Sinisa Mihajlovic assured he will continue working as Bologna Coach while undergoing treatment for leukaemia. “I respect the illness. I cannot wait to go to hospital and start the fight. I have no doubts I will win this battle.”
The 50-year-old Serbian held a special Press conference in Bologna, having failed to follow his squad to the mountains for their pre-season training camp.
“I asked for this Press conference and also for privacy, as I was the one who wanted to tell the squad and all of you this news first.
“Unfortunately, that did not happen, not everyone respected it and in order to sell a few more hundred copies, they ruined a long-term friendship (Corriere dello Sport, ndr).
“Unfortunately, or even fortunately, we performed some tests that showed anomalies I didn't have four months ago. I'll explain it all clearly, because I don't want people speculating. I'll tell you the truth, how things stand, then once that is done, the doctor will continue to give you updates, with my privacy respected.
“The toughest part was trying to hide it from my wife. I had a fever and she did not believe that was it, as she knows that wouldn't stop me going to pre-season training. She tried to believe me... I told her that I had a fever, but we were going for another test. It showed leukaemia.
“When I got the news, it was a real blow. I sat there for days crying, your life passes by your eyes. These are not tears of fear. I respect the illness, I will face it, with chest puffed out, looking it in the eyes, the way I always have done.
“I cannot wait to go to hospital and start the fight. It is aggressive, but it is beatable. I explained that to my players too, we had a conference call with them and as is natural, I had some tears.
“I explained to them we have to attack and go to win. If we sit back and try to defend, we'll get knocked down straight away. I have to use my tactics in this battle and I am sure, without any doubts, that I will win this battle.
“I'll win it for my family, for my children, for all those who love me. I received 600-700 messages over the last few days, but I apologise for not responding, as I wanted to take some time to myself, to throw out all the negativity, so that I could be ready to hit back and start the battle.
“I want to thank all of Bologna, from the President to the kit staff, as they showed me this is a family and they love me, as do my players. That is important to me, because I told my players, I'll win this battle, but I need people around me who love me. I saw that in my family, friends and colleagues.
“I cried over the last few days when I saw things that moved me, but I don't like people who come up and cry as if they pity me. Nobody should pity me. I am fine. The thing that hits your emotions is sentiment. Love.”
Mihajlovic wanted to use this Press conference and his condition to raise awareness, perhaps being able to help someone else spot the illness early.
“I bet all of you thought I was one of the last people who could get ill. I train, I am big, strong, I had tests on February 28 and everything was normal.
“I trained every day until May, travelled everywhere, played football and paddleboard, I felt no tiredness, no pain. It was normal.
“My father died of cancer, so I always get tested regularly. If we hadn't performed these tests, I wouldn't have shown any symptoms for a year. None of us must think we are indestructible. All of us think it won't happen to me, but when it does, that's a shocking blow. Your only hope then is to anticipate, because if you discover it after two months or after a year, that makes a big difference.
“So if I as a famous person can go through this, I hope it can help others to get themselves checked, to prepare and realise it can happen to anyone. I was perfectly healthy in every way and yet here I am.
“It changes your life in a moment. Everything changes in a moment. When you sleep and have a nightmare, you wake up, but for days you wake up and realise this isn't a nightmare, this is real.
“It's easier to fight it if you keep an eye on the situation, get tested and are prepared.
“I hope that after I've won this battle, I will be able to talk it over with all of you and look back on this period. Unfortunately, nothing was given to me in life. I had to fight for everything. I'll fight this too.”