Eric Abidal’s brave and remarkably quick recovery became one of the really good global soccer stories in 2011.
On March 17, 2011, Barcelona’s left back had a tumor removed from his liver. After six tough weeks he made an outrageously quick comeback on May 3, appearing off the bench to a colossal ovation. He was carried from the field that night following the Catalan giants’ 1-1 draw against rival Real Madrid, a result that saw Barca through to the Champions League final.
Here’s what Abidal had to say in the emotional aftermath of his May 3 comeback, about the illness affecting him in profound ways:
I now know how to differentiate between what really matters in life and what doesn’t. I have sold my cars because they are pointless. When you play football you can buy whatever you want but, when something bad happens to you, you realize that [material possessions] are worthless. Now I will invest my money in hospitals, in helping children, in good causes.
“I have changed a lot. You only have to look around to see what is happening in the world: wars, children dying of hunger. There are more important things in life. Football is small and unimportant alongside that.”
So the news landed with a somber gravity today when the club revealed Abidal would need a liver transplant. Doctors say the transplant is a highly complex, requiring extensive, intensive medical care, but that the 32-year-old Frenchman should eventually recover full strength.
The Twitter and Facebook messages came from athletes as far removed as Minnesota Timberwolves’ Spanish star Ricky Rubio, who recently suffered a serious knee injury. He Tweeted: “Abidal, an example of a fighter. You will get through this!”
The Times Mirror has more details of the outpouring of social media support.