Cancer, blindness and a one-armed duo: Footballers' unusual ailments

It's an unfortunate fact of life that injuries and illnesses can strike anyone and professional footballers certainly aren't immune. Here are eight footballers from across the globe that had to overcome medical concerns during their careers...

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Edgar Davids – Glaucoma

Edgar “The Pitbull” Davids is a Dutch legend, having played at Ajax, Milan, Juventus and Barcelona, before moving to some less-decorated clubs.

He was the rare hybrid of a holding player, a ball-winner and a box-to-box midfielder, combining the best traits of all three.

But Davids perhaps stood out most because of his iconic wraparound goggles, complete with a yellowish-orange tint visible from the stands.

In 1999, Davids began wearing protective glasses following surgery to his right eye caused by glaucoma – a group of eye diseases which result in damage to the optic nerve and vision loss.

He had previously helped Ajax to three titles and a European Cup, but the goggles arguably helped him and Juventus to three Serie A titles, leading Marcello Lippi to call him "my one-man engine-room".

The Suriname-born Dutch international then moved on to a relatively brief managerial position, appointed in 2010 as player-manager for League Two side Barnet alongside Mark Robson and retiring from coaching in 2014.

Petr Cech – Head injury

Czech Republic international Petr Cech signed for Chelsea in the summer of 2004 for £7 million (S$12.38m), making him the most expensive keeper in the club's history at that time.

After first-choice keeper Carlo Cudicini suffered a pre-season elbow injury, Cech was promoted and became Chelsea’s No.1 in his first season.

At the end of the 2004/05 season, he was awarded the Golden Glove for keeping a record 21 clean sheets in the Premier League and helping Chelsea win the League for the first time in half a century. They also took out that year’s League Cup.

The 35-year-old was named the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) World’s Best Goalkeeper for 2005 and also the Czech Footballer of the Year.

Cech, now with Arsenal, continues to wear the headgear

But in 2006, a collision with Reading’s Stephen Hunt in the first minute of the game at Madejski Stadium threatened to prematurely end Cech’s illustrious career in England’s top flight. Cech underwent surgery for a depressed skull fracture and doctors later reported it had almost cost the keeper his life.

The injury kept Cech out for nearly four months, but he returned to play for Chelsea in January sporting a rugby-style headguard.

The 1.96m custodian remained unfazed and went on to win three more EPL titles, four FA Cups, two more League Cups, one Champions League and one Europa League trophy with Chelsea, before jumping to London rivals Arsenal in 2015.

He won another FA Cup in 2016/17 along with two Community Shields with the Gunners and continues to sport the protective headgear as a precaution, 11 years after that fateful incident.

Asraf Rashid – The one-armed wonder

Asraf Rashid was born without a full left arm – it ends just below his elbow – but he refused to let it ruin his dreams of becoming a professional footballer

Inspired as a boy by then-Tanjong Pagar United winger Håkan Söderstjerna, a Swede who shares the same physical trait, Asraf played for Woodlands Wellington and Home United before joining Tanjong Pagar in 2012.

Razif Onn, the current coach of Warriors FC, said: “Asraf was a disciplined and consistent player who was always first on the training pitch.

“Whenever he was given an opportunity, he took it in his stride. His presence at the club was an eye-opener for others, who looked at him as a good example to follow and a driving force for them to become better players and human beings.”

Onn added that he viewed Asraf as one of the best local talents he had overseen in his decades-long coaching career.

“He showed good tactical and mental discipline to be able to receive and execute instructions during training and matches,” he expanded.

“These qualities of his enabled him to establish himself as a good back-up to the senior team players.”