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The Incredible Comeback of Sébastien Haller



Borussia Dortmund striker Sébastian Haller was the hero for his country as his decisive goal secured Africa Cup of Nations Cup glory on home turf for the Ivory Coast. But why has the striker’s personal journey to this point been so remarkable?

 

Haller has established himself as a clinical striker for both club and country. After beginning his professional career with French side Auxerre, he enjoyed spells at Utrecht and Eintracht Frankfurt, where he flourished, picking up Utrecht’s Player of the Year award in 2015 and netting an impressive 33 goals in 77 games for Frankfurt. The 6’3” striker went on to have an underwhelming spell at West Ham before signing for Ajax, where he arguably had his best season to date in 2021/22, scoring 34 goals in 43 appearances and becoming the quickest player to reach double figures in a Champions League career, doing so in just six games. The Ivory Coast international’s impressive form saw him rewarded with a move to his current side, Borussia Dortmund in July 2022, in a deal worth €34.5 million.

 

After joining Dortmund there was excitement that Haller could quickly become a key player for the black and yellows, with hopes he could better the fantastic goal tally he had in his first stint in the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt. However, his start to life at Dortmund got off to the worst possible start, as a testicular cancer diagnosis on 18th July 2022 completely changed his life in what should have been one of the most exciting times in his career. Haller’s wife, Priscilla Haller, described the diagnosis as a “nightmare”. The striker underwent six months of treatment, including two surgeries and four rounds of chemotherapy. He spoke about the effects this had on him, as he suffered side effects including hair loss and bloating due to the treatment.


In January 2023, the brilliant news everyone had hoped for was announced: Haller had finished treatment, was cancer free and was allowed to return to football. He re-joined the Dortmund squad for their winter training camp in Marbella last year, before going on to play his first league game for the club on January 22, 2023. On February 5, 2023, Haller capped his incredible recovery with his first competitive goal for the club. Since his return to football, Haller has urged men to get checked by a doctor if they feel unwell or suspect something is wrong with their health.


“The most important thing is not to think it can only happen to other people,” he told the BBC. “I was one of them seven months ago. I was fit and I was doing well. In the space of three months, the level I had of this tumour was really high.


“We need to check. You cannot be ashamed. We are not checking only for ourselves but also for our family and friends and those around us. It can save a lot of lives.”





Haller’s comeback has been an inspiration for so many around the globe. The Ivory Coast international has not only bravely battled to return to the pitch but has also impressed since his return. At club level, he managed nine goals and three assists in 19 appearances in the 2022/23 season, as Dortmund finished as runners-up in the Bundesliga, only behind European giants Bayern Munich. Despite an impressive club record, Haller’s biggest success since his diagnosis is guiding his team to Africa Cup of Nations glory. He missed the start of the tournament due to an injury but was a crucial player for his country in the latter stages of the tournament, scoring the winning goal in both the semi-final against DR Congo and the final against Nigeria. His goals guided the Ivory Coast to their third AFCON title.

 

Following the victory at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium, Haller has achieved a feat that his hero Didier Drogba never achieved for the Ivory Coast and has written his name into the country’s history books. The Dortmund striker's journey has been extraordinary, and he will continue to be an inspiration to others.





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