English Premiership

Petrov calls time on career

2013-05-09 15:49
Stiliyan Petrov (Getty Images)
London - Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov, who is battling acute leukaemia, announced he is retiring from football.

The 33-year-old Bulgarian international was diagnosed with the illness in March last year, forcing him to abruptly suspend his playing career.

In a statement released by Aston Villa, Petrov said: "It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my retirement from the game."

The midfielder, who is continuing to receive treatment, joined Villa from Celtic, where he won four league titles, in 2006.

A popular figure at Villa fans have acknowledged his plight by applauding throughout the 19th minute of games - in reference to his squad number.

He said he had taken the decision to hang up his boots "with a heavy heart", and paid tribute to the support of his teammates and family.

He now plans to set up a foundation to raise money to address issues around the diagnosis of leukaemia.

Referring to the moment last March when he fell ill, he said: "Then something crazy happened, something I thought was just a cold but turned out to be something more serious, something life-changing.

"I played 90 minutes for Villa against Arsenal at The Emirates and I felt fatigued, not myself at all.

"But I thought it was nothing serious. The diagnosis... was a complete shock.

"Around 7 600 people in the UK are diagnosed each year with leukaemia and about 2 300 people with acute leukaemia.

"Fortunately, I was able to make decisions very quickly and I started my treatment quickly. I needed to."

He said his leukaemia was now in remission after finishing a course of high intensity treatment.

"From now on I'll be on the softer treatment, which is two years on tablets. I feel lucky. Not everyone is as lucky as I have been."

Reacting to Petrov's enforced retirement Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany posted on his twitter page: "I wish Stiliyan Petrov all the best for this new chapter in his life. It's sad to see a great captain and a great man retiring in his prime."

Former England player and leukaemia survivor Geoff Thomas told BBC Radio 5: "I have been privileged to meet Stan from day one. I was there to support him and I see him as a mate now. When you are diagnosed with something like this it is all about survival. Football becomes irrelevant it is about being with your family

"I hope he has a job at Villa for life. He is such a popular figure at the club it would be a waste not to use that. I wish him all the best and hope he gets a full recovery as soon as possible."

Petrov started his playing career with CSKA Sofia in 1996, before joining Celtic at the age of 19 in 1999. He left the Scottish giants on an £8 million transfer to Villa where he was reunited with his former Celtic boss, Martin O'Neill.

Petrov, who won his 100th international cap in 2011, will lead out Villa's traditional lap of appreciation after their final home game of the season against Chelsea on Saturday.

Read more on:    aston villa  |  epl  |  stiliyan petrov  |  soccer

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