tsarist era. Belarusian football history is fragmented and overwritten; many historical clubs in the west of present-day Belarus were part of the Polish league system between the wars; from 1945-91 Belarusian clubs played in the USSR football system.
Although the Soviet Union has been gone for three decades, students of Soviet sport would recognise much of the defunct old system in contemporary Belarusian football. The state is the biggest funder of the sport, with most clubs owned or heavily supported by local city councils (for example, Dinamo Brest, Neman Grodno & Vitebsk), or major industrial concerns (Torpedo BELAZ of Zhodino, Belshina of Bobruisk, and champions Shakhtyor Soligorsk, funded by state potash company Belaruskali). Some clubs have significant private investment but on paper are still state owned (Isloch Minsk Raion, FC Minsk).
Perhaps the most famous team from Soviet times was Eduard Malofeev’s Dynamo Minsk, which was the only Belarusian team to win the Soviet championship in 1982. Malofeev went onto to coach the Soviet team (1984-86), the Belarus National team in one of its more successful periods (2000-03) and, very briefly, as caretakermanager, Heart of Midlothian (2006). Still, at the age of 79, Malofeev is involved in coaching youngsters at Dynamo Minsk, passing on his lifelong passion for attacking, entertaining football- an old-fashioned romantic approach to the game, one might say, an old Chaika limousine in a world of algorithms, xG numbers, and sports science. Dinamo Minsk, Soviet Champions, 1982. Coach: Eduard Malofeev
There are only four private football clubs in Belarus; Rukh Brest (owned by Aleksandr Zaitsev, under European sanctions and recognised as one of Lukashenko’s funders), Krumkachy of Minsk, “Arsenal” of Dzerzhinsk (Kojdanava), and BK Maxline based in Rogachev. These clubs have all been founded in the last few years, which shows that private ownership of football clubs- taken for granted in countries like Scotland- is still very much the exception. The extraordinary pressures brought about by sanctions and economic decline in Belarus have taken their toll on all sports and football is no exception. It’s fair to say that football plays second fiddle to ice hockey in the country. Ice hockey is a personal obsession of Lukashenko’s, and funding for it has been largely protected whilst funding for other sports has dropped away. The state can no longer pay for the upkeep of around eighty clubs from all levels from semi-professional to the top full-time sides. The Belarusian football association introduced a salary cap this year and already players have started running down their contract and moving to other countries for better money. It’s a short career. The long shadow of enforced “loyalty” is felt in football as in every other sphere of activity. After Aliaksandr
Ivulin was jailed early in the year, Rukh Brest coach Kirill Alshevsky expressed support for the imprisoned journalist, in a press conference, making it clear that this was a personal position. Within two weeks he was dismissed from his post, despite his team sitting third in the top division- the club were obliged to sack him after pressure from the football association, itself. The association, led by an ex-army colonel, Vladimir Bazanov, is staffed with people chosen for political loyalty rather than sporting expertise. Kirill Alshevsky’s comments were simply too much for them to digest. Other pressures are more insidious. A big issue this season has been one of footballers signing a progovernment letter. The signing of a letter from a satisfactory number of players and staff became linked to unlocking state and state company funding, without which football clubs under the present system in Belarus cannot survive. Many players signed this, not out of any love for the authorities but to ensure that their club and livelihood were preserved, at least for another season. The need to be publicly grateful for state employment, to Lukashenko personally, and for this to be under review every year, extends to football, too. More often than not the ‘uncles’ in the squad- senior players and coaches, in addition to youngsters threatened with 14
army service, signed the pro-government letter to take the pressure off. In Belarus, footballers, like other professional athletes, are exempt from military service, but this can be revoked if political untrustworthiness is suspected. This extends to the national team which, sadly, at the time of writing, is regarded with widespread contempt within Belarus. The reason for this is that the majority of the players have stayed silent on the political crisis in the country and the associated violent repressions and groundless incarcerations. Many football supporters take the view that, if the national team players won’t support the people, then they owe the footballers no support in return.
