2 September 2020 | TUT.BY
Famous Belarusian athletes announced the creation of the Free Association of Belarusian Athletes and posted their messages on a special Instagram account.
The athletes demand to hold new presidential elections in Belarus, release all citizens detained during the demonstrations and not involved in illegal activities, release and rehabilitate all political prisoners, conduct checks on the legality of the actions of law enforcement officials, starting from the moment signatures are collected for nomination for presidential candidates in Belarus. Identify and punish those responsible for the beatings and abuse of citizens detained during peaceful demonstrations.
It should be noted that all these people had previously signed under an open letter with demands to the authorities.
World and European champion in sambo, champion of the first European Games, Honored Master of Sports of Belarus, laureate of the public competition ‘Triumph. To Heroes of Sports’, winner of the international ‘Fair Play’ award.
“I want to appeal to all representatives of martial arts,” said Popov. “We are all strong guys and we can stand up for ourselves and for our loved ones, for example, if someone attacks us on the street. But when it is done by those who are supposed to defend us, and they also beat us with incredible cruelty, shoot, maim, brutally abuse and humiliate.
Whatever titles we have, we don’t want to use our skills in return! All those events turned my world upside down. Many of these guys shared gyms, rings, tatami and wrestling mats with us. We were equal there. There were rules. There was respect, and the strongest won. And when we defeated one of them, we did not abuse or injure anyone. We always shook hands after the fight! I do not know what motives prompted the people in uniform to such incredible cruelty. It is difficult to understand and cannot be forgiven.
International Master of Sports, bronze medalist of the European Basketball Championship. Champion of the Western Conference Women’s NBA (WNBA). Best Center at the 2010 World Championship. Finalist of the WNBA. Participant of two Olympiads.
“Despite the pain, suffering and horror our people experienced this August, today’s Belarusians admire and inspire me. I feel genuine pride and responsibility at the same time. The time has come when we, the Belarusian athletes, become fans for our people.”
Triple Olympic medalist in swimming, world and European champion.
“Sport is not a profession, but a way of life. And all sports principles work in life. Willpower, honor, courage are an integral part of each of us. This is what leads to victory. Clean and honest.
For violation of these principles, athletes are eliminated from the competition or, worse, from the team. If you can’t stick to them in life you don’t belong in sports.
In the decisive moment for the life of our country each athlete should ask the question ‘Am I worthy to defend the honor of the country if I cannot defend my own?’.”
Member of the national basketball team 3×3, European Games winner, eight-time champion of Belarus in basketball.
“Friends, I cannot remain indifferent to what is happening in our country now: violence, lawlessness, pressure and threats of firing [from jobs].
For a long time we represented Belarus on the international arena. Our people supported us. Today we cannot stand aside and must support them with our word, our civil stance.
I know that many athletes without significant regalia think that their opinion is insignificant. In fact, the opinion of every person is important today. Now, human dignity stands above all awards and achievements.
My deceased coach used to say ‘A finger is easy to break, but a fist is unbreakable. There are five of you on the court and if you act as one, you are a fist, you are invincible.’
So: there are many more of us, and we are with the people!”
Master of Sports, European U22 Champion 1994, Champion of Belarus and Ukraine, Vice-Champion of Russia, player of the National Basketball Team of the Republic of Belarus 1995-2012, Best Player of Belarus 1998, 2001, 2002, 2008, 2009.
“We will never forget the violence that took place on the streets of our cities. We will never forget those howls of pain that came from detention centers. Today there can be no half-hearted position. We have gone beyond the point of no return, the nation has become different during these days of August 2020!
Our hearts ache for our homeland. But I see that Belarusians have resurrected today. Just look at the sincere and happy eyes of our people. Many find it difficult to express their position — there is fear. But fear is an illusion.”
Member of the national volleyball team, bronze medalist of the World Club Championship, Russian Super League champion, South Korean Cup champion, Qatar Cup and Championship winner, triple champion of Belarus.
“I know that many athletes are against violence, but not all are ready to openly declare this. Someone out of fear for their future. Someone is afraid of losing what they have. Someone is afraid of losing a place under the sun.
I believe that for many of us there are things that are more valuable than money. For me, this is human life, justice, honesty before oneself, self-respect. Desire to look into the eyes of your child without shame or at your reflection in the mirror without disgust. Pride in your own choice.”
World and European champion in athletics (shot putting).
“Many years ago my coach told me wonderful words: ‘You may not be an athlete, but you must be a human being.’
Belarusians died from unjust cruelty. Hundreds of victims are beaten and tortured. Those people were rooting for us, rejoiced at our victories and lived through our defeats. Those people healed us and helped us to recover from injuries and return to sports. Those people paid taxes so that we could do what we love and make our dreams come true.
Violence has not spared our colleagues. Coaches, athletes and sports workers have suffered. And now our words of support are very important to them!
Champion’s spirit cannot afford to stand aside and remain silent. And today it is more important than ever to be a brave person. Be a person with a big and kind heart! Be a Human with a capital letter.”
Captain of the national basketball team of Belarus, bronze medalist of the European Championship, participant of two Olympic Games.
“In my life, I have never voted in an election. I always thought that my vote would not solve anything, but this August changed my opinion about myself. You’ve all seen the photo that appeared a couple of days after the vote, an old man clenching his fists stands in front of a riot policeman. Seeing him, I realized: I was not afraid that my voice won’t change anything, as I calmed myself, but I rather was afraid that if you want something more for the country, for yourself as a citizen, it will only get worse. That if I go against the system, then this system will break me.
But we all make a choice in this life, and I chose not to be silent about current events. I choose to stop waiting while others are fighting for a better life. I’d rather clench my fists and with determination on my face and fear in my heart stand up for my right to want changes, for my right to a better life like this old man did.”
Head coach of the Vityaz handball club, master of sports, multiple champion and winner of the Belarus Cup.
“I appeal to athletes, workers in the sports industry, to the handball community, to handball players, to the handball family. For whom and why is sport needed? Who are we playing for?
In my mind as an athlete, we play for the audience, for the fans, for the people! And our fans are now very much humiliated, insulted, deceived, beaten. Isn’t it the time for the athletes themselves to take the side of the fans, so that you may become fans yourself? In their eyes, you are heroes! Make sure that you have someone to play for in our country!
I am the father of three wonderful children. I don’t want my children to live in a country of humiliation and torture, threats and intimidation, coercion. Athletes, we are all one family! Let’s support each other and live in an honest country. In a sports country with rules of fair play.”
Founder of the Vityaz handball club, coordinator of the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Fund.
“I want our sport to be able to develop in a free country, where opponents respect each other and observe the rules of fair play.
I also dream that we will finally be able to perform at the Olympics. So that millions of our compatriots cheer for us and for our flag, which we defended in the difficult hours of our history.”