Especially in sports where teams seeking feel-good stories give those battling serious illnesses a chance to share the field of play with their superstars. While all such stories are inspirational, one Italian football’s cancer survival story takes the cake.
The 26-year-old Sassuolo defender beat the awful disease not once, but twice – and he continues to play the Beautiful Game professionally. On Tuesday night, he made his international debut for Italy in the 1-0 win over Albania. Why is it such a big deal? Well, coach Antonio Conte picked him on merit.
Acerbi was first diagnosed with testicular cancer in a routine medical checkup in June last year. After success in that initial bout, the cancer returned six months later. He again underwent several rounds of chemotherapy, and again came out on top.
Against Albania, he was sent in to play the final eight minutes of the match, and considering what he has been through, it was a highly emotional moment.
"With everything I went through, I am happy and proud, but I have objectives and when I've reached them I will be satisfied," he said in a post-match interview with Rai Sport. "What are they? I won't tell."
"If you want to reach your targets, then you need to work hard, sweat and have that hunger within you. If you don't have it in you, then it's impossible to get there."
We almost never – or barely ever – see cancer survivors getting picked on their actual sporting ability and not because it would make for a good headline. Lance Armstrong claimed to have done it, but we know how he got to that level. A few in boxing tried it too, but couldn't compete at the highest level.
That's why what Acrebi is doing is kind of incredible.