ntSébastien Haller has made minutes in a football match again. The striker, who has currently left the fight against testicular cancer, came in on Tuesday afternoon during a friendly match in Marbella between Borussia Dortmund and Fortuna Düsseldorf. Those in attendance at the Marbella Football Center treated Sébastien Haller to a standing ovation. It didn’t matter whether you are for Borussia Dortmund or Fortuna Düsseldorf. Everyone thought what happened between the two German clubs after 73 minutes of play was special.
Special moment for Haller
Haller’s special substitution symbolized that he is currently done with his battle with testicular cancer, which he was diagnosed with last summer, shortly after the striker moved from Ajax to Borussia Dortmund. It was the beginning of a tough period full of operations and chemotherapy that is behind him six months later. The French Ivorian had to undergo surgery at the start of his rehabilitation and then started chemotherapy. He spoke extensively about this last fall. “I spend periods of five days in hospital,” the striker said on UEFA.com. He continued “I am constantly on a drip there. I am not allowed to leave my bed while the treatment is in progress. After those five days I get two weeks of rest to recover from the chemotherapy. I have to go through such a three-week phase four times.”
— Borussia Dortmund (@BVB) January 10, 2023
During that period, Haller appeared in public a number of times. Like, for example, at the presentation of the Ballon d’Or. He was one of the contenders in the election of the best footballer of the year. Completely bald, also without eyebrows, as a result of the treatment of his illness, he told about his situation. “Everything is going well, as well as possible. It is important to be present at these kinds of ceremonies to show that you are strong,” he said at the time.
Little did Haller know at the time that his fight against testicular cancer would be tougher than hoped. In November it became clear that he had to undergo a second operation. That scenario was always one of the possibilities, but the striker hoped that the second intervention would not be necessary. “Depending on the progression of the cancer and whether it spreads, I may have to have another surgery. If I’m lucky enough not to need surgery, my recovery can go quickly.”
Bonding with fellow sufferers
“You meet a lot of people who are better off than you at that moment,” he said earlier this week about the mental part of his rehabilitation. “It is sometimes difficult to bear, but you just have to keep believing that you can do it yourself. That helps enormously. I talked a lot with Timo Baumgartl, Marco Richter and Jean-Paul Boëtius (football players who were also diagnosed with cancer this year, ed.). Despite the same diagnosis, the disease progresses differently for everyone, but we were always able to help each other with many valuable tips.”
And playing for the ‘Gelbe Wand’, as the stand with the fanatical supporters of Borussia Dortmund is called, was a nice dot on the horizon. That has suddenly come very close. Because Haller is a footballer again. In Marbella nothing showed what he has been through. A few millimeters of dark hair has returned to his head, his trademark goatee has returned to his chin. He also looked fit, big and strong and immediately went looking for his first ball contact. However, Haller had not yet had a very large share in the game in the seventeen minutes that he played. He had no share in the three goals that fell and had one chance himself, shooting straight at the keeper. But Haller is playing again, and that’s the important thing. I can’t lie, seeing him back on the pitch made me very emotional!