We’ve become so accustomed on Canadian shores to praising hockey players who give it their all when competing internationally, that it seems a little unsettling to read about what’s coming out of Belarus.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko recently called his country’s national hockey team “spineless” after it failed to qualify for the playoffs at the world championships. Ouch.
Lukashenko, an authoritarian leader who has held power since 1994, told government officials the Belarusian players lack ambition, have “no commitment at all” and are “absolutely spineless”.
Skill, fitness and teamwork are all lacking, he added.
The team’s staff didn’t escape the presidential wrath either, with Lukashenko saying “the coaching work is disgusting”.
Belarus won two of its seven games at the world championships this month, finishing second from last in its group. It won’t play at next year’s Olympics after losing to Slovenia in a qualifying tournament last year.
Lukashenko has played hockey with Russian President Vladimir Putin and says the sport is like an “ideology” for the roughly 9.5 million inhabitants of his ex-Soviet nation. As a remedy for poor performance, Lukashenko said Belarusian hockey clubs should lower salaries and offer bigger bonuses for success.
Okay, THAT’S not a bad idea. But throwing stones, labelling players as “spineless” when they have to go up against the best in the world? Not a great strategy. Nice encouragement, Alex. ~ Jason