Joel Amorim

BATE Borisov are certainly not a club steeped in history when compared to closest rivals Dinamo Minsk. In fact, they are just under 40 years old. BATE were founded in 1973, but struggled to make an impact in the Soviet era, with giants such as Spartak Moscow, Dynamo Kyiv, Torpedo Moscow and Dynamo Moscow ruling the roost. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the constant turmoil suffered by the former Soviet republics, BATE were formed once again in 1996 and, since then, have grown at a remarkable rate.

Over the last 13 years, BATE have collected nine Belarusian titles, two domestic cups and two super cups. In November 2007 a new chapter began under Viktor Goncharenko, with the club moving to a different level, winning five Belarusian titles in a row, while this season they are making an impact in the Champions League.

Goncharenko is the mastermind behind the project and the 35-year-old coach has done impressive things. A former BATE player, Goncharenko was forced to retire early through injury and moved into management. By his own admission, Goncharenko has read everything there is to read about the great managers of the game. It has been claimed that his team’s style is a mix of Oleg Romantsev and Valery Lobanovskyi. BATE play a 4-4-2 that is often transformed into a 4-5-1, with the flamboyant midfielder Aleksandar Hleb lurking behind the forward. This approach has been providing BATE with splendid results, both domestically and in Europe.

On 11th November, BATE secured their ninth Belarusian title after smashing FC Minsk 5-1. In the Champions League, the side are still in the race to qualify for the Round of 16. With a crucial game against Lille to come tomorrow, BATE will be hoping to reproduce the performance which saw them see off Bayern Munich 3-1 in Minsk, when they were truly announced as knockout round contenders.

BATE have a number of interesting players, almost wholly unknown to most of Europe. Goncharenko can call upon two sold shot-stoppers as goalkeeping options in Andrei Gorbunov and Aleksandr Gutor. In defence, 25-year-old Serbia international Marko Simic, and Egor Filipenko, a product of BATE’s youth academy but with experience at Spartak Moscow, stand firm.

Midfield is probably BATE’s strongest area, with players able to play a short passing style and keep hold of the ball. The most well-known of their stars is Aleksandar Hleb, the former Arsenal and Barcelona schemer. Now 31 years old, Hleb’s experience has been crucial to the team’s improvement this season. However, he is not the only talented midfielder at the club, with Renan Bressan, Aleksandr Pavlov, Aleksandr Volodko and Mikhail Sivakov just some of the name set to garner scouts’ interest soon.

Up front, BATE rely heavily on a single player, Vitaliy Rodionov. The Belarusian forward is a competent goalscorer and is the club’s all-time goal-getter, with 57 goals in the country’s top flight.

BATE Borisov are setting an example to follow in how to bring through young talents. The club have only three foreign players in their squad and even star Aleksandar Hleb is a product of BATE’s youth academy.

The Belarusian giants have taken great strides forward in the last five years and look likely to become a fixture in the Champions League group stages.