Throwback: When Ivory Coast’s AFCON hero Sebastien Haller scored maiden Dortmund goal on World Cancer Day following cancer recovery

FOOTBALL Throwback: When Ivory Coast’s AFCON hero Sebastien Haller scored maiden Dortmund goal on World Cancer Day following cancer recovery

Mark Kinyanjui 16:02 - 15.02.2024

When Ivory Coast AFCON hero Sebastien Haller scored his first goal since his recovery from testicular cancer on World Cancer Day itself.

When Sebastien Haller scored the winning AFCON goal as Ivory Coast rallied from a goal down to beat favorites Nigeria 1-0 in Abidjan on Sunday, very many people were in awe of his achievement.

This is a man who had missed the whole group stage - where Ivory Coast struggled - as he stepped up recovery from an ankle injury he suffered while with Borussia Dortmund, but since his first appearance as a substitute against Senegal in the round of 16, seemed to have that magic touch that inspired the nation to a third AFCON win.

However, this may not have been possible just over a year-and-a-half earlier as Haller was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer just days after signing for Borussia Dortmund from Ajax.

You see, Haller had revitalised his career with the Dutch giants after a forgettable spell at West Ham United, where his form had taken a downward spiral after arriving with a lot of expectation following a brilliant season with Eintracht Frankfurt.

While playing for Ajax, he became the first player to score in seven consecutive UEFA Champions League matches, and his form was so impressive, he made the 30-man shortlist for the 2022 Ballon d’or.

So you can imagine the disappointment when, just days after it was confirmed he would be featuring for the 2012 Bundesliga Champions, a lump was discovered in one of his testacles in July 2022.

The 28-year-old striker would have to undergo two surgeries and chemotherapy in the ensuing months, before getting the green light to link back up with his teammates on their return to training on 2 January 2023.

Fortunately enough, the treatment worked wonders as, by the end of that year, he’d have fully recovered, and was thus given a clean bill of health to return to the football pitch.

After featuring in a winter friendly against Fortuna Düsseldorf and scoring a hat-trick against Basel, Haller made his competitive comeback in the Bundesliga against Augsburg on 22 January 2023,  playing 28 minutes of a 4-3 win.

He assisted the winning goal for fellow substitute Gio Reyna in Mainz three days later, before making his first start away to  Bayer Leverkusen seven days later.

Haller would retained his place in the side for the visit of title rivals Freiburg on 4 February, known globally as World Cancer Day. 

It would be particularly special as he marked the occasion with Dortmund's third goal in a 5-1 win - his first in all competitions for the club - before pointing to the defiant 'F**k Cancer' slogan he has had sewn into his custom boots in celebration.

BVB also added a lump on the centre circle before the match, and during the half-time break, to raise awareness of testicular cancer.

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To score today was a great message to everyone who is fighting today or will fight later," Haller told after his second successive 61-minute outing in the Bundesliga.

 "It gives some hope, some courage. That's it, you know? The days after will always be better.

Since then, Haller has gone on to score 14 goals for both club and country, including the two semi-final and final goals that won Ivory Coast their third title. His story will go down as one of the most inspirational ones in football history.