Midfielder Stiliyan Petrov, the former Bulgarian national football team and Aston Villa football club captain, has announced his retirement from the sport on May 9. Petrov (33) has not played in a competitive match since March 2012, when he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia.
In a statement on the Aston Villa website, Petrov thanked club officials and football fans for the support they have offered during his fight against the disease. His announcement last year caused an outpouring of support from football fans in Bulgaria and Britain for the well-respected player.
“For the life I’ve lived in football, I will always be incredibly grateful. For the opportunity this crazy thing that happened in my life has given me, I also feel grateful in a strange kind of way. This crazy thing, somehow, has touched people and I want to try to channel this in a positive way. This will be the greatest challenge of my life,” he said.
“I can help and I want to help and, in setting up a foundation to help address the issues involved when people are diagnosed with this illness, I hope to make a difference. This will be my new challenge, one I will face with all the enthusiasm, energy and drive with which I have faced every single challenge.”
Petrov’s leukaemia is now in remission and he has completed the high-intensity treatment, but he would require more treatment over the next two years. “I feel lucky. Not everyone is as lucky as I have been,” he said.
Aston Villa said that Petrov will lead the traditional lap of appreciation after the final home game of the season, against Chelsea on May 11. The match-day programme will also pay tribute to Petrov, who joined Aston Villa from Celtic in 2006 after spending seven years with Celtic in Scotland.
Petrov also hold the record for most appearances for the Bulgarian national team, with 106 caps, scoring eight goals for the national side.
(Petrov, with the ball, during the last match of his career, against Arsenal on March 24 2012. Photo: Ronnie Macdonald/flickr.com)