It is a pity as it is an interesting time both for the domestic league and national team. Despite often outdated coaching and mediocre training facilities, Belarus has produced outstanding talents. Vitaly Lisakovich of Lokomotiv Moscow is one; a livewire, driven centre forward with an excellent touch and great strength. His younger brother Ruslan, currently at Isloch Minsk Raion, has just broken into the national team and is predicted to have an even brighter future than Vitaly. Dmitriy Prishchepa now plays regularly for Krylya Sovetov in the Russian top flight, having signed in the winter from FC Minsk. There are other players established in the Belarusian top flight that are worth watching, such as Gomel striker Andrei Solovey, Pavel Sedko at Dinamo Brest, Roman Davyskiba of Dynamo Minsk, and the latest clutch of talented youngsters developing under the watchful eyes of coaching veterans Anatoly Yurevich and Vladimir Belyavskiy at Energetik-BGU, and under Artem Radkov at Isloch. Ivan Bionchik’s Gomel team are currently amongst the most entertaining teams in the region to watch, an attacking side managed by a tactically flexible and intelligent coach.
Vitaly Lisakovich of Lokomotiv Moscow & Belarus
Dembo Darbo of Shakhtyor Soligorsk & Gambia Belarus is also known as a league where foreign talents can develop. This season the stand-out performer has been the Gambian striker Dembo Darbo, of Shakhtyor; he is the latest in a long line of African footballers who are attracting attention from clubs across Europe because of the exploits in the Belarusian top league. In the pandemic 2020 season, Uzbeks Jasurbek Yakshiboev and Shokhboz Umarov gained rave reviews for the performances, moving to Legia Warsaw and BATE Borisov, respectively. Watching the Belarusian league means you can catch a glimpse of future stars as they develop in a tough, competitive environment.
But the micro-narratives of domestic and international football take second place in Belarus presently. Many ordinary citizens have simply too much on their minds to notice the game much these days. Many “singing sections” and ultras groups have vowed to boycott the games until the political circumstances change, and their absence has been noted. Under the current political conditions, sadly, the quality of the domestic league and national team will continue to decline. Brighter minds are already thinking about what Belarusian football might look like in a world when the state is no longer the dominant actor in all spheres of economic life. It will be a tricky balance; whilst it can’t be right that the state pays for the upkeep of professional football clubs, one only has to look next door to Ukraine to see the perils of oligarchisation, and the same superrich clubs winning the league season after season. A process of change will take a good five years to enable and a generation after that to feel its consequences. In a notoriously impatient sport where next week’s result is all that matters, thinking in such a long-term way is anathema. Any transition will require careful thought and management.
A future Belarusian domestic league should still have the state involved somewhere, just not paying for everything. The German model, where the football association controls 51% of elite clubs, leaving 49% open to investment, seems ideal. Of course, those decisions can only be made in the Belarus that so many brave folk in the country are trying to fight for and imagine at present. Hopefully one day soon discussions about football in Belarus will revolve again around whether Klimovich or Dragun is a better attacking midfielder, and the vexed question of who should play in goal for the national team. If that happens it means that politics will have successfully been relegated to the front pages of the paper again, and normal life will have returned not just for footballers, officials, and supporters, but for every citizen of a new Belarus.
