Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov announced his retirement on Thursday.
The Bulgarian midfielder was diagnosed with leukaemia in March 2012, after feeling fatigued following a match against Arsenal. He is currently in remission from the disease, and whilst he continues his recovery with ‘soft treatment’, he has announced that he will now devote his time to setting up a charity rather than return to football.
Petrov joined Villa from Celtic in the summer of 2006, when the Midlands club forked out £6.5million for his signature. The 33-year-old was appointed captain in 2008, and the following year he was voted as both the Supporters Player of the Year and the Players Player of the Year, the latter of which he won again three years later.
One of the most popular players the club, the fans have shown their appreciation towards him by marking the 19th minute – the number of his shirt – with a round of applause since his diagnosis. Now, after making over 200 appearances for Villa, Petrov has confirmed his retirement by releasing the following emotional statement on the club website:
“It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my retirement from the game. 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. That I am ready to embrace new challenges will make this process much easier.
“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. 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.
“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.
“I wish to thank the fans of Aston Villa and the Villa chairman, Randy Lerner, chief executive Paul Faulkner and manager Paul Lambert, also the fans of Celtic, the Bulgarian fans and fans of football all over the world who have helped me through the past year.”