Petrov reveals he is inspired by Muamba following emotional visit to Villa Park
20:39 GMT, 31 March 2012
Aston Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov has revealed he is taking inspiration from Fabrice Muamba after he announced he had been diagnosed with acute leukaemia.
The 32-year-old is due to begin treatment in a London hospital on Monday, but made the trip to Villa Park today to watch his side's Barclays Premier League meeting with Chelsea.
Petrov released a statement shortly after arriving at the ground, thanking the football community for their support.
The Bulgaria international vowed to fight the disease and revealed he was using Bolton midfielder Muamba as inspiration.
Brave: Stiliyan Petrov watches as Aston Villa take on Chelsea
Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest
during an FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham a fortnight ago, but
has defied expectation in his recovery at the London Chest Hospital.
Petrov revealed a picture of Muamba
sitting up in bed released yesterday had inspired him, along with
numerous well-wishes, to get back to health.
'I would like to thank all of the
people who have left messages of support. The response has been
overwhelming and I appreciate it very much,' Petrov said.
'This is a difficult time for my family and myself and I ask people to respect my privacy.
Support: Aston Villa fans made their feelings clear at their game against Chelsea
'With the help and love of my family,
my team-mates, all of my friends in football, Aston Villa and all of the
fans, I am sure I will beat this illness and I am determined to do
'I saw the picture released yesterday
by Fabrice Muamba, my fellow player, and it has inspired me as has all
of the support in the past 24 hours.
'For me, football will have to take a
back seat for a while, but I'm here to support my team-mates today and I
will continue to support them as I know they will support me. Thank you
The statement was read out just before
this afternoon's match to applause and chants of 'There's only one
Stiliyan Petrov' from all sections of the support.
United: Chelsea players wore t-shirts in support of Petrov.
Both sets of players wore shirts to
show their support in the warm-up. Villa's players wore shirts reading
'Support Stan' while the message on the Chelsea shirts read, 'Our
thoughts are with you'.
Villa fans stood and applauded during the 19th minute of the match, in reference to the fact Petrov wears the number 19 shirt.
Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill has backed Petrov's mental strength to help him conquer his illness.
O'Neill managed Petrov when he took charge of Celtic and then made him his first signing when he became Aston Villa boss in 2006.
He said: 'I am obviously devastated to hear the news. I spoke to Stiliyan last night. He is really upbeat, he is going to fight it. He will start treatment immediately.
Close: O'Neill and Petrov celebrate Scottish Cup joy in 2005
'Obviously I have known him since he was 19. I didn't bring him to Celtic, he was there. He learned the language very quickly. He couldn't speak a word of English when he arrived from Bulgaria.
'I have the utmost regard for him as a footballer and a person. He is really strong mentally and if anyone can fight it, he will fight it.'
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo
praised the professionalism of his players as they put to one side the
emotion surrounding Petrov to triumph 4-2 at Villa Park.
Di Matteo said: 'Our players wore the
T-shirts saying 'we support you' before the game and we really feel for
the players and the person as well.
'It was an emotional day today. You can see how the football community comes together at these times.'
In our thoughts: Petrov's Aston Villa's team-mates showed their support before their game with Chelsea
Referring to Muamba, Di Matteo added: 'Lately we've had some terrible news about a couple of Premier League
players but it is great to see how everyone gives their support.
'But once the game starts you have to focus on your task and game plan – and we did that.'
Petrov spoke to his team-mates in the
dressing room before the game and watched proceedings from an executive
box with his family.
Villa boss Alex McLeish said: 'It was
great to see him and his presence inspired a lot of people. He came on
and shook everyone's hands and the boys were not sure whether to cry or
Inspiration: Fabrice Muamba's partner posted this picture on Twitter on Friday
Rangers manager Ally McCoist sent the club's best wishes to Petrov, a former player of Old Firm rivals Celtic.
McCoist said: 'On behalf of everybody
at the football club – every member of staff and every supporter – we
wish Stiliyan Petrov all the very best in his fight for a more important
thing than anything and that's his health.
'He was a fantastic Old Firm player and he is a top player and we wish him all the best.'
The Villa skipper had made a trip to
London on Friday after his diagnosis was revealed but made the return
journey late last evening to attend today's fixture.
The illness was diagnosed after Petrov had complained of suffering with a fever following last week's 3-0 defeat at Arsenal.
Petrov will now start treatment on Monday in a London hospital in his battle to overcome the illness.