WATCH: ITV Meridian report by Sarah Saunders at the Priestfield stadium
An 11-year-old Ukrainian refugee has been given a hero's welcome by Gillingham fans, as he led the team out ahead of their game with Fleetwood on Sunday.
Daniel Lysak and his mother Yana fled their home near Lviv in western Ukraine and arrived in England just two weeks ago to live at their sponsor’s house in Folkestone, Kent.
His host, Gillingham fan Malcolm Bell and his Ukrainian-born wife, had initially hoped Daniel would be given a shout-out at the League One match.
He reached out on a local supporters group on Facebook in the hope that the club’s announcer on match days would see it, but did not expect his appeal to escalate the way it did.
Watch the emotional moment Daniel leads the Gillingham team onto the pitch
“It was just to try and get that shout-out so that Daniel can hear his name during the game and actually be quite surprised,” Mr Bell explained.
“And it was from there that everybody picked up on it and wanted to support him – there’s people that bought Ukrainian flags, and (said) ‘We’re going to be flying them at the ground.’
Today, Daniel was given a VIP tour of the Priestfield stadium, meeting manager Neil Harris and the rest of the team.
He then led the players onto the pitch, alongside Freddie, Malcolm's son, also an avid Gills fan.
With 8000 fans cheering for him, it was an emotional reception for Daniel and his host family.
"It's a very special day for all of us"said Malcolm, "Its a great experience."
"This is my dream come true - just like my Dad" said Freddie.
Daniel even learnt a few words of English - to express his gratitude: "Thank you to Gillingham football club and the supporters," he said.
"You have all been very kind to me"
Malcolm and Daniel thank supporters for making their dreams come true.
Mr Bell said many wanted to do something for Daniel because “he has been through something that we’ve not all been through”.
“His brother is in the army and he’s down on the front lines, so he’s scared stiff about that,” he said.
“His Dad is in the Territorial Army… Daniel’s gone through every day with air raid sirens, they are haunting.
“One of the things that he said the second night he was here, he was talking about the sound of seagulls because they’re quite noisy in Folkestone and he said it was beautiful listening to the sound of seagulls and not listening to the sound of air raid sirens – that really touched me.”