5 footballers who came back from life-threatening illnesses
Fabrice Muamba (L) and Stiliyan Petrov never played again after making a recovery“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I’m very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you, it is much, much more important than that.”This often repeated quote from the legendary Bill Shankly perfectly encapsulates what the beautiful game means to millions all over the world. Or, does it? Is it more rhetoric and sentiment than fact? Is it just a mere kickass punchline, which loses all its value when death stares at our face? Football may be the lives and sole obsessions of its chief protagonists. But some of them will tell you it pales in comparison to something more fundamental than sport – life, and the trials, tribulations and tests that it brings with it.Yuvraj Singh. Lance Armstrong. Leander Paes. Fabrice Muamba. John Hartson. Stiliyan Petrov. And more recently, Leandro Castan and Jonas Gutierrez. All of them will vouch for the fact that there’s nothing worse in life than fighting a seemingly losing battle against the maladies that struck them for no reason. All they could do were batten down the hatches, dig deep and fight the illnesses with everything they had. Just what they did while playing the sport they loved.Some of them fought a valiant battle in vain, others recovered but could never play the game again. But for some lucky and brave human beings, the illness was nothing more than a chapter and a hurdle that they crossed, before plying their trade again.Here are five such cases in football.
#1 Eric Abidal
Until 15 of March 2011, Eric Abidal had a perfect career. Three consecutive league titles with Lyon, a move to Barcelona where he became a vital cog in the Pep Guardiola juggernaut, a treble in just his second season, a defensive starter with the likes of Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol and Dani Alves – he had it all. And then, he was diagnosed with a tumor in his liver.
The world was never the same again for the Frenchman, as ‘Animo Abidal’ messages flooded in from all parts of the world. Abidal played Manchester United in the Champions League final that season and Puyol poignantly handed over the armband to his friend when he lifted club football’s most prestigious trophy in front of 85,000 fans at football’s Mecca – Wembley Stadium.
He couldn’t fight for much longer though, as he was taken under the knife for an emergency liver transplant in March 2012. Again, goodwill came from all sides of the globe for the much-loved Frenchman, with Dani Alves even offering a part of his liver for his friend.
A year later, Abidal staged a miraculous comeback and ended his career in December 2014 while playing for Olympiakos.