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What to look out for in Europe's summer seasons


Goalscoring goalkeepers, ingenious celebrations and perpetual daylight are among our correspondents' unique selling points of the 11 summer leagues. Take a trip.

FC BATE Borisov remain the team to beat in Belarus
FC BATE Borisov remain the team to beat in Belarus ©Pressball

In an unpredictable world, Belarusian football offers stability and consistency. FC BATE Borisov have been champions since 2006 and have kicked off their push for a tenth successive title with nine games unbeaten (no goals conceded). FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk and 1982 Soviet champions FC Dinamo Minsk dream of dethroning BATE, but the club that defeated FC Bayern München 3-1 in the UEFA Champions League, and held Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and AC Milan, are almost invincible in Belarus.

The Meistriliiga is a great place to be a striker, with top marksmen regularly providing the early-season hare for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to chase in the ESM Golden Shoe race. It is an increasingly competitive league; top dogs FC Levadia Tallinn and FC Flora Tallinn are being challenged by Nõmme Kalju FC and JK Sillamäe Kalev, the latter making good use of contacts in Russia to source talent. Domestic players dominate Estonia's national team – a measure of rising standards.

Faroese top scorer Klæmint Olsen
Faroese top scorer Klæmint Olsen©Birita Hansen/www.nsi.fo

With 16 goals for leaders NSÍ Runavík, Klæmint Olsen is chasing the record of 24 in a Faroese season. Hedin Stenberg scored his second of the season on Saturday for AB Argir, but he is a goalkeeper. Records have already been broken in 2015: B36 Tórshavn's Jákup á Borg is now the league's all-time top scorer and KÍ Klaksvík's Hedin á Lakjuni has set a new appearance mark. A mention too for KÍ's women, who won a world-first 15th straight title last year and are closing in on No16.

A third of the way through the season and HJK Helsinki lead the way – no surprise given that they have won the last five Veikkausliiga titles. However, RoPS Rovaniemi, SJK Seinäjoki and IFK Mariehamn are not out of sight, so there is still plenty to play for. Local conditions provide a spectacular backdrop and summer in the Aland Isles, home of IFK Mariehamn, is something to behold. Evening kick-offs are something of an irrelevance in Rovaniemi: in midsummer in Lapland, the sun never sets.

After the worst winter for almost four decades there has been a giddy abandon about the first weeks of the campaign, with FH Hafnarfjördur – who failed to win a trophy in 2014 – living up to their billing as pre-season favourites. European football is the big target, with the Cinderella story of Víkingur – who qualified for the 2015/16 UEFA Europa League after winning promotion in 2013 – giving plenty of players hope that they might be the next Eidur Gudjohnsen.

Things can get heated in Kazakhstan
Things can get heated in Kazakhstan©Konstantin Dolzhansky

Kazakhstan toyed with switching to a winter season a couple of years ago. In southern parts of the world's ninth largest nation, football is viable in late autumn and early spring, but much of the remainder of the country is snowbound for five months of the year. A summer league can bring extreme conditions, too – matchday temperatures can be as high as 50C. The 12-team table divides at the halfway point: one groups of six vie for European places; the other six battle to avoid relegation.

Small but beautiful, the Virslīga has a wonderfully intimate quality; there are not many leagues where you can speak to a coach during a game, and – especially if it is Skonto FC boss Tamaz Pertia – get a reply. There is creativity; during last season's match against FK Liepāja, FK Ventspils midfielder Jurijs Žigajevs unleashed a unique 'taking a team photo with a football boot' celebration, which became a YouTube sensation. Results are unpredictable too: relatively little separated the top and bottom in terms of budget.

Rallies at football matches played a part in Lithuiania's quest for independence, and the game continues to stir passions. The nation's most successful side, FK Žalgiris Vilnius, owe their existence to the hardcore fans who came together to revive the club from scratch in 2009. A gold mine of great viral celebrations (Dzmitry Koub applauding his own goal from the stands, Rostyslav Diakiv's building-site visit), Lithuanian clubs unearth talent, too, see: Tottenham Hotspur FC's Paulinho.

Molde FK ran away with the title last year, and Norwegian fans feared 2015 would be another no-contest – they need not have worried. Rosenborg BK are thriving since returning to the attack-minded 4-3-3 formation that made them UEFA Champions League regulars in the 1990s. Vålerenga Fotball and Molde are in the running, and Stabæk Fotball have emerged as surprise contenders under former United States boss Bob Bradley.

The League of Ireland is enjoying some time in the spotlight, with senior internationals David Forde (ex-Galway United FC) and James McClean (ex-Derry City FC) both training with their old clubs as they prepare for UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying. Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill and assistant Roy Keane (a former League of Ireland player, with Cobh Ramblers FC) watched champions Dundalk FC play Bohemian FC, too. Dundalk duly lost for the first time in 25 home matches.

Two conclusions 13 rounds into the Swedish season: No1 – the title looks to be as hard to defend as ever. Malmö FF broke a Swedish jinx by defending their title last year (something no champion had done since 2003) but they are now fourth. Conclusion No2 – fans are coming out in numbers. There has been an average attendance of 9,721 so far (1,010,980 fans in total), making 2015 the best-attended season since 2007. The Allsvenskan is on hiatus until 4 July, but expect an exciting title race to keep fans coming back for more.

You can follow all the latest scores and tables in our year-round MatchCentre

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