The NFL paid tribute to the Ukrainian League of American Football on Friday during its annual awards banquet in Phoenix, and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared via video during the festivities.
American football is a big hit in Ukraine, with the ULAF boasting about 600 members, most of whom were called to duty to serve in the war against Russia.
"On behalf of everyone who are fighting for freedom of Ukraine and the whole world, I want to thank every one of you for your support," Zelenskyy said. "I speak to you today as thousands of our brave men and women fight on the battlefields in Ukraine. Among those on the front lines are the men of the Ukrainian League of American football, who share the love of your game.
"Our team, including these men, stand for freedom with our allies and partners — and together we give whole to the world."
Washington Commanders Coach Ron Rivera said the Ukrainians in that league "put on pads and helmets and play football with the same passion as you would find here in our own backyard."
"This past year, those young men stepped away from the game that they loved and put themselves in harm's way in order to defend their homeland," he said.
Four members of the ULAF attended the awards ceremony: Yuri Hundych, Denis Polubinsky, Roman Boshuslavsky, and Alfie Williams received a standing ovation from the crowd at the Phoenix Convention Center after their names were announced.
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