Down but not out

Jonas Gutierrez

JONAS Gutierrez is also known as El Galgo (The Greyhound). He is an Argentinean footballer who used to be a key part of the Argentinean national squad led by the legendary Diego Maradona in 2010.

He was also known as Spider Man. Why? During his time with Spanish club RCD Mallorca, he celebrated a goal against Osasuna by putting a spider-man mask after he promised a boy that he would wear the next time he scored a goal.

Many will be wondering, why is The Gaffer talking about Gutierrez?

On Sept 16, the 31-year-old utility player shocked the football world when he revealed to an Argentinean television station that he was being treated for testicular cancer and will undergo one last chemotherapy session followed by a recuperating phase which will take at least two months.

“When I was told I had cancer, I went home in tears. I felt a very tough pain on my testicle. After some wrong diagnosis, an ultrasound detected the tumour.

“This is the most difficult match I’ve ever played. You start thinking about important things when you have problems like this one,” he said during the interview.

I was shocked! As a player, I liked him a lot. Hardworking, tenacious and always willing to listen to his coaches, he was a model professional. For him to go through such an ordeal, I can’t imagine the pain he must be going through right now.

He kept it private till that interview and only his Argentinean compatriots Gabriel Heinze, Martin Demichelis, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Fabricio Coloccini knew of his condition.

“I decided to reveal all this because I think this is a difficult moment, but there is nothing wrong with this. This may help people."

True to his reputation, he was genuine and he just wanted people to know that cancer can be difficult but with the right support and treatment, it can be kicked away.

All this while, I thought he was out with a long-term injury. When he was signed by Newcastle United, I thought he was a great signing. His marauding runs and ability to adapt to any position was an asset to Newcastle and he has been one of their key players since 2008.

Gutierrez isn’t the only football player who has been diagnosed with the dreaded disease. Remember French centre-back and left-back Eric Abidal? The 35-year-old Olympiakos defender was diagnosed with a tumour in his liver in 2011 when he played for Spanish giants FC Barcelona.

He came back and during that year, Barcelona lifted the Champions League and in a symbolic gesture, then Barcelona captain, Carlos Puyol handed him the captain’s armband and allowed Abidal to carry the trophy known as the ‘Big Ears’ in front of a bumper crowd in Wembley Stadium.

On March 2012, he had to undergo liver transplant and he revealed that Barcelona’s right back Dani Alves offered to donate part of his liver but was unable to do so because it would affect his playing career.

Two surgeries and Abidal is still kicking it on the pitch. He achieved success with Barcelona, helped Monaco to finish second in Ligue 1 and now he is plying his trade with Greek giants Olympiakos.

Many would also remember Stiliyan Petrov, the Bulgarian who was adored by Aston Villa and Celtic fans. Hardworking and loyal, the 35-year-old was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in 2012 and his career was halted by it.

His no-nonsense approach on the field was admired by many pundits and you can ask any Celtic or Aston Villa about the midfielder – They will go on and on about him… Just like his work rate!

His condition has been in remission since Aug 2012 and he is now coaching Aston Villa’s U-21 side.

All these players were physically fit and they lived a healthy lifestyle yet they were struck by it. Disease can strike anyone and while for some it may lead to depression Gutierrez, Abidal and Petrov have shown what it takes to come out from it. How you persevere, beat it and try to enjoy the tiniest details in life and not regret about it – That matters!

They lived to tell a tale and to me, this part of the tale should inspire many who are affected by the disease.

I would like to dedicate two lines from a song called Move Along by All-American Rejects to Gutierrez and also to all the cancer patients out there.

All you got to keep is strong, move along, move along like I know you should

And even when your hope is gone, move along, move along just to make it through.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.
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JONAS Gutierrez , The gaffer , Football


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