The Good Side of Football: Stiliyan Petrov's Miraculous Return to Health
Today is a heart-warming day for everyone in football.
Aston Villa's club captain, Stiliyan Petrov, was diagnosed with acute leukemia at the end of March 2012, ending his participation on the field for the season as he went straight into hospital.
At the time, a Villa statement announced that the Bulgarian would receive every inch of love and support possible from the club. That statement could not have been truer, and the name Stiliyan Petrov has been on the lips of every man, woman and child passing through Villa Park over the last 12 months.
On March 17, 2013, Petrov conducted an interview on Aston Villa's official website, revealing his good progress, improved health and took the time to remark upon a tough, tough year.
Tests after a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal confirmed what Stan had thought was a cold was actually a critically serious illness, and the very next game at Villa Park (Chelsea) saw the truly brilliant potential of football come to the fore.
Fans from two factions combined, a motion on Twitter raised awareness and all 34,740 people spectating stood and applauded the 19th minute of the game, honouring No. 19 Stiliyan Petrov.
Both teams warmed up in "Support Stan" gear, displaying motivational messages and a flood of support.
Present in the stands were Stan and his family, and so touched they were that tears quickly began to flow. The 19th minute applause has continued to take place in every game since—be it at Villa Park or an opposing ground—and the reception and understanding from away supporters has been truly fantastic.
I was at Villa Park on Saturday for the clash with Fulham, and before that for the victory over Queens Park Rangers. Both sets of away fans were amazing in their show of understanding and support, as were every other fanbase to to visit the stadium this season.
It warms my heart to know that when I take my seat in the Holte End on Monday, April 29 for the pivotal home clash against Sunderland, footballing matters will be put to one side for 60 seconds in favour of applause for a brave, brave man.
What happened to Stiliyan was awful, but the response has been nothing short of magnificent. The Bulgarian remarked in his interview how much the support meant to him as he enters his second year of recovery, and the gratitude in his eyes was clear to see.
The miraculous story of Petrov's recovery, and subsequent show of global support, is the feel-good story we desperately need after a dark weekend in football.
It's a story that resonates inside every good football fan and reminds us of the power the game holds—the ability to do good, harmonise the public, teach young ones values and raise awareness.
We here at Bleacher Report wish Stan the best in the next stages of his recovery, and I'll never forget, or stop appreciating, the classy actions of fans everywhere: from the Bulgarian flags at Villa Park to the thousands-strong campaigns on Twitter.
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