YAVORIV, Ukraine - Soldiers with the Ukrainian national guard hosted approximately 85 paratroopers from the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade at a soccer match Sept. 13, 2015, in L'viv, Ukraine, during a pause between rotations of training at Fearless Guardian.
Fearless Guardian is the name for the Congressionally-approved, Departments of State and Defense initiative under the Global Security Contingency Fund-Ukraine. The paratroopers are in Ukraine at the request of the Ukrainian government to train several battalions of the newly-established Ukrainian national guard. The training is scheduled to last until November.
The soccer match featured L'viv's home team, the FC Karpaty and the Luhansk FC Zorya.
The guardsmen and paratroopers attended the match with more than a thousand other soccer fans, cheering the home team towards victory.
Loud ovations were heard with every intercepted ball as the two teams battled for the advantage on the field and an echoing "boo" was heard throughout the stadium as the home team lost control of the ball.
"It has been a unique opportunity to come out here today," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Diaz, a paratrooper with Company C, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Abn. Bde. "It's exciting to see how other nations experience sports."
The soccer match was an opportunity for the paratroopers to experience Ukrainian culture before they begin the third iteration of Fearless Guardian with their Ukrainian counterparts.
"I think it's important for the soldiers [paratroopers] to spend time with us during their time off," said Capt. Andrey Siurkalo, a translator for the Ukrainian national guard and coordinator for the day's events. "It's a great experience for both of our countries and it will help us work as a team."