Sinisa Mihajlovic opened up about how the leukaemia battle has changed him, or at least “rediscovered a part of me I kept hidden. I’ve even become more patient!”
The Serbian has been a fixture in Italian football for decades, as a player at Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter, then coach for the likes of Catania, Fiorentina, Sampdoria, Milan, Torino and now Bologna.
It is in the last six months that he has been truly embraced by all for his brave battle against leukaemia, continuing to watch training sessions from his hospital bed via videolink and give team talks through Skype.
“I think people finally understood me. I received so much affection over the months, not just from celebrities, sporting figures and politicians, but fans from all clubs and people I didn’t even know. Total strangers were worried about me,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport magazine Sportweek.
“If my words or actions gave some courage to someone going through a difficult situation like this, then that is worth more than a Scudetto for me.”
He had a bone marrow transplant after three cycles of chemotherapy and is now on the road to a full recovery, with the aid of his mother’s old-fashioned Serbian cooking “to get a few more kilos on me.
“I could not have asked for a better Christmas. Spending it with my family, in my current condition, is the most I could’ve aspired to.
“The tests are going well, I feel stronger every day, I have my mother, my wife, my children all by my side. And Bologna won the last two games. I feel at peace and happy with everything.
“Now I can appreciate every single moment, things that before I didn’t even notice, because I was in such a rush to do what was coming up next. I’ve learned to listen, to observe the expressions of those in front of me. I enjoy the simple details in life that now seem priceless.
“I used to go for morning runs with headphones to shake off the stress, but now I walk 7-10km per day to recharge the batteries instead. I look around, I listen, I breathe in fresh air, which after three months in a hospital bed with air conditioning is a wonderful sensation.
“I have rediscovered a part of me that I didn’t really know was there, or at least that I kept hidden. I cry at anything now. Sinisa is becoming a cry-baby, I say to myself every now and then, but it’s also pleasing to feel everything so intensely rather than hold my emotions back.
“I might be happy, sad or annoyed, but always at the maximum intensity level, without filters. I’ve even become more patient! As a player, I couldn’t even count to one before reacting, let alone 10. I’ve learned now to count to six or seven, I know I can get to eight, but counting to 10 is probably beyond me…”
There was an example of that last month during Bologna’s game with Lecce, as Mihajlovic stepped in to stop Gary Medel clashing with Panagiotis Tachtsidis.
“I wanted to wake everyone up and when Gary reacted like that, my temper did flare up, but I stopped. In the past, if my player had insulted me on the pitch, I’d have throttled him then and there.”
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