Slain AFP video reporter Arman Soldin's image is displayed at Rennes' stadium -- the journalist once played for the club's youth team
Rennes (France) (AFP) - French top flight football club Rennes on Sunday held an emotional homage to Arman Soldin, their former youth player and the AFP video reporter killed in Ukraine on Tuesday.
Soldin’s mother and brother live in the western city and Rennes held the tribute to his memory at the Breton club’s home match with Troyes.
Rennes invited around 30 of Soldin’s friends and family – including a sister living in the Bosnian city of Mostar – to pay tribute to his sacrifice.
Fans joined them in warmly applauding as images of the slain reporter were shown on giant screens at the stadium while the announcer saluted Soldin’s courage and commitment to “informing as many as possible about the realities of a conflict”.
Bosnian-born French citizen Soldin, 32, was on assignment with an AFP team as the global news agency’s video coordinator in Ukraine when they came under fire from Grad rockets while with Ukrainian soldiers near Bakhmut.
Before becoming a journalist Soldin, who as a toddler left war-torn Bosnia with his mother on a humanitarian flight to France, had been a keen footballer as a teenager.
Growing up in the western region of Brittany he earned a place on the Rennes youth team between 2006 and 2008 in his mid-teens – only giving up on a professional career due to knee injuries.
“Football was a big part of his life,” his brother Sven told AFP in midweek. “He was extremely good, extremely talented. He had something extra.”
Even after plumping for a career as a journalist, Soldin never lost his poassion for the round ball.
Starting off with AFP in the agency’s Rome bureau in 2015 he would enjoy weekly games with other journalists as well as a kickabout with migrants whose fate he was reporting on in the Italian Mediterranean island of Lampedusa.
He also had a four-year spell away from political reporting working for Canal Plus television’s ‘Match of ze Day’ programme covering English Premier League football.
The broadcaster, where some colleagues nicknamed him “The Nutmeg Machine” for his skill of playing the ball between an opponent’s legs, put out a tribute to his time there in its Saturday night edition.
Soldin also had a spell working for AFP in London.
While in Britain, he posted a tweet of him soaking up the atmosphere at a Tottenham match – not forgetting to keep an eye on his tablet with his beloved Rennes simultaneously meeting Marseille.
The death of Soldin brought to at least 11 the number of journalists, fixers or drivers for media teams killed since Russia invaded Ukraine more than a year ago, according to advocacy groups.
French anti-terror prosecutors said on Wednesday they were launching a war crime investigation into Soldin’s death.
Hundreds of AFP staff observed a minute of silence Friday at Paris headquarters and from bureaux around the world via video conference.