The smile Lukashenko couldn’t wipe

Footballer and journalist Aleksiander Ivulin spent two years in prison for ‘protests’. Despite human rights abuses of its citizens, including footballers, and state interference of the Belarusian Football Federation, Uefa and Fifa have not banned the country from international play. In fact, the Lukashenko-run federation’s biggest source of income is Uefa and Fifa funding.

By Lars Johnsen

He too had the dream, the always smiling Aleksiander Ivulin. Playing at the local club, the technical sessions by himself in the backyard of the family’s house in the town of Orsha in northwestern Belarus, he dreamt of appearing on football’s biggest stage. Napoleon’s army had burnt his home town in la grande armée’s quest to invade Russia in 1812. During the second world war, the town, then part of the Byelosrussian Socialist Soviet Republic, was occupied by Nazi forces who operated several concentration camps in the area. It was in Orsha that Belarusian strikes took place in 1991, playing its part in the downfall of the Soviet regime.

“Yes. I too dreamt of becoming a professional footballer,” Ivulin says in a zoom call mere weeks since he was released serving two-years in jail as a political prisoner in Belarus. The number of political prisoners as of April 2023 in Belarus is 1472 and rising every day .

He’s now exiled in Tbilisi, Georgia.

“I’ve come to my senses. Everything is super. I’m adapting to normal life.”

He smiles.

Reality show
An injury made him scrap the dream – at least for a while.
“So I decided t...

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