Art & Football: the Scottish Artists’ Team At first glance football and art might seem to be strange bedfellows. There appears to be little connection between the passions of a Saturday matchday, the desire for instant success by whatever means, the irrational highs and lows associated with a group of young men, or women, winning or losing a game, and the practice of art. By it’s very nature, and by stereotypical convention, art is more of a solitary practice, done behind the closed doors of a studio, and emerging from either an internal narrative and set of feelings or interests, before being revealed, fully finished, at an exhibition opening. The passions run no less deep, but their realisation and appreciation are differently expressed. There is also a class tension and discomfort between the two activities, unfashionable though it may be to mention these days. Barriers of behaviour, language and socialisation can make a middle-class fan feel slightly uncomfortable in a working-class crowd; similarly, the opaque conventions, politesse and silent disapprovals of a middle-class private gallery audience, can make the working-class visitor feel out of place, if not downright unwelcome. These tensions are laid bare in fictional writing about the sport. It’s often felt that football fiction is very hard to write indeed, beyond novels written for children. Fiction about the sport is very tough, as players and teams have to be invented (for example, Michael Hardcastle’s 1960s novels about the fictitious club “Scorton Rovers”, loosely based on reallife Blackburn). Everything about football fiction is ersatz- a strange, unsatisfying, suspension-of-belief parallel world to the real thing. 18
The two authors who have written outstanding football books under the constraints of fiction are Robin Jenkins, whose The Thistle and the Grail, published in 1954, is still the last word on Scottish junior football. Jenkins charts the many fragile and difficult personalities in the average home dressing room, and the relationship between those players, the supporters, and the small communities of a now long-vanished industrial Scotland. Brian Glanville’s Goalkeepers are Different was also a landmark novel, in charting, for a young audience, the relationships, tensions and frustrations of a fictional 1970s English first division side, through the blinking-scaredly eyes of its teenage goalkeeper. The interactions between contemporary art in Scotland, and football, rarely attract such attention, simply because they slip beneath the radar of most. Many artists associated with the “Glasgow Miracle” period of the early 90s had a regular kick about on a blaes pitch in Garnethill most Saturdays, later moving to the Pitz in Townhead. For non-Scottish readers, blaes is a kind of red sharp-edged shale, that made for bone-hard pitches at a certain time in Scottish sporting history, on which only the insane and the nerveless could perform a sliding tackle, and a dive could shred the goalkeeper’s jersey. 19
Two of the artists involved in those regular matches, Douglas Gordon and Roderick Buchanan, have gone on to produce significant bodies of football-related work; Buchanan, in his photographs of himself, friends and amateur players wearing the jerseys of the two Milan giants; Gordon, whose epic film focusing on Real Madrid & France legend Zinedine Zidane, a work produced in collaboration with French artist Phillippe Parreno, was first shown in Edinburgh in 2006-7.
20 Roddy Buchanan, Work in in Progress, (detail) 1995.Copyright the Artist, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
Buchanan’s work was unique in the mid1990s. In parallel to his playing football with fellow artists, his work focused on amateur players and how and why they chose to associate themselves with Italian football clubs; how wearing the shirt of a globally famous club makes you feel, and what values are associated with it. His work was a freezing in time of a community of players. Back then, of course, the Italian Serie A was probably the richest, and hardest, of the European leagues, and had a significant following through Channel 4’s muchmourned highlights programme, Gazzetta Football Italia. Gordon & Parreno’s film takes an unusual look at the all-consuming physical exertion of an individual player. Filmed with seventeen synchronised cameras during a game between Real and Villareal in April 2005, the film is precisely located through music (Mogwai) and news inserts, yet the overlasting impression is of the monomaniacal focus of a top athlete and just how much he or she is forced to give in a match. As a spectator in a live game you see exertion, but you don’t necessarily feel it.
Gordon’s practice, which from his work 24 Hour Psycho (1993) sought to reveal hidden things that even a professional eye hadn’t seen before, revealed a lot about what it feels to be a top professional footballer during a game, to audiences who have never played at that level. Watching it for the first time, I was reminded of the remarks of the former Leeds, Blackburn, Newcastle & England midfielder David Batty. Batty, a tough defensive midfielder who was a household name in the mid 1990s, reputedly didn’t like football or being a footballer much, and remarked that he felt like “a piece of meat” as chairmen and agents bought and sold him during his career. Unlike many fellow professionals of his era, he has since retreated into a closely guarded private life, shunning any involvement with the sport.
