Madrid, April 7 (IANS) Although Cesc Fabregas helped Barcelona to a convincing 5-0 home win against Mallorca but there is no doubt that the highlight of the night was the return of defender Eric Abidal to first team action.
Abidal played just over 20 minutes of the game, the first time he has been in action in the 402 days that have passed since he underwent a liver transplant he needed following treatment on a tumour that had been discovered in 2011, reports Xinhua.
The last time he had played in a match had been for France Feb 29, 2012, three days after his last game for Barca and speaking to the press Sunday, Abidal was understandably delighted and emotional.
“It was a very special moment for me after more than a year out and I want to thank my cousin (who acted as a donor for the transplant) because if it were not for him, I would not be here today. He has been out of sight of the cameras, but he made a massive effort,” said Abidal, who also thanked his family, friends and Barca fans.
“I also want to thank the people at the hospital, who fought for me as much as I did,” he said, before giving an emotional message to anyone who may be up against adversity in their lives.
“Never stop fighting, you have to believe,” commented Abidal, who admitted he had become an example for others with problems.
“Maybe I have become an example without wanting to, but if I can help and give advice then I will do that, no question about it. People have good and bad days in their lives and I have fought for people that I love. You never have to lose hope,” he said.
Abidal’ s return comes at the perfect time for Barca, virtually coinciding with coach Tito Vilanova’s return from New York after he too underwent cancer treatment.
However, emotions aside, Abidal returns to the field of play when his side needs him the most, with central defenders Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano having suffered long term injuries leaving the club with just Gerard Pique and Marc Barta as specialist central defenders.
The fact that Abidal replaced Pique was a big hint at the role he could play in the last two months of the campaign.
Finally, Abidal spoke about Vilanova and the relationships in the club. “I am very happy he is back with us and we know the players will always be at his side… We are more than a family,” he commented.