FORMER CELT Stiliyan Petrov has opened up about the touching gesture from Celtic after his leukaemia diagnosis in 2012. The Bulgarian midfielder was playing for Aston Villa at the time but was soon forced to retire as a result of the rare form of blood cancer.
Speaking to OTB Sports, Petrov spoke about how the gesture from Celtic supporters led to the tenacious midfielder breaking down in tears. In September 2013, 60,000 supporters came out as a Celtic legends team faced a Petrov select team in Paradise.
“It was very emotional for me because I went through a very cruel treatment for three years. That was the first time that I faced people. I had to keep away from everyone. I had to be in total isolation which, for me, was very difficult. I wasn’t looking myself.
“So when Celtic approached me to do the game, I was very skeptical about it. For me it was very difficult because I was probably 45 kilos over the weight that I was playing at. I didn’t look myself at all and people hadn’t seen me for a long time.
“I didn’t know what to expect – it was very nervous for me. But when I stepped out onto the pitch and I saw 60,000 I said to myself: “I won’t cry, I’ll be strong” but I couldn’t help it.
“It was great for the family because my family went through a lot. They had to give their life to save my life, they had to sacrifice so much for three years. So for them to get out there and to be given such support, it was great to see.
“I was very honoured that I played for such a special and incredible club.”
The Petrov XI ran out 5-3 winners as Larsson, Lambert, Lennon, Martin O’Neill, John Terry and Kenny Dalglish turned out as the club and supporters paid tribute to a fighter both on and off the park. The game raised funds for the Stiliyan Petrov cancer charity foundation and the Trussell Trust, who run foodbanks across the UK.
Here is the heartwarming reaction below from the supporters below.
There was not a dry eye in the house as Petrov and his family took a lap to the adulation and respect of the supporters.