Vangelis Moras Scores Goal a Month After Donating Bone Marrow to Save Brother

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Vangelis Moras Scores Goal a Month After Donating Bone Marrow to Save Brother
AP Images

In itself, there was nothing special about Vangelis Moras' headed goal during Hellas Verona's 3-0 win over Cremonese during this week's Coppa Italia clash.

But when you consider that less than a month ago, Moras saved his brother's life by donating bone marrow, his achievement becomes quite remarkable.

Moras defies the stereotype that accompanies Greek defenders. Not one to rant and rave on the pitch, he's something of a gentle giant, though his opponents would testify that he is hard as nails as he enforces himself on the opposition with strong tackling and dominant aerial ability.

Spending the early part of his career in his homeland, he's played in Italy since 2007 (aside from a one-game spell in the Premier League with Swansea City in 2011), starring for Bologna and Cesena before arriving at Hellas Verona in time for the 2012-13 season and then helping the Gialloblu (yellow and blues) to promotion to Serie A for the first time in 11 seasons.

Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
Moras (right) in action for Verona

His performances the following campaign made him a standout performer, and the Greek stopper became a key member of coach Andrea Mandorlini's squad as Hellas finished 10th.

These performances didn't go unnoticed, and Greece coach Fernando Santos called Moras into his squad for the World Cup, capping an incredible two seasons playing in northern Italy.

Moras himself can't quite believe how the last year has gone, telling me, "Last season for Verona was great, and though I was almost certain not to make the [World Cup] squad, it was a wonderful surprise. Though I didn't play any minutes in Brazil, I was intense and lived it like my last World Cup."

Though on-the-pitch matters were going better than ever for the defender, things had taken a downward turn away from football.

Moras' brother Dimitris, who suffers from acute myeloid leukaemia and had seemed to be making a strong recovery, had suffered a relapse in March whilst on holiday in Australia. Dimitris had been required to stay in hospital in Melbourne, as the flight home to Italy was deemed too dangerous.

After playing the rest of the 2013-14 season without any hint of what was happening in his private life, Moras was asked why he hadn't told anyone about events Down Under.

"I initially didn't want to talk about it and wanted to keep the matter private, but he [Dimitris] convinced me to make the announcement and divulge his story," he said.

Moras had not even arrived back home from Brazil when he received the devastating news that Dimitris required a bone marrow transplant to have any hope of surviving.

Breaking the news via his Facebook account, Moras tweeted a picture of him and his brother from Melbourne Hospital with the caption, "Ready for Action!"

Both Vangelis and Dimitris were wearing Superman T-shirts, and the big defender was lying in bed hooked up to a drip.

It turned out he was the only compatible donor who could donate to Dimitris, and on the morning of July 30, Moras underwent the successful procedure to save his brother's life.

Asked about the Superman T-shirts, the stopper explained, "It was an idea from one of the guys who assisted us in Australia, and some friends from the Greek community.

"Though I'm not Superman—Dimitris is and only he can fight this illness, though we can all give him strength," he added.

Speaking about the operation, Moras said, "The procedure is not as complicated as many think. I announced it now because I want people to be aware that donating is not as dangerous as it once was."

It was announced soon after that Hellas Verona had set up a foundation to help Dimitris, using the hashtag #savemoras to raise awareness, and the team and technical staff even wore Superman T-shirts before their friendly with Al-Khor, with the message, "There are no real superheroes, just real men. Forza Dimitris!"

Moras was quick to thank Hellas, the players and fans for all their support during a tough period, saying, "It was nice to see the whole team in the [Superman] shirts.

"We are a group that helps each other in times of trouble, and the fans' messages of support have been beautiful. It is wonderful to be part of this club."

Becoming a little more emotional, Moras then stated, "It's difficult to explain how I felt, being away from home for so long and not even going back to Italy between the World Cup and Australia. It has made me even closer to Dimitris, something I didn't think was possible."

Plaudits were plentiful for the Greek, with former Bologna team-mate and current Montreal Impact forward Marco Di Vaio tweeting (in Italian) that Moras was a true man and that Di Vaio was proud of him.

Ivan Zazzaroni, a respected Italian journalist and friend of Moras, also tweeted (in Italian) his pride to have known Moras.

Coach Mandorlini stated, "We are all close to Vangelis, who is a fantastic footballer and a golden boy. I think of him and his brother."

The story is made more significant to Mandorlini, as the coach lost his own brother in a car crash in April 2013.

Due to being in Australia for a prolonged period of time, Moras had his own pre-season training routine devised by Hellas Verona's medical team in order to minimise the disruption his body would undertake during his medical procedures and subsequent recovery.

After arriving back in Italy in early August, he came through a couple of friendlies unscathed before starting his team's first official game of the season, a Coppa Italia game against third-division Cremonese, less than one month after the life-saving procedure had taken place.

Matt Slocum/Associated Press
Moras with the Greece team at the World Cup

Rising to head in his team's second goal in a comfortable 3-0 win, Mandorlini joked it must be karma as "he never scores," whilst Moras himself couldn't hide his delight post-game, telling reporters, "The goal of course is dedicated to Dimitris. Was he watching? I doubt it, as everyone in Australia is sleeping at this hour!"

On his brother's recovery, the defender was cautious, explaining, "It can take three months for a response, so we must remain patient, but my brother is getting better every day."

Moras can't see things in the same light anymore, pointing to the even deeper love he feels for his family and his club.

"Now I see things differently. This experience has made me live another way," he said.

 

Charles Ducksbury is a European football expert who has written for CNN, When Saturday Comes and many others.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.

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