We tend to forget due to our overwhelming passion, that football is just a game. We perceive it as so much more as we are enthralled every single day of our lives with a topic, subject, drama or elation that entails of the sport we love. Besides all that, other issues in the game occur that are more important as they relate to serious aspects in life as a whole.
When Eric Abidal was diagnosed with liver cancer back in March, it hit him and Barcelona like a tonne of bricks, but what a significant moment we witnessed after his club’s heroics in the Champions League Final last Saturday. He lived to tell the tale by lifting the European Cup from Wembley’s Royal Box as captain.
He is a significantly popular member of the Blaugrana set-up. His peers were well and truly stunned by the news that their team-mate would undergo surgery to remove a 4cm tumour from his liver.
The world of football joined together to show their support for the 31-year old. Even their rivals in the capital of Madrid paid some touching tributes by adorning t-shirts at the end of their Champions League victory over Lyon with the words “Animo Abidal”. Others paid tribute via their twitter accounts:
Cristiano Ronaldo – “I hope it all goes well with Abidal, and that he gets back soon. My friends Marcelo and Pepe told me today that they are also praying for Abidal.”
Kaka – “What sad news about Eric Abidal, tumour in the liver! Let’s pray for him… God bless!!”
Beautiful to see the fiercest rivalry in football put all that animosity aside to support one of their fellow professionals. Bravo Real and to the rest of those who expressed their support.
Abidal’s teammate Xavi was devastated by the news that his friend would face this horrible ordeal.
“We all offer our support to Abidal. We are sure that he will overcome this disease. This has been the most difficult situation I’ve ever faced in my career.” he said somberly.
He was never alone. As well as having the support of his friends and family, those in his profession joined in too.
Seven weeks after undergoing the operation and rehabilitation, he remarkably returned to the field of play at the Nou Camp. In the 89th minute he came on as a substitute as his side were on the brink of reaching the Champions League Final. The ground underneath the magnificent stadium seemingly shook from beneath as 90,000 spectators rose to their feet to welcome back their left-back. Joyous scenes at the final whistle as he was hoisted in the air by his team-mates who were not just embracing one another because they reached yet another final, but seeing their friend back to full-health and on a football pitch – magnificent.
He returned to first-team action prior to his involvement at Wembley on Saturday, but seeing him grace the biggest stage of club football, so composed, so efficient, as if he’d never been away, was a touching sight. We did not expect what was to come as the world of football braced themselves for goose bumps as captain Carlos Puyol handed over his privilege of lifting the European Cup to Abidal – along with the captains armband. With that it will now be remembered one of the most significant moments in the competition’s 51 year history.
Abidal was taken aback by the support of the Catalan giants and could not hold back the tears.
“I’m so thankful for the gesture from my team-mates. I can’t explain the emotions I have. It’s spectacular.” he said, overcome by emotion.
It was an emotional and incredible scene. Seconds prior to him lifting the glorious silver aloft, an evident roar could be heard emanating from the Barcelona fans as they spotted their full-back adorning the Catalan armband.
It was an honour for the 400 million of us watching around the world last Saturday to witness Eric Abidal overcome this horrendous ordeal and live to tell the tale at the home of football.
Follow Ross on Twitter: @RossMackiewicz