Ukrainian Soccer Star Sheds Tears after Getting Standing Ovation from Fans

A Ukrainian soccer star struggled to hold back tears after receiving a standing ovation from nearly 40,000 fans watching a match in Portugal.

Roman Yaremchuk appeared emotional as he made his way on to the pitch for top Portuguese side Benfica at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon on Sunday evening, just days after his native Ukraine was invaded by Russia.

Brought on with his team already 3-0 up in a Primeira Liga (First Division) game against lowly Vitoria S.C., Yaremchuk came on as a direct replacement for fellow striker Darwin Nunez.

But while Nunez may have made the crucial difference on the pitch with two goals, it was his incoming teammate who drew applause from every corner of the ground.

Eager to show their support for Ukraine during these difficult times, fans of both Benfica and Vitoria S.C. rose as one to applaud the 26-year-old Yaremchuk, who also plays for the Ukraine national team.

In a further show of solidarity with the Ukrainian striker, Benfica defender Jan Vertonghen handed Yaremchuk the coveted captain's armband.

As applause rang out around the Estadio da Luz, which translates as the Stadium of Light, fans among the 39,846-strong crowd waved Ukraine flags and banners in a show of support for the country.

The power of the gesture was not lost on Yaremchuk who was visibly emotional as he came on the field, choking back tears as he surveyed the scene.

One of many Ukrainian footballers currently plying their trade away from their homeland, like many others, Yaremchuk's thoughts are no doubt consumed with concerns over the friends and family he has living back home in Ukraine during these times of conflict.

A video capturing the standing ovation and Yaremchuk's tearful reaction was shared to Twitter by Benfica. It can be watched here.

Earlier in the evening, the Benfica players had made a point of walking on to the pitch wearing the colors of Ukraine.

Newsweek has contacted the club for comment.

In a similar scene of solidarity, fans of Manchester City and Everton applauded as their respective Ukrainian stars Oleksandr Zinchenko and Vitaly Mykolenko shared a warm embrace ahead of their Premier League clash last Saturday.

That clip can be watched here.

European soccer's governing body, UEFA, has already taken steps to sanction Russia with the country stripped of hosting duties for this season's Champions League final.

However, the world governing body, FIFA, has opted against expelling the Russian national team from the 2022 World Cup.

Russia are still in contention to reach the finals in Qatar and have progressed to the playoff phase. However, the authorities in charge of the Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic national teams have all stated they will boycott any game against Russia.

Russia is due to face Poland with the winner progressing to a decisive game against Sweden or the Czech Republic.

In a statement issued on the FIFA website, the governing body said the Poland play-off would go ahead but at a neutral venue with no fans, while Russia would have to play under the name "Football Union of Russia (RFU)." No flag or anthem of Russia would feature either.

FIFA stopped short of excluding Russia though, noting that such measures could still be applied "in the near future" should the situation "not be improving rapidly."

The decision came on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country's nuclear forces were being placed on special "combat readiness."

Ukraine player Roman Yaremchuk of SL Benfica.
Ukraine player Roman Yaremchuk of SL Benfica during the Liga Bwin match between SL Benfica and Vitoria Guimaraes SC at Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal - the striker received the captain's armband and a standing ovation upon his introduction into the game. Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

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