Sébastien Haller, the striker who marked cancer | Sports| The USA Print

Haller celebrates with Adeyemi his goal on the day before Freiburg.

Haller celebrates with Adeyemi his goal on the day before Freiburg.Martin Meissner (AP)

He entered the area, looked up and attacked the area with that warm ball from Raphael Guerreiro to turn his neck and score a goal for Freiburg that tasted like blessed glory, liberation and, above all, pure football. It was Sébastien Haller’s first official goal with Borussia Dortmund after becoming the most expensive signing in the club’s history in the summer –30 million paid to Ajax. It was also the autograph he had dreamed of for so long. More than anything because seven months earlier he had been diagnosed with a malignant testicular tumor with an uncertain future. They have undergone two operations and many chemotherapy sessions, loss of hair and appetite, they will need tears interspersed with hours in the gym, as well as an unwavering desire to return to the pitch and celebrate being a footballer again. He wanted to be again the scorer who amazed the world in the previous year and who earned him a ticket to Dortmund as a replacement for Haaland, who emigrated to City. Now, Haller (Ris-Orangis, France, although an Ivorian national; 28 years old) is back. And fate wanted him to mark last February 4, the international day against cancer.

Haller had the world at his feet, third top scorer in the last Champions League (11 goals in eight games), a course adorned with 34 nets in 42 stakes. He was the fashionable striker. “It is very normal. When he arrived at the club he was super nice, he talked to everyone, and that’s why he fell very well in the locker room first, ”says Guillermo Bueno, a member of the Dortmund subsidiary who did the preseason with the first team. 10 days after putting on the aurinegro tracksuit, Haller took the blow. It was on July 18, after waking up in pain, although not enough to miss morning training in Bad Ragaz (Switzerland), where the team was concentrated. “The symptoms intensified…”, coach Edin Terzic later revealed, dismayed. Haller had testicular cancer.

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The worst was yet to come. On July 30, the club managed to find out that it was a malignant tumor. “It was difficult for us to assimilate it because everything happened quickly. He gave us a downturn, ”Bueno relates. “United Nations shock”, Dortmund resolved in an official statement. “I think that the entity was up to the task and knew how to handle the matter very well on a personal level, in the same way that in sports it reacted very well with the signing of Modeste”, deepens Jonas Boltd, sports director of Hamburg.

Operated on in July, Haller soon got on a stationary bike to stay in shape. Although it was not good. “Chemotherapy broke my body inside; the operation outside. After the chemo, although you feel quite good, you look very sick, you have sunken eyes, no hair, black lips… ”, he accepted, somewhat dejected. And everything got more tangled. He had to undergo a new operation in November to completely remove the tumor. That was the final one. And when he started January, he came back to the team. Already in winter preseason, in Marbella, he played in the friendlies against Fortuna Düsseldorf and Basel, to which he made a resounding hat trick in just seven minutes. “He is a powerful striker who is very good for the team. He is tall, a finisher, and physical, he moves very well, in addition to the fact that he stands out in the fight and that in Germany helps because there is a lot of contact, ”says Bueno. “It has made a great impression on me. He looks strong, I like his movements and he is very good, ”BVB goalkeeper Gregor Kobel praised him. “And although he is not at his best, he is strong and has great ambition and mentality, as he has shown. Surely with past experience – he played for Eintracht from 2017 to 2019 – he found success”, Boltd remarks.

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That will happen in the fourth game in which he had minutes. Lucía the motto’fuck cancer‘ in the boots and made his first official goal since May 11, 2022, when he was still a member of the ranks of Ajax. He was celebrated by the entire stadium and also by Dortmund. During the recovery process, the club always offered him support, as did the team: “We sent him encouragement videos, signed shirts and messages,” reveals Bueno. Haller thanked him and Dortmund learned the lesson, because when it comes to signing players they have decided to include a testicular revision so that the same thing does not happen with the Ivorian. The Bundesliga approves it. “In the medical check-ups, the orthopedic and cardiology areas are reviewed, but a urological, dermatological, dental, otorhinolaryngology examination is not required…”, concludes Paul Klein, a Cologne doctor since 2004, with regret. “He is right”, Boltd concedes; “Because the Federation does not need it for its players, but now each club is intensifying and expanding these tests. We at Hamburg, for example, have included them”. Bueno seconded him: “All the measures they take for our well-being, that’s fine.” Maybe this way they can avoid problems like Haller’s, the striker who scored against cancer.

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