By Denis Orlov
December is traditionally the quietest month of the year in Belarussian football, with the annual end-of-season awards providing the main highlight.
FC Dinamo Moskva midfield player Maxim Romashenko was named Belarus's Player of the Year for 2004 but sounded slightly underwhelmed as he said: "I cannot say that I was really surprised or delighted. It was just very nice.
"There were some rumours floating around," added the 28-year-old, who had never previously won the award. "During our last international game our national team coach Anatoli Baidachny dropped a hint that I might win the award, though I must say I did not really believe him at the time."
FC Dinamo Minsk midfield player Andrei Razin was named the best player in the Belarussian league in 2004, after scoring ten goals and providing 12 assists in 27 league appearances. However, the 25-year-old has yet to find a way into Baidachny's national team squad.
Of all the Belarussian clubs, only Dinamo have started their preparations for the forthcoming 2005 season. The club have been back on the training ground preparing to compete with the champions of the other former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth Cup later this month.
Podpaly heads home
Meanwhile, coach Sergey Podpaly - who led FC Gomel to the Belarus Cup in 2002 and the league title in 2003 - has left FC Torpedo-SKA Minsk after a four-month spell to return to his native Russia to coach third division side FC Nosta Novotroitsk.
"I did not want to leave until the last moment," said Podpaly, who had spent the last four seasons in Belarus. "We had little luck last year, and financial conditions at the club will not allow Torpedo to aim high next season. To tell the truth, I do not really want to work without adequate support."
Finally, the Football Federation of Belarus has decided to introduce a limit on foreign players. Starting from this year, the top division teams will be allowed to name only eight foreigners in their squads for the season, and a maximum of five foreign players in any matchday squad. Foreign players who signed for their clubs before 31 August 2004 will be exempt from the new rule and will not be classified as foreigners until their current contracts expire.
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