Ahead of Switzerland’s EURO 2024 qualifier against Belarus on Saturday, 25 March, Campax and Libereco protested in front of UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon.

The background is the demand of the two non-governmental organisations to UEFA to exclude Belarus from the Euro 2024. A petition demanding the exclusion of Belarus was signed by more than 17,500 people and handed over to a UEFA representative in Nyon on Friday. According to media reports, the question of Belarus’ participation in the European Championship could be discussed by the UEFA Executive Committee as early as 4 April.

In the past few days, 30 members of the Swiss Parliament, 46 members of the German Bundestag and more than 100 members of the European Parliament have sent open letters to UEFA, also calling for Belarus to be excluded from the European Championship.

UEFA headquarters, Nyon, 24 March 2023.

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Massive repression in Belarus

Among the political prisoners in Belarus is Ales Bialiatski, the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize winner who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in early March. Ihar Losik, one of the political prisoners in Belarus, in sheer desperation, attempted suicide this week. He has been imprisoned since June 2020 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. His wife, Darya Losik, was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison in October 2022 for her engagement for his release. Their joint child is now in the care of his grandmother.

“Belarus is not an opponent like any other for Switzerland. The regime of dictator Lukashenko is responsible for the imprisonment of more than 1400 innocent people and supports the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. The Swiss Football Association could send a sign of solidarity with the people of Belarus on Saturday and by, for example, dedicating a possible victory to the Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Bialiatski,” states Lars Bünger, President of Libereco.

The regime’s influence on Belarusian football

Belarusian Football Federation, board election, 22 March 2023.

Football players, referees and coaches are also affected by the state repression. Two young children’s football coaches and several activists of the football fan scene are among the political prisoners. Games in the Belarusian league are being manipulated by state order. The Krumkachy Minsk football club is a victim of state repression. Football players critical of the regime are blacklisted. They are threatened with dismissal if they do not make statements loyal to the regime.

As was shown most recently at its membership meeting this week, the Belarusian Football Association is state-controlled and absolutely loyal to the regime. Viktor Lukashenko, the son of dictator Lukashenko, and sports minister Sergei Kovalchuk, responsible for state repression, were seated on the podium next to representatives of FIFA and UEFA. Heidi Beha (FIFA, Germany) and Jozef Kliment (UEFA, Slovakia) conveyed greetings from their associations, which apparently turn a blind eye to the lack of independence of the Belarusian Football Association.