Atlético Madrid midfielder’s comeback from brain cancer and mother’s paralysis
Elisandro González Iniesta is now the oldest player to appear in a final of the World Cup and has a world football record of scoring in every game of the championship he has played. His comeback from a brain tumour in 2008 has been described as one of the most extraordinary feats in football.
He was diagnosed with an astrocytoma in 2007, but the cancer was thought to be in remission. His mother, Maria Teresa, suffered a complete paralysis when she fell from a horse during a training outing, breaking her back and leaving her permanently paralysed.
Iniesta’s comeback from the cancer to appear in the final came two years later. After being forced to cut back on his appearances from five to four years between the first tournament and the final, he made the most of his opportunity to prove his world-record of scoring in every game of the tournament in the first leg of the final against Brazil in Belo Horizonte.
His comeback has been heralded as a triumph of the human spirit.
González Iniesta is the oldest player to appear in a World Cup final
“Every single day he fought so tirelessly that in one of those moments that the entire family were around him you could see his face,” said his wife Ximena. “On and off the pitch, he fought so hard to give something that he could be proud of”.
Iniesta’s parents have also described him as a hero. “He was born with a certain magic, a certain ability to see the best in those around him,” said his mother. “In the face of his own challenges we all feel so proud of him.”
In addition to these anecdotes, there are photographs of Iniesta celebrating after scoring against England in the quarter finals, on a trip to the seaside in the early hours of the morning. The photos were also taken in Barcelona for his parents.
In the semi final against Uruguay, he scored in the second minute of injury time to give Spain the lead – having to score to tie the game – in order to reach the final. The following day he was pictured with the Uruguayan players on the streets of Buenos Aires. Iniesta also scored in the penalty shootout against England in the quarter-final