Stiliyan Petrov set to retire after leukaemia diagnosis

Petrov reportedly set to retire after making emotional visit to Villa Park

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UPDATED:

14:32 GMT, 31 March 2012

Aston Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov has reportedly retired from football after being diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

The Bulgarian international was at Villa Park on Saturday to watch his side take on Chelsea and will start treatment for the illness in a London hospital on Monday.

But the midfielder, who has been at Villa for six years, earlier revealed he will not play again.

Brave: Stiliyan Petrov watches as Aston Villa take on Chelsea

Brave: Stiliyan Petrov watches as Aston Villa take on Chelsea

'Football is over, this is the end,' he was quoted as saying in the Bulgarian daily
newspaper Tema Sport. 'I am now beginning to fight for my life and I will fight.'

Petrov,
32, who had been capped 105 times by Bulgaria, said he had felt a
strange headache during the first half of Villa's 3-0 defeat by Arsenal
last Saturday and the team doctor had even suggested a half-time
substitution.

'I lost my energy early in the second half and it was very unusual for me,' he said.

'But this is life, you see we drank a coffee in London a week ago and now we're talking about things like this.

'I'll fight, it's clear and I also would like to thank everyone for the support from all around the world.'

Support: Aston Villa fans made their feelings clear at their game against Chelsea

Support: Aston Villa fans made their feelings clear at their game against Chelsea

Petrov also revealed he is taking inspiration from Fabrice Muamba.

Petrov released a statement shortly after arriving at the ground, thanking the football community for their support.

Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest
during a 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 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.

United: Chelsea players wore t-shirts in support of Petrov

United: Chelsea players wore t-shirts in support of Petrov.

'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 this.

'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 to everyone.'

An avalanche of support poured in from all parts of the world.

'Let's all pray and believe that
Stiliyan Petrov, one of the best football players Bulgaria have ever
produced, one of my best and closest friends, will win this battle,'
Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov said on his Facebook
account.

'He deserves all your support. Believe,' his compatriot added.

'But of course, wishes from Bulgaria
encourage me most,' said former CSKA Sofia and Celtic midfielder Petrov.
'They give me strength to believe that one day I will recover.'

In our thoughts: Petrov's Aston Villa's team-mates showed their support before their game with Chelsea

In our thoughts: Petrov's Aston Villa's team-mates showed their support before their game with Chelsea

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.

The Villa skipper had made a trip to London yesterday after his diagnosis was revealed but made the return journey late last evening to attend today's fixture in an executive box.

The illness was diagnosed after Petrov had complained of suffering with a fever following last week's 3-0 defeat at Arsenal.