Several years ago Yury Beletskiy, a father of four, decided to organize a football section for his sons and other boys in his native Zhabinka, a town with the population of about 13,000 in the south-west of Brest region. Despite having no sport background, no connections or big money, the man managed to set up a football club and a training section, that is now open to 60 kids aged 6 to 15.
Several days ago Yury Beletskiy won the gold award in the Best Leader category of the 2016 UEFA Grassroots Awards.
The town does offer some sports facilities to local children – they can do swimming, boxing, athletics. But for some reason for over ten years there was no football at all, even though the place has an equiped football field.
“We wanted to fill this gap”, 47-year-old Yury, a father of three sons and a daughter, says.
The man used to be an entrepreneur, was employed in trade, worked at a plant and a construction site. Due to certain circumstances he had to change job again and turn to sports.
Yury admits that he has always liked football, but was never good at playing it. Unlike the father, his sons were promising on the field.
At that time there was no football section in Zhabinka, so Yury was taking the two eldest sons, David and Zakhar, to Brest. Three of them were making 60kms every day except Sunday.
Things were going well in the beginning as Yury’s flexible working hours allowed him to drive kids. After the man found a new job, the situation changed: he could no longer accompany one of the sons, so the boy would have to travel on his own, which was rather dangerous.
When his sons were forced to skip training, Yuri would take a ball and play with them on a local field. So he became a father-coach. Other local children joined in and soon there was a team in Zhabinka.
“I wasn’t a good coach”, Yury admits. “I started looking for a professional. For a while we had one coach, but then he left. So we were left alone again.”
The man recalls that every year local authorities would promise to open a football section at a local sports school, but as time went by nothing changed.
“In the end, the boys had an idea. We returned after a tournament in Minsk, and they asked me: “Uncle Yura, let’s set up a club?” At first I took it as a joke, but on second though I was like… Why not give it a try?”
It took Yury Beletskiy two years. In February 2016 he officially registered FC Rostok. Now the players have two coaches.
“We don’t do anything global here. Just two teams: for old and young age groups.”
Players of FC Rostok participate in tournaments, hold friendly matches, join other teams for training. They also do charity – young athletes visit orphanages to play with children who have no parents.
Yury reveals his big dream – to create a football centre where orphans could live and play football.
“I do not know if I will be able to do it. It would be a very, very expensive project”, the man says.
Yury’s work in the Belarusian Zhabinka was noticed by UEFA. Yury Beletskiy was named “the best grassroots leader, who has given children with no previous chance to play organised football – the opportunity to enjoy the game and socialise with other youngsters”.
Silver and bronze awards in the nomination went to Sweden and Italy.
The amateur manager is not sure what the prize will be. “I just know that they would gift us foot balls”, Yury Beletskiy laughs.
The original version of this article in Russian was published by TUT.BY.