21 Douglas Gordon & Phillippe Parreno, Zidane : A 21st Century Portrait, 2005-6
This is a feeling of discomfort and dehumanization that some artists, whose work may be sold by a third party on their behalf, could empathise with. This ugly side of football, the petty injuries, the repetitiveness, the enforced part of a collective is increasingly airbrushed out on social media the increasingly aestheticized kit launches, the painful psychodramas of not being selected and being out of favour, melodramatic transfer announcements, the constant puffing on the treadmill of a 24-hour news culture. Douglas Gordon’s film comes from a time when people were willing to stop and listen to individual stories and to build empathy and understanding, rather than scrolling past in a dopaminechasing blur. There have been other really interesting projects making the unlikely triangulation between art and football. Together with the Portuguese-Scots curator Nuno Sacramento, Roddy Buchanan co-ordinated a Scottish artists’ team in the mid 2000s, as part of an ongoing project called the “Artcup”. Nuno had been on the books at Sporting Lisbon as a youngster and played at a semi-professional level in Scotland. Both curator and artist found the process challenging; the key characteristic for players in that team was that they be decent footballers first- the artistic profile was a secondary consideration, something that was regarded
as a strength. At the time, Buchanan had been invited to take part in football-themed shows, but was frustrated by participating with the same group of people in different venues. As a result, some high-profile artists who weren’t actually good enough to make the team as footballers weren’t able to participate. Artcup happened in three locations; in Lisbon, Nuno’s home town, in 2004, and the following year in Helsinki and Belgrade, where Buchanan had an invitation to participate in an exhibition Situated Self. The Belgrade match was shown live on Serbian television. Roddy Buchanan was artist in residence at Deveron Projects in Huntly in 2006, where Sacramento was based as a shadow curator. Having presented the idea of the Artcup to the director, Claudia Zeiske, a tournament took place at Huntly FC’s Christie Park, as the last stop in the project’s journey so far. This was a really interesting project, with the work shared equally between artist and curator, that sought to establish a dialogue between football and art, in order to understand what one activity could learn from the other; the intriguing suggestion that both football and art are (or should be) international and accessible languages that can establish a ready dialogue and friendship between total strangers. 22
Fraser Macdonald, 24 Hour Football, Generator Projects, Dundee, 2011
at Hamilton Academicals, and now plays for Dunfermline Athletic. He has painted since childhood and was encouraged to go to art school, before his football career took over. Williams’ paintings relate to the work of Welsh painters such as Josef Herman, in documenting the communities and people of slate-mining towns in north-west Wales, where he grew up.
Ten years ago now, the curator and artist Fraser MacDonald organised a performance-cum-football match at Dundee’s Generator Projects. He turned the gallery space into a five a side football pitch complete with a small seating area. Macdonald invited all those involved in Dundee’s contemporary art scene, and their friends, to the game. The match, astonishingly, last for the full 24 hours, pausing only very briefly for a local press photographer, and over 1,000 goals were scored by a shifting cast of local artist-footballers, streamed live on the internet, and encouraging similar feats of spectator endurance. The game was covered in print & broadcast media and invited comparison with durational performances by the likes of Martina Abramović and Chris Burden. More recently, footballers who make art as a spare time activity, the opposite of many of us on the Scottish artists’ team, have come to some prominence. The most able perhaps is the much-travelled Welsh international goalkeeper, Owain Fôn Williams, who had a spell here
Uroš Djurić in the colours of Borac Banja Luka, 2018 23
The relationship between football and art is not confined to the Scottish context, of course. The new OOF gallery, growing out of a magazine of the same name that deals with art and football, has just been given space at Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium. Photographs and reflective works by the Serbian art star Uroš Djurić who has had a lifelong interest in the relationships between art and football, playing for his country against Nuno & Roddy’s Scottish artists in 2006, and continues to engage and think closely on the relationship between the practices of art and football to this day. In Belarus, the former Vitebsk player Daniil Chalov, who runs a Moscow-based fashion label- Nichego Obychnogo (Nothing Ordinary), worked really hard during his time at the club to build bridges between fine art and football, writing intelligently about the issue. His company designed a special shirt for Vitebsk last season, based on El Lissitzky’s famous Civil War image, Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge, which was made at the revolutionary UNOVIS art school based in Vitebsk, in 1920. The shirt became a viral sensation on the internet and Daniil’s company were overwhelmed with requests and orders- far more than expected. More than a few of these special kits ended up with art-minded folk in the UK.
Daniil Chalov (second left) poses with Vitebsk team-mates in the club’s El Lissitzky-inspired shirt
Today, the team that you see playing under the banner of “Scottish Artists”, is playing together for the first time. It has been fifteen years since Nuno and Roddy’s Artcup. The idea of a Scottish artists’ team has been much discussed since but has never quite happened. Some of the players on our team today play regularly as individuals in five a side leagues. Some have flirted with semiprofessional football long ago, but made a choice to do other things. Others have never played beyond Sunday amateur level. The important thing for us today, first and foremost, is to show solidarity and support for Aliaksandr and all political prisoners in Belarus. After today, though, where this team goes and how it will develop will be a very interesting question for us all to engage with. I’m absolutely sure, as the discussion concerning how art and football relate, continues, that this will not be a one-off fixture for us. Enjoy the match. 25
Players’ Pen Pics Normally, in a football programme, there are four pages devoted to the teams and information on the players’ careers and achievements. However, in the circumstances, it doesn’t seem prudent to list the players of either team today. The organisers leave it to individuals to advertise their involvement if they wish to. Instead, we are providing biographies of Belarusian players, coaches, and backroom staff and who have suffered imprisonment, harassment or other forms of repression since the protests began in spring 2020.
