On Wednesday morning Barca announced that all media and other events would be cancelled. Then Mundo Deportivo announced that their Coach, Tito Vilanova, had suffered a relapse of the cancer in the parotid saliva gland that was first diagnosed in November 2011 and the world went into a frenzy.
With no official statement, rumours started to circulate. Despite no-one having any real information, the story was broken across the world. What should have been respected as a private and personal affair was suddenly the business of everyone in the world.
Tito Vilanova is a fighter. Last year he had a tumour removed from his parotid gland and was back to work in less than a month. While he was less of a profile then, still clubs and players alike sent out messages of support. On Tuesday whilst having a routine check-up he received the worse possible news, the cancer had returned.
The news spread like wildfire on Wednesday morning. Whilst players and well-wishers tweeted and sent their best wishes, Barca players were silent. The reason for their silence was due to the fact that like everyone else they had no idea of what was going on. At 12 noon Tito received the news that he would require an operation and Barca believed that the Coach had the right to deal with the issue any way he saw fit.
Vilanova had wanted to break the news to the players himself but in the end Sandro Rosell and Andoni Zubizarreta spoke to the players before they addressed the world’s media. Shortly before any official statement was released, Tito’s son Adria Vilanova sent out a tweet saying ‘Everything will be OK’ in response to all the messages of support the family had received. There were already rumours suggesting that Pep Guardiola may be making a temporary return and the Catalan side were keen to stress that they were standing by their man.
“Tito is, Tito was, and Tito will continue to be our Coach,” said Zubizarreta to squash reports that had earlier said the Coach would have to resign. How long he is out still remains unknown with some suggestions that he will still be able to do his job whilst in recovery. On Thursday he had surgery and will then undergo a six-week treatment of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. In his absence Jordi Roura will take control of first team affairs.
On Thursday after having a day to let the news soak in, Barca players came out in support of their Coach. Carles Puyol lead the tributes, followed by a very personal message from Eric Abidal, who knows only too well what his Coach is going through. Florentino Perez of Real Madrid has also sent his support and so too have his players.
Clubs, players and fans from all around the world have sent get-well messages. At times like this football takes a back seat. Right now Vilanova will spend a few days in hospital and what happens after that is unknown. What is known is that everyone in the football world and beyond is rooting for his full recovery.