Cardiff City manager Neil Harris says he hopes he can draw on his own experiences to help defender Sol Bamba after he was diagnosed with cancer.
Bamba, 36, has Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and is undergoing chemotherapy.
Harris overcame testicular cancer in his playing career, receiving the diagnosis when he was 23 years old.
“I know where he is at. It’s a very tough period and it brings back raw emotions for me obviously,” Harris explained.
“I hope I can draw on my own experiences to help him. But it is important we all find our own ways to help Sol and mine might come from being a footballer with cancer.
“The problem in this situation is you feel helpless. We will help Sol as a club and with my own experiences dealing with cancer when I played. The lads are good human beings and they all care for Sol.
“Sol is a lot older than I was, he has a lot more life experience and has a beautiful family around him, so he will be well supported.
“I will try and help him with my life experiences and dealing with the illness and keeping him close, because I value his football opinions, I value him as a bloke…. and Sol’s home is Cardiff City.”
‘The man is incredible’
Harris says it has been a difficult time for everyone at the club, with Bamba’s diagnosis coming after he had originally complained to a Cardiff physio that he had back pain.
Bamba came to visit his team-mates on Monday to discuss his situation, shortly before Cardiff made the news public.
“It’s been sad and hard-hitting news for everyone who loves Sol. It’s been a hard few weeks since we found out,” Harris explained.
“He’s had time to digest the news with his family and then came in on Monday to tell the players and the staff, before we put the statement out on Monday night.
“I’ve got to say, the man is incredible, an absolutely incredible human being, his humility has been astonishing.
“The importance of him to Cardiff City and my changing room is huge. Sol’s situation makes people step back and look at our own situations and realise how lucky we are in life.
“He loves football. He wants to be at games and at the training ground and we are having to say ‘one step at a time Sol, you’ve got a mad and very difficult few months ahead’.”
Staying in good spirits
Bamba has received support from around the game and beyond, with former Cardiff boss Neil Warnock, who signed the Ivory Coast international for the Bluebirds in 2016, saying the defender has remained in good spirits.
The Middlesbrough manager, whose wife Sharon is a cancer survivor, said Bamba is keeping his spirits up.
“He’s having chemotherapy now, I think it’s his second batch of chemotherapy. You know what Sol’s like, he’s a very determined young man,” Warnock told BBC Sport Wales.
“He has got his head around what he’s got to do to fight this horrible disease and he’s got great support with Chloe, his wife, and family so it’s one of those things that you just have to get on with.
“There are times when you’re really down and depressed and things and that is quite natural because now he hasn’t got the day-to-day laughter around the dressing room.
“He’s in good spirits and I am sure the lads will keep his morale up, because they are a good group.”
‘Support from football definitely helps’
Bamba received messages of support from football clubs across the world and ex-Manchester United and Wales winger Mickey Thomas, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2019, says support from within the game can be a big fillip.
“When you find out you are in total shock. I couldn’t believe what he [the doctor] said and I don’t mind saying, I collapsed, I couldn’t believe it,” Thomas said.
“But once the news settles, you understand you have to stay positive. I was very lucky in the footballing world and certainly from the Manchester United perspective they were magnificent with me, they looked after me.
“But I [had support] from right around the world, America, phone calls from Australia everyone was supporting me, so that gave me a big, big lift.”