Highlights

  • 2022-23 Ukrainian Premier League season kicked off on Tuesday
  • Games being played behind closed doors in Ukraine
  • Zelensky called return of football an 'act of defiance'

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Football makes an emotional return to war-torn Ukraine

Military personnel were also present at the stadium, ready to evacuate players and officials to bomb shelters in case of impending air strikes.

No fans in the stadium, bomb shelters in place and Russian threat looming large - that's how the Ukrainian Premier League (UPL) made its return on Tuesday, six months after it was stopped because of the war.

Shakhtar Donetsk & Metalist Kharkiv played out a 0-0 draw in an empty Olympic stadium in Kiev. The first day of the new season coincided with Ukraine's Day of National Flag.

The symbolism was clear when players from both sides, along with the match officials, walked onto the pitch draped in national flags. Some players in fact couldn't even hold back tears when a Ukrainian soldier ceremonially kicked off the match.

Military personnel were also present at the stadium, ready to evacuate players and officials to bomb shelters in case of impending air strikes.

President Volodymyr Zelensky who addressed those present at the stadium through the big screen deemed the return of football as an act of defiance.

For now, the UPL matches will be played behind closed doors in Kiev, its outskirts, and in two provinces near the country's Western border, away from the battlefront.

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