Petrov tells team-mates: I will beat leukaemia
Published 13:07 01/04/12 By MirrorFootball
Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov told his team-mates he will win his battle against acute leukaemia in an emotional address before yesterday's Barclays Premier League clash at home to Chelsea.
Petrov will tomorrow begin undergoing treatment in a London hospital after being diagnosed with the illness on Friday.
But it did not stop the Bulgaria international, nicknamed Stan, from attending the encounter with the Blues.
He received a standing ovation from both sets of fans during the 19th minute to mark the number 19 shirt he has worn during his six years at Villa Park after moving from Celtic.
Villa boss Alex McLeish said: "The support Stan has had is a measure of how popular the guy is, not only here but at Celtic and the Bulgarian nation will be rooting for him.
"Stan is a determined guy and has said he will fight it and beat it. He told the lads that before the game in the dressing room.
"It was typical of him. He is a leader, and he says he will battle through it, and those are the kind of words we would expect to hear from Stiliyan.
"The whole of football has got respect for Stan and we are right behind him in his recovery.
"He has taken his first couple of steps in the past couple of days and we hope to see him popping in the training ground in between his spells of treatment."
Villa defender Eric Lichaj, who scored his side's second goal, said: "Stan came into the dressing room beforehand. It is never easy when you hear news like that about someone you play with all the time.
"It can happen to anyone, just like with Fabrice Muamba the other week. You don't really know what to say or to do and just hope he makes a full recovery.
"Stan was in a good mood before the game, just trying to motivate us, being his normal self. That's how he is, an uplifting guy, a great captain, and it's sad what has happened."
Petrov issued a statement prior to Chelsea's 4-2 win revealing he had taken inspiration from Bolton midfielder Muamba, who is recovering from a cardiac arrest.
He said: "I would like to thank all the people who have left messages of support. The response has been overwhelming and I appreciate it very much.
"This is a difficult time for my family and myself and I ask people to respect our privacy. With the help and love of my family, team-mates, friends in football, Villa and all of the fans, I'm sure I will beat this illness and I am determined to do this.
"I saw the picture released by Fabrice Muamba and it has inspired me as has all the support. For me, football will have to take a back seat for a while.
"But I came to the game to support my team-mates, and will continue to support them, as I know they will continue to support me."
Petrov's agent, Steven Hughes, denied reports in Bulgaria which claimed the midfielder has already retired from football.
He said: "It is a load of rubbish and Stiliyan is not worried about football at the moment. He is fighting for his life."