Thursday 09 May 2013
Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov has announced that he is retiring from football.
The 33-year-old was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in March 2012 and last summer he received the news that the cancer is in remission.
Aston Villa have announced that Petrov will lead out his team-mates and their families for the traditional lap of appreciation after the final home Barclays Premier League match against Chelsea on Saturday.
"Football has been the other great love of my life, so it is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my retirement from the game," said Petrov. "The emotions are overwhelming really, but the continued support of family, friends and the great people I have come to know will make it easier for me to move on from the only life I've ever known."
"For the life I've lived in football, I will always be incredibly grateful"
Petrov joined Aston Villa from Celtic in 2006 and established himself as a key player, making 184 League appearances.
He was diagnosed with the illness after developing a fever following the League match against Arsenal.
The news led to a massive outpouring of support from the world of football and his popularity at the club has been evident all season with fans applauding throughout the 19th minute of matches - in reference to his squad number - in tribute.
In August, Petrov received the news that the cancer is in remission and he has now completed his high intensity treatment. He will be on tablets for the next two years.
"For the life I've lived in football, I will always be incredibly grateful," he added. "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."
Petrov now plans to set up a leukaemia foundation to help others who have been diagnosed with the condition.
"Since being diagnosed with acute leukaemia in March 2012, I have come to understand and appreciate the way in which this disease impacts the lives of so many people," he explained. "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."
To read Petrov's statement in full, click here >>