Kirill ALSHEVSKY (ex-BATE Borisov, Rukh Brest)
] youngest head coach in Belarusian football history Kirill Petrovich Alshevsky was the when he was appointed caretaker coach of Dynamo Minsk in 2009, aged just 27, replacing Slavoljub Muslin. He had a very modest career as a player with RUOR Minsk before moving into coaching, and subsequently oversaw Belarus’ Under 19 and Under 21 age group teams. Sporting director of BATE Borisov between 201416, her returned to Borisov as part of the coaching staff in 2019, and took the role of head coach on at the end of that season, replacing Alexei Baga. Although he won the Belarusian Cup in 2020, league results weren’t good enough, for a club used to routine title wins, and he left Borisov in September. It looked like his career was back on track with Rukh Brest, a club wholly owned by Lukashenko funder and confidante Aleksandr Zaitsev. With an excellent squad Alshevsky had Rukh in third place in the league before he expressed support for the imprisoned Aliaksandr Ivulin in a press conference at the end of July. The Belarusian Football Federation, outraged at these remarks, demanded his dismissal, and even a figure as influential as Zaitsev was unable to help, dismissing Alshevsky after a cup defeat to derby rivals Dinamo Brest in early August. Alshevsky is widely regarded as one of the most informed and forward-thinking football coaches currently in Belarus, although his next role is likely to be outside the country. Uladzislau Tatur has described Alshevsky as wanting to play a type of football which 26 Belarusian players are not yet capable of delivering.
Stanislav DRAGUN (BATE Borisov) Stanislav, a bustling 33 year old central midfielder who makes things happen around him and contributes regularly to the scoresheet, has had an impressive career; a serial champion with BATE Borisov, until recently the dominant force in Belarusian domestic football, a regular in the Champions’ League, and a full Belarusian international with 68 caps & 11 goals to his name. During the protests last summer Dragun voiced disquiet at the savagery of the government crackdown, expressed empathy for the plight of those imprisoned, and wondered publicly how it was possible sleep at night, when he knew that such injustices were being suffered by fellow citizens. Tribuna subsequently reported that Dragun was threatened as a result of these comments by security forces, and he was pointedly absent for Belarus’ critical nations league semi-final game last September against Georgia. Since speaking out Stanislav has not been selected for any national team squad and is sometimes ironically referred to as “suffering from a political injury”. Currently recovering from knee surgery which cut short his 2021 season, he recently signed a contract extension with BATE.
Aliaksandr IVULIN (Krumkachy) Aliaksandr’s case is covered in the separate article, “Who Is Aliaksandr Ivulin”?, elsewhere in the programme. The 25 year old sports journalist, an amateur footballer until he signed on with Krumkachy as part of a reality TV show project, has been imprisoned since the beginning of June and is currently in prison under article 342 “preparing acts that grossly violate public order”. No date for a trial has been set for this charge which carries up to five years’ imprisonment.
Two days after the assault Krumkachy played Dynamo Minsk at the Olympski Stadium in the Belarusian Cup. Krumkachy players wore T-shirts before the game, during their warm-up, stating that the club stood with the people, and was against violence. The “Ravens” turned in a spectacular performance, upsetting their big city rivals in a 2-0 win amidst an emotional but also intimidating atmosphere. The stadium was ringed by OMON riot squads throughout the game.
Sergey KOZEKA & Pavel RASSOLKO (Krumkachy) The two Krumkachy players, on their way home from a training session at the end of August 2020, were apprehended by members of the Leninskoe Raion Police Department in Minsk, and savagely beaten. They were accused, baselessly, of having damaged a police car during protests. Kozeka suffered a fractured vertebrae in the sustained assault which was shared widely on social media channels, and was hospitalised the day after arrest, with severe injuries. Rassolko suffered concussion.
