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The battles cancer lost in football

Players like Eric Abidal, José Francisco Molina, Lubo Penev, Carlos Roa and 'El Mono' Burgos all overcame similar illnesses to the one Tito Vilanova has been diagnosed with.


The battles cancer lost in football

The majority of players and trainers still actively playing or coaching all overcame illnesses similar to the one diagnosed to Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova, who is due to undergo surgery for the second time tomorrow (Thursday) for a tumour on his parotid saliva gland.

Vilanova, 44, returns to his fight against cancer, an illness defeated previously on numerous occasions by dozens of players and coaches.

Vilanova has also witnessed, first hand, the struggle of Barça defender Eric Abidal. Over a year ago, the French player had a transplant for liver cancer and has now started training again with the rest of the Barça squad.

Ten years before Abidal, the disease also darkened goalkeeper José Francisco Molina's door. Molina kicked testicular cancer out of sight and not only returned to first-team action, but was also trainer of Villarreal B, in the Segunda division, after he retired.

Another former keeper and one of Cholo Simeone's assistants, Argentinian Germán Burgos, declared in 2003 that he had overcome cancer and had become "mentally stronger" because of it. "El Mono" Burgos had an operation to remove a tumour on his left kidney and took three months to recover before playing again.

Former Mallorca player Carlos Roa also beat testicular cancer, a similar fate that befell Arjen Robben while at Chelsea. Robben claimed that as soon as he was diagnosed "football no longer mattered". After the former Real Madrid player's operation, at the age of 20, his growing footballing reputation, dribbling skills and goals made him an international superstar.

More success stories in the fight against the disease include: the Brazilian player Narciso dos Santos, leukaemia in 1999; Borja Basagoiti from the Athletic Bilbao B Team, testicular cancer in 2003; Hércules goalkeeper Sergio Aragoneses, testicular cancer; and the Borussia Dortmund striker Heiko Herrlich, who recovered from a brain tumour in 2001.

And the list goes on... In 1994 Bulgarian striker Valencia Luboslav Penev beat testicular cancer at 28 and recovered his goalscoring instincts. Football is just waiting for Vilanova to tell a similar story so he will be able to write on his tactics board: "I also beat cancer".

Estadísticas AS.com