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9 May 2013, 11:19
Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov has announced his retirement following his battle against acute leukaemia.
The Bulgarian midfielder was diagnosed with the condition in March last year and is now in remission.
In a statement released by Aston Villa, the 33-year said: ''It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my retirement from the game.''
Petrov, who joined Villa from Celtic in 2006, is continuing to receive treatment. His popularity at the club has been evident all season with fans applauding throughout the 19th minute of games - in reference to his squad number - in tribute.
He said: ''I've never been a person for making grand statements. I've only ever got on with my job, while remaining grateful to have great team-mates, great people around me and, most of all, a fantastic family. They have been powerful pillars of support when I have needed them most over the past year.
''To my wife, Paulina, and my sons, Kristiyan and Stiliyan, I love you very much and I will always for your constant love and support. Also to my mum and dad, my brother and Paulina's mum and the people who have been closest to me throughout this time - you know who you are and I love you all.
''Each and every day I thank God for giving me the opportunity to still be with my family.
''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. 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.''
He also thanked the doctors and nurses who have been treating him:
''Around 7,600 people in the UK are diagnosed each year with leukaemia and about 2,300 people with acute leukaemia. Fortunately, I was able to make decisions very quickly and I started my treatment quickly. I needed to. My leukaemia is now in remission and I have finished my high intensity treatment. From now on I'll be on the softer treatment, which is two years on tablets. I feel lucky. Not everyone is as lucky as I have been.
''For this I need to thank Professor David Linch at University College London Hospital, his PA Teresa Macdonald and all of the nurses and staff at that wonderful institution. Thank you also to Professor Charlie Craddock, Sandeep Nagra and all of the nurses who have looked after me at University Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.''
He says he now wants to help others who have been through what he has:
''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. 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.''