When Barcelona announced that Tito Vilanova would be holding a press conference to discuss an important issue, it was generally presumed that he wanted to make some announcement about a signing or continue the ongoing battle between Pep Guardiola and Barcelona football club. The true reason shocked everyone.
Tito Vilanova, the head coach of Barcelona last season and assistant manager since 2007,was again struck by the emperor of all maladies- cancer. Last season, Vilanova had been forced to spend two months in New York for treatment, whilst his absence threatened to implode Barcelona’s campaign. It was only due to some magical play by the Iniestas and Messis that they did not concede much ground in the La Liga.
But the same cannot happen this season. Barcelona cannot afford to start the season without an established manager. Even though they won the league last year, when you compare it to the five seasons before it, it seems as if they underachieved. A lot of the problems they faced can be attributed to Vilanova’s unavoidable absence.
The football world led by Andre Villas Boas and Lionel Messi posted in messages of goodwill and even the man poked him in the eye, Jose Mourinho, sent him wishes of good health. But amidst all the noise, Vilanova seemed like a man broken. He was looking better and the effects of therapy on his face had all but disappeared.
Vilanova accused his ‘friend’ Pep Guardiola of deserting him during his treatment and even though Vilanova was remarkably composed, his voice betrayed his pain. Guardiola’s accusations against the Barcelona board of using Vilanova’s illness seem all the more childish now.
But coming back to Tito Vilanova, the man has shown remarkable personal strength through his personal pain. He had to be ‘restrained’ by doctors from attending Barcelona’s training sessions as soon as he came back to Spain and the hand dealt by destiny to this honest, hard-working, family man seems unfair.
A special mention here for Barcelona. They did not seek to replace him, neither did they force him out, respecting an individual who was an instrumental cog in the most successful phase of Barcelona’s footballing history.
Barcelona are a club who have faced tragedy too often in their history. First, they were brutalized under General Franco’s dictatorial regime and more recently the cancer of Eric Abidal and his subsequent comeback left the Blarguana in tears. They stick by their men no matter what and Vilanova is a classic example.
I, along with all other football fans, wish Tito Vilanova a quick and speedy recovery, and though I am no Barcelona fan, it would be heartening to see him prowling the touchlines on the home side of the dugout at the Camp Nou very soon. #AmimsTito