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Social media platforms pour support for Eric Abidal

Barcelona's French defender Eric Abidal

Barcelona’s French defender Eric Abidal (L), with his daughters and Barcelona’s coach Pep Guardiola (R), celebrate at Nou Camp stadium on May 13, 2011, in Barcelona, after winning the Spanish League title. Barcelona were crowned Spanish champions for the third successive season with a 1-1 draw at Levante on May 11, 2011, clinching a 21st domestic title with two games to spare. AFP PHOTO/ LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

Eric Abidal’s brave and remarkably quick recovery became one of the really good global soccer stories in 2011.

On March 17, 2011, Barcelona’s left back had a tumor removed from his liver. After six tough weeks he made an outrageously quick comeback on May 3, appearing off the bench to a colossal ovation. He was carried from the field that night following the Catalan giants’ 1-1 draw against rival Real Madrid, a result that saw Barca through to the Champions League final.

Here’s what Abidal had to say in the emotional aftermath of his May 3 comeback, about the illness affecting him in profound ways:

I now know how to differentiate between what really matters in life and what doesn’t. I have sold my cars because they are pointless. When you play football you can buy whatever you want but, when something bad happens to you, you realize that [material possessions] are worthless. Now I will invest my money in hospitals, in helping children, in good causes.

“I have changed a lot. You only have to look around to see what is happening in the world: wars, children dying of hunger. There are more important things in life. Football is small and unimportant alongside that.”

So the news landed with a somber gravity today when the club revealed Abidal would need a liver transplant. Doctors say the transplant is a highly complex, requiring extensive, intensive medical care, but that the 32-year-old Frenchman should eventually recover full strength.

The Twitter and Facebook messages came from athletes as far removed as Minnesota Timberwolves’ Spanish star Ricky Rubio, who recently suffered a serious knee injury. He Tweeted: “Abidal, an example of a fighter. You will get through this!”

The Times Mirror has more details of the outpouring of social media support.