Sinisa Mihajlovic: The Bologna boss embodying the never give up spirit in his battle against leukaemia

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 19 September 2019, 15:43

Picture the scenario. You’re losing 3-1 at half time, and you know that your boss – a man with a reputation that goes back to his playing days as someone who takes no prisoners – will give you an absolute roasting at half time.

If you think that’s bad, spare a thought for Bologna’s players.

They were down by that same scoreline away to newly-promoted Brescia last Sunday, knowing they would have to face the wrath of their fearsome Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, a man who was absent from the dressing room as he fought a battle not on anywhere near the same scale as the one his players faced.

Back in July, the news broke that the 50-year-old had been diagnosed with acute leukaemia, and many expected that he would naturally step down from his position at Bologna, where he had been lauded for his excellent work in the previous campaign.

Yet Mihajlovic proved that he was as much a warrior in his personal life as he had been in football, vowing to carry on with the job at hand.

"When I got the news, it was a real blow. I sat there for days crying, your life passes by your eyes,” the brave boss told reporters at a specially arranged press conference to announce the news.

"These are not tears of fear. I respect the illness, I will face it, with my chest puffed out, looking it in the eyes, the way I always have done.

"I cannot wait to go to hospital and start the fight. It is aggressive, but it is beatable. I explained that to my players too, we had a conference call with them and as is natural, I had some tears.

"I explained to them we have to attack and go to win. If we sit back and try to defend, we'll get knocked down straight away. I have to use my tactics in this battle and I am sure, without any doubts, that I will win this battle.

"I'll win it for my family, for my children, for all those who love me." By the first match of the season, Mihajlovic – who was visibly suffering from the effects of the treatment – was back on the bench and oversaw a 1-1 draw versus Hellas Verona, then a 1-0 victory over SPAL.

Following the international break, the Coach had to endure a period of time back in hospital, and it was then that his side found themselves 3-1 down to Brescia.

They must’ve been dreading the half-time team talk, but whatever Mihajlovic said - via the video link - worked wonders, the second period vastly different to the first.

Veteran Rodrigo Palacio pulled the first goal back just 11 minutes after the break, while an own goal on the hour mark levelled the scores at 3-3. It was promising young Italian winger Riccardo Orsolini who completed the astonishing comeback with a goal in the 80th minute, as this crazy match ended 4-3 to the visitors.

“Mihajlovic was furious at half-time,” Palacio admitted after the match. “He passed that message on to us, so we tried to use that mentality when we got back out there. It’s thanks to his mentality that we play like this.”

The players clearly didn’t feel like the celebrations were complete without their boss in the dressing room, and so the team bus made a previously unscheduled stop outside the hospital in which Mihajlovic was receiving his treatment.

As the squad chanted his name on the pavement outside the Sant’Orsola Hospital in Bologna, the Coach came to the window to wave at his players.

On watching that video, it’s no surprise that Mihajlovic was able to inspire his players to a determined second-half performance that turned last weekend’s match on its head.

How could you fail to battle your hardest on the pitch when your inspiring boss is fighting for his life?

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