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Acerbi: Testicular cancer saved me from alcoholism

15:09 GMT+3 26/10/2019
Francesco Acerbi 2019
The Lazio and Italy defender is in the form of his life in Serie A, after taking inspiration from the least likely of sources

Lazio defender Francesco Acerbi says his fight against testicular cancer pulled him out of a spiralling alcoholism following the death of his father.

The 31-year-old is now maturing into one of the best defenders in Serie A, and made his senior international debut for Italy earlier this year.

Back in 2013, Acerbi was facing up to a difficult future after a pre-season medical at Sassuolo revealed a tumour in his testicle. It was not until March 2014 that he was able to announce his life was no longer in danger following a course of chemotherapy.

However, he now says the battle was one that put the fire back in his belly after struggling to cope with the death of his father while at AC Milan in the 2012-13 season.

"After Dad died I crashed and hit rock bottom,” he told La Repubblica.

“I was at Milan and nothing was stimulating me. I didn’t know how to play anymore.

“I started drinking, I drank everything. Cancer saved me. I had something to fight against again, a limit to overcome.”

While the tumour found at Sassuolo was immediately removed, it initially returned, leading to Acerbi undergoing chemotherapy. While he knows the threat of a return exists, he says he no longer lives in fear.

"I stopped being afraid six years ago,” Acerbi said. “I kept telling myself, what do you do if that stuff comes back?

“I'll face it again, I replied. I see things clearly before me and I know that from one day to the next, everything could change.

“I even say the disease improved me, it took away remorse and regret. I stopped dreaming, I prefer now to set myself achievable goals. I wanted to play for the national team, for example, and I got there.”

Turning 32 in February, Acerbi still has plenty of time left as a defender at the top level. But, looking beyond that, he is starting to think about a future coaching role.

“I’ll play until I’m 38,” he added. “I want some satisfaction to take away from Lazio, then to the bench. I’ll be a coach.”