For 12 year old Dmytro Keda, after some of the worst weeks imaginable, Thursday night was a dream come true.
Keda, who left his hometown of Mariupol in Ukraine after spending three weeks in hiding as Russian troops bombarded the city, came on as a last-minute substitute in Shakhtar Donetsk’s charity friendly against Poland’s Lechia Gdańsk.
And in a heartwarming scene, Keda – after exchanging a few passes with his Shakhtar team-mates after coming on – went into the net, scoring before being swarmed by players from both teams in celebration.
Keda was held high in celebration, with his goal marking the difference in a 3-2 win for the Ukrainian side.
The Ukrainian club’s match against Lechia Gdańsk comes as part of the club’s ‘Global Tour for Peace’ which involves playing a number of teams – including Olympiacos, Fenerbahçe and Hajduk Split – in a series of charity games.
As of April 7, more than 1.4 billion Ukrainian hryvnia ($47.2 million) had been donated by the foundation set up by Shakhtar owner Rinat Akhmetov and the team to “help Ukraine and Ukraine during the 40 days of war.”
“This amount includes humanitarian assistance to civilians, as well as assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Territorial Defense forces in dozens of cities and towns,” a statement on the club’s website read.
Prior to Thursday’s match at the Polsat Plus Arena, the Ukrainian national anthem was sung during a moment of silence for the victims of the war.
De Zerbi said after the friendly win that “football is definitely not the most important thing for us.”
“We are currently traveling around Europe as guests and thank everyone who gave us the opportunity to play in a different city,” said the Italian manager.
“Today, we are in Poland which is closer to Ukraine. Therefore, of course, it is more emotional. We can say that the two people are very similar, and that is why the people in the stands are more emotional.”