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May 23, 2017

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Portuguese crooner wins Eurovision Song Contest

KIEV, Ukraine -- Portugal won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time ever early Sunday with a melancholy ballad performed by a singer who suffers from a serious heart condition.

The fado-tinged song "Amar Pelos Dois" was performed by 27-year-old Salvador Sobral, who is awaiting a heart transplant.

It scored a crushing victory, winning top marks both from the televoters and the countries' professional juries.

The black-clad singer took to a small separate stage for his minimalist performance of the song composed by his sister Luisa.

"I don't know about national hero," Portugal's first ever winner told journalists afterwards, adding jokingly "I think the real hero is (Portugese footballer Cristiano) Ronaldo."

"I just wanted to sing a beautiful song as it is — it's in Portugese," he said of his decision to sing in his native language despite speaking fluent English.

"If I can help to bring some change to music, I will be really joyful."

The ceremony in the capital of ex-Soviet Ukraine began with a glittering light show as the contestants took bows on a stage lit up in the colors of their respective national flags.

Jon Ola Sand, executive supervisor of Eurovision afterwards praised the "amazing set-up" in Ukraine and Sobral's performance.

He said the winner was "bringing music back to the Eurovision Song Contest."

But the glitzy contest was marred by the ongoing fighting with Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko opted not to attend after four civilian deaths.

The annual celebration of catchy europop, ludicrous costumes and glittering divas watched by some 200 million TV viewers was being hosted by Ukraine for the second time.

Bulgaria's big-voiced 17-year-old singer Kristian Kostov came second with a confident performance of "Beautiful Mess."

Third was Moldova's SunStroke Project with a raucous song called "Hey, Mamma" featuring a saxophonist in sunglasses and dancers in wedding dresses and veils.

The latest edition of the contest, that began in 1956 with just seven countries, offered the usual wacky stage acts and cheesy beats.

Italian Francesco Gabbani, who came sixth, invoked Hamlet and Desmond Morris's anthropology book "The Naked Ape" in his song while a gorilla-costumed dancer boogied alongside him.

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