Yuri Kurnenin has passed awayYuri Kurnenin has passed away (csportsfile)
Former Belarus coach Yuri Kurnenin has died aged 55. Kurnenin, who led Belarus to the UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals for just the second time in Sweden in June, passed away in his sleep in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Despite the achievement of taking Belarus to the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, Kurnenin was always best known in his homeland for his success as a player. He began his career at FC Dinamo Moskva but made his name with FC Dinamo Minsk between 1976 and his retirement in 1987. A member of the Dinamo side that became the only Belarussian club to win the Soviet title in 1982, Kurnenin initially played in midfield, but switched to wing-back, where his attacking instincts brought a famous hat-trick in a victory against FC Kairat Almaty during the title-winning season. Kurnenin entered the record books by scoring Belarus's first goal in UEFA competition when his free-kick against Grasshopper-Club earned Dinamo a 1-0 first-round victory in the European Champion Clubs' Cup in September 1983.
His coaching career began with KIM Vitebsk in the minor Soviet leagues in 1989 before a move to FC Dinamo Brest, whom he led to third place in the inaugural Belarus championship in 1992, still the club's best finish. Kurnenin went on to coach in Russia, Syria and Oman, notably leading the Syrian national side to the 1996 AFC Asian Cup finals. He returned to Belarus, and Dinamo, in 1999 but was unable to emulate his playing success and was sacked midway through the 2000 season. Spells at FC Chernomorets Novorossiysk and FC Shakhtar Soligorsk followed before another brief stint at Dinamo in 2003.
He then teamed up with former Dinamo Moskva and Dinamo Minsk team-mate Anatoliy Baidachniy as assistant coach of the Belarus national side before taking over the U21s in February 2006. His success in leading Belarus to the 2009 finals in Sweden, where they drew one and lost two of their three matches, has set a high example for his successor Georgi Kondratiev to follow.