Struggles of footballers hit by serious illness and signs that can save a life


As legends of the ­beautiful game they may seem ­superhuman, but even footballers can be struck down by serious illness.

We look at the struggles some have faced and how ­spotting a sign could save YOUR life.

Who: Ex-Liverpool, Leeds and ­Scotland star Dominic Matteo, 45, left, was ­diagnosed last year.

What they say: He had surgery after suffering persistent headaches. Recently given the all clear, he still can’t read and write and admits: “I’m lucky to be here.”

What are the symptoms? Though rare, 11,000 people are diagnosed each year. Symptoms include headaches, changes to vision or speech problems, nausea and fatigue.

What to do: Contact your GP, especially if you have an unusual recurring headache. Online, see thebraintumour

Who: Ex-England and ManU striker Andy Cole, 48, had kidney failure in 2015 and has teamed up with Kidney Research UK for a fund,, to help others.

What they say : A ­virus aggravated an underlying kidney problem and Andy ended up on dialysis, needing a transplant in 2017. He says: “It’s the toughest battle I’ve had.”

What are the symptoms? Three million people have kidney disease. There are often no symptoms but tiredness, swollen ankles, shortness of breath and blood in the urine can appear.

What to do: Contact your GP. It can be caused by other ­conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, so limit booze, watch your diet and do not take too many painkillers. See ­

Who: Ex-England manager and Spurs midfielder Glenn Hoddle suffered a heart attack at 61 in 2018. Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas had one in 2019 at 37.

What they say: Hoddle, above, was in the TV studio when he had a heart ­attack, caused by blocked arteries. He had lifesaving CPR before a quadruple bypass. He says: “It came from nowhere.”

What are the ­symptoms? They ­include chest pain, sometimes mistaken for ­indigestion, shortness of breath, nausea and feeling anxious.

What to do: Call 999. But prevention is key. Hoddle recommends cutting salt intake and monitoring blood pressure. See

Who: Lionesses striker Kelly Smith, 41, has battled mental health problems.

What they say: Kelly hit rock bottom when she could not play after breaking her leg, admitting: “I was very, very low to the point where I had suicidal thoughts.”

What are the symptoms? Include continuous low mood, irritability, a lack of motivation, feeling anxious or worried.

What to do: Call your GP if you ­experience symptoms of depression for most of the day every day for more than two weeks. See

Who: Ex-Celtic and Wales striker John Hartson, 45, survived­ ­cancer, diagnosed at 34.

What they say: He found lumps but waited four years before ­seeing doctors. He says: “I didn’t know any of the signs.”

What are the symptoms? Include unusual lumps or swellings as well as a dull ache in your testicles, feeling of heaviness and a difference in one testicle.

What to do: Check them once a month during or after a ­shower or bath. See the website


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