FC BATE Borisov's rise to European prominence owes much to the visionary leadership of Anatoli Kapski, who took a major role in reviving the club in 1996 following its 1981 dissolution.
Now 45, Kapski is one of the owners of the Borisov tractor electrics factory that spawned the club, and it was his passion for football that started BATE's rise. They won promotion from the third division in his first season in charge in 1996, and now have seven league titles and two Belarus Cups to their name as they prepare for a second season in the UEFA Champions League group stage, and games against FC Viktoria Plzeň, FC Barcelona and AC Milan. With the club's production line of home-grown talent still working overtime, Kapski spoke to UEFA.com.
UEFA.com: When BATE was refounded in 1996, did you believe the club would get to this level?
Kapski: You have to set goals that are difficult to reach but realistic. I cannot say I thought we would make it to the Champions League group stage. We just went forward step by step until we finally got where we are now.
UEFA.com: Defender Igor Shitov and midfielder Pavel Nekhaychik moved to FC Dinamo Moskva recently. How do you keep standard high at BATE when so many top players move on?
Kapski: Every year some homegrown players emerge and we count on them. This season we have Yegor Filipenko, Dmitri Baga, Maksim Skavysh, Aleksandr Gutor, Oleg Patotski and some other lads. About half of the first team came through our youth academy.
UEFA.com: What do BATE need to be regulars in Europe's top club competition?
Kapski: We are a successful team, but to stand firmer on our feet we need to capitalise on our achievements. That is pretty difficult to do in the current market climate in Belarus, but we try to get stronger every year anyway.
UEFA.com: How did you feel about your group stage draw?
Kapski: Before the draw was made, the lads had set themselves the task of collecting points. That is difficult to do against giants like Barcelona and Milan, but we will try. Viktoria Plzeň are tough rivals too; Czech sides are determined, powerful and quick, but we do not want to be the whipping boys. Are we afraid of Barcelona? Every team in the world should be. No-one has discovered how to beat them consistently yet.
UEFA.com: Can fans expect BATE to invest their UEFA Champions League money in new players?
Kapski: We will not go crazy. We have plans to develop the club's infrastructure. Certainly, we may go for some transfers that would be considered big for Belarus, but we will not bring stars here that would look down on on our young team.
UEFA.com: Is reaching the group stage the best BATE can hope to achieve?
Kapski: Let's wait and see.
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