Footballers who have survived illness to return to the beautiful game

Ciaran Fallon

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Eric Abidal-Photo credit-Carmen2037(Flickr creative commons)
Eric Abidal-Photo credit-Carmen2037(Flickr creative commons)

The life of a professional footballer is a life most people envy. Earning millions to do a job you love, have people shouting your name week in week out. They are living their dreams everyday. However dreams can soon turn into nightmares. Footballers may feel invincible but for some they have been struck by illness and have had to postpone their careers to go through recovery therapy.  Some have failed to beat the diseases they have been struck with such as Dylan Tombides who died of cancer at the age of 20. While others have been forced to give up the game entirely to concentrate on a long battle ahead of them like Stiliyan Petrov who is in remission after battling with acute Leukaemia since 2012.  However there are some who have recovered from illness and have been able to carry on with their careers.

1. Eric Abidal

Eric Abidal with trophy-Photo credit-Roberto Martinez(Flikr creative commons)
Eric Abidal with Champions League trophy-Photo credit-Roberto Martinez(Flikr creative commons)

Eric Abidal was enjoying an extremely successful career when he was diagnosed with liver cancer in March 2011. He was playing his football for Barcelona at the time, who were dominating club football at the time and was also playing for the French national side. Originally Abidal had a  tumour removed from his Liver but in the end the cancer got worse which forced him to get a liver transplant.  During his battle with cancer, players from all over the world showed there support wearing t-shirts saying ‘Animo Abidal’ which is Spanish for get well Abidal.

Animo Abidal- Photo credit- Fatlind Azizi(Creative commons)
Animo Abidal- Photo credit- Fatlind Azizi(Creative commons)

It seemed as if Abidal would have to retire but he battled the disease and in April 2013 he made his return to the Barcelona side, coming on as a substitute against Mallorca. He was released by Barcelona that Summer and moved to Monaco to continue his career. He was there for a season before joining Olympiacos where after six months he confirmed his retirement from the game at the age of 35.  Abidal is one of few who was able to recover from cancer and continue his football career and is an inspiration to anyone who has suffered from illness that you can recover and return to do the things you love.

2. Ivan Klasnic

Ivan Klasnic- Photo Credit- przpedro(Flikr creative commons)
Ivan Klasnic- Photo Credit- przpedro(Flikr creative commons)

While Ivan Klasnic was playing for German side Werder Bremen he suffered Kidney failure in  January 2007 and needed a kidney transplant.  He received a Kidney from his mother but the kidney rejected his body and it was unknown when he would return to playing football. However in March he received a kidney from his father and the surgery was a success.  He was expected back in a few weeks but had to wait until November to make his comeback to the Werder Bremen side when he came on as a substitute against Energie Cottbus.

In the summer of 2008, Ivan Klasnic was selected in the Croatian squad for Euro 2008 and is the only ever footballer to have played in major tournament to have gone through an organ transplant.  Even though he was mainly used as a substitute he managed to score two goals in the tournament scoring against Turkey and Poland.

Klasnic scores against Poland-Photo credit- tbiegun(Flickr creative commons)
Klasnic scores against Poland at Euro 2008-Photo credit- tbiegun(Flickr creative commons)

Klasnic left Bremen after the Euro’s and had spells at Nantes, Bolton Wanderers and Mainz before being released by Mainz in 2013. After his release he announced his retirement from the game at the age of 34. Klasnic can be proud of his career and it is some achievement that he managed to play for six more years after his surgery and is still the only player to have played in an major tournament after a transplant.

3. Jonás Gutiérrez

Jonás Gutiérrez-Photo Credit-Canal 6 Honduras(Flickr creative commons)
Jonás Gutiérrez-Photo Credit-Canal 6 Honduras(Flickr creative commons)

Whilst playing for Newcastle United in October 2013, Gutiérrez was involved in a collision with Arsenal’s  Bacary Sagna. He went to the medical staff complaining with pain but they said it was nothing to worry about. Months later the pain got worse and worse and after receiving an ultrasound it was revealed that he had testicular cancer. Shortly after he received the news,  he had his testicle removed but kept playing before revealing his condition in September.

After successfully coming through chemotherapy, Gutiérrez has returned to training with Newcastle and is now in line for a return to action against Aston Villa this weekend.  Newcastle fans will be delighted to see Gutiérrez back in their side and will be hoping to see him produce something special, like the goal he scored for the Newcastle U21’s in January.

 

Jonás Gutiérrez is 31 and still has a few years left in his career and let’s all hope he can stay healthy and continue his life cancer free.

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Ciaran Fallon