Sergei Kozeka did not play again, retiring at the end of the 2020 season. Rassolko moved to Naftan Novopolotsk, in the second tier, where he is a regular starter. He did however collapse in a league game early this season, and had to be carried off, with media speculation that his beating had led to long term damage. No criminal proceedings resulted from their arrest nor was an apology offered. The case of these two footballers highlighted to a shocked sports community how literally anyone could be arrested for anything on the streets of Belarus during the height of the protests last summer. Had the players not been high profile sports people, and had their case not caused such outrage, maybe they would still be in jail. 28
Rostislav SHAVEL (Gorodeya) Rostislav is a young attacking midfielder-cum-striker. He appeared five times for the now defunct top flight club, Gorodeya, last season, without scoring. His 2020 season was interrupted by two weeks in jail for taking part in the August protests. At the beginning of 2021, he was offered a trial with Krumkachy by Oleg Dulub, after the closure of Gorodeya, but nothing came of this screening period. Rostislav, vocal in his support for democracy and fair elections, has been in and out of jail since the end of the last football season for political reasons, and is currently detained under the same Article 342 as Aliaksandr Ivulin. As we go to press Rostislav’s trial based on this charge, in Zavodski District court in Minsk, is near its conclusion.
starts, earning him a move to CSKA Moscow. Capped six caps for the Belarusian under-21 side, Ilya would likely be an automatic pick for the national team now, had he not publicly refused to play for Belarus, for as long as Lukashenko usurps the presidency. He voiced scathing criticism of the government and its crackdown.
Ilya SHKURIN (Dynamo Kiev) 22 year old Ilya Shkurin, a powerful, free-scoring centre forward, hails from Vitebsk, and began his footballing career with his home town club. Ilya was known as a headstrong and opinionated youth player not frightened to voice criticism of coaches or team-mates and it seemed that this outspoken quality would hamper the development of his professional career. However, the experienced coach Anatoly Yurevich did excellent work with Ilya at Energetik-BGU Minsk. Under Yurevich’s disciplinarian guidance, the big striker was top scorer in the Belarusian league in 2019, with 19 goals from 26
Subsequently, the Belarusian FA have gone to FIFA to try and force him to observe their call-ups to the national team squad, attempting to oblige him to return to Belarus. When this failed, Lukashenko began deportation proceedings so that “he can be dealt with”. Presumably this meant a spell in prison, or in one of the Belarusian army’s less appealing garrisons in Gomel oblast. CSKA Moscow- the former Red Army team- were obliged to loan Ilya to Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine for a season, to protect him from this- they got him out of Russia not long before he was to be arrested. Ilya scored 3 in 13 starts for CSKA and has won over his new coach, Mircea Lucescu, at Dynamo, scoring his first league goal in a recent 7-1 rout of Kolos Kovalivka.
Viktoria SIDORCHUK (Dinamo Brest)
Staff : Olga KHIZNIKOVA (ex-Dinamo Brest)
In a womens’ premier league match at Dinamo Brest on 25 May 2021, 21-year old Viktoria Sidorchuk turned her back on the state flag during the playing of the national anthem. The Belarusian anthem is played before every game kicks off in Belarus, with players facing the flag. The gesture, accompanied by a message on the footballer’s personal Instagram page in support of the recently kidnapped Roman Protasevich, saw her gain significant coverage in the media. Dinamo Brest terminated her contract a week later and it is not known if she is currently involved in the game.
Olga was Dinamo Brest’s press secretary from 2016-2020 and was in post when the club won the league title in 2019. A former Miss Belarus, and well-known fashion model, Olga, a prominent supporter of pro-democracy forces, was sacked from her job in the National Academy of Beauty in September 2020. Subsequently, she was imprisoned in November 2020 for participation in an “unauthorised protest” and remained incarcerated for 42 days. Her conviction sparked a wave of disquiet amongst citizens in and beyond football, including the campaign “I am Olga Khiznikova” organised by friends and supporters in the fashion and beauty industries, which gained international coverage. She was released on 21 December 2020. 31
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