MILAN (Reuters) – Bologna coach Sinisa Mihajlovic praised the doctors and nurses who have looked after him but criticised his players on Friday in his first public comments since announcing four months ago that he was suffering from leukaemia.
The 50-year-old, who insisted on staying on as coach despite the illness, has undergone three courses of chemotherapy and taken charge of his team at some matches where doctors have permitted.
“I’ve never felt like I was a hero, I’m just a man,” he told a news conference. “This disease cannot be overcome only with courage but with treatment and care.
“There is no shame, the only thing that patients should not lose is the desire to live. Patience is needed to fight this disease, it’s a nasty one. Spending four months in a room without taking a breath of fresh air was not easy.”
He added: “I hope I will be a better man — in my previous life, patience was not my strong point.”
Mihajlovic, whose side visit Napoli on Sunday, said he had met “extraordinary people” including the nurses “who have cared for and put up with me.” He also thanked everyone who had made “banners, pilgrimages and letters.”
He added that even rival fans had welcomed him. “I was insulted at Torino one year ago but this time everyone applauded me,” he said. “They recognised I wasn’t afraid to show myself even though I was not in a presentable state.”
However, the Serb did not have such kind words for his players, who have won only one of their last 10 matches leaving them 15th in the 20-team table.
“I didn’t want my illness to become an excuse for Bologna. I would have expected more from them on the field,” he said.
Mihajlovic said he had attended training sessions “even with 40 degrees of fever” and made sacrifices.
“Despite everything I’m angry about the results, the attitude, the game and from now on they must give 200 per cent. We have to start scoring points and start running again.”
Mihajlovic was welcomed back by team captain Blerim Dzemaili. “It’s an understatement to say we’ve missed you. We’ll try to make you happy and thank you for coming back to us,” he said.
But, when he saw other players in the room, Mihajlovic could not resist a jibe. “They’ll do anything to avoid training,” he said.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)