If you were to ask a child who they looked up to, or who their inspiration in life was, the chances are most of them would reply with a footballer.
Your replies will generally be down to where Manchester United or Chelsea are in the league and will generally be whoever is the top scorer in the Premier League at that time.
To me a true inspirational footballer would be somebody who had overcome certain obstacles in order to achieve their life goals, not somebody who just scores goals.
To me and inspiration would be Dylan Tombides.
In the summer of 2011 West Ham youngster Dylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer following a routine drugs test.
The test came after he represented his Australian U17 side during a 4-0 defeat to Uzbekistan during the U17’s World Cup in Mexico.
By then Tombides was already an U17 regular for the Hammers’ and had already been tipped to go all the way by academy director Tony Carr.
Tombides was immediately sent for surgery to remove a testicle and needed further operations after surgeons discovered a four-inch blood clot on his abdomen and cells on his lymph nodes.
The teenagers spent a week at St Bartholomew’s hospital, slipping in and out of consciousness, whilst his family sat round his bedside.
The news came as a shock for the teenager but he refused to let it ruin his dreams of playing for the West Ham United first team and so trained alongside his weekly chemotherapy sessions, once he had recovered from the operations.
“I train every day apart from Fridays, when I have two hours of treatment at the hospital,” said Tombides.
“I have two hours of intravenous chemotherapy every week. One bag of chemo lasts one hour, then they take it off and clean out all the tubes. I then have a second bag that lasts half an hour.”
“It makes me feel terrible but it is something I have to do. I then have Saturdays off and return to training on the Sunday or the Monday, depending on when the boys are in.” he explained to the whufc.com.
What makes the Tombides story even more inspirational is the fact that even though he was undergoing full time chemotherapy, he also managed to force his way into contention for a first team appearance.
The Australian forward came on for the last few minutes of the defeat to Wigan back in October 2012 and revealed that the result and the amount of time he was given was irrelevant, he was just so happy to be back.
It was a game that put into perspective just how hard Tombides has to fight everyday to keep fit and keep moving forward and generally progressing.
Especially as it was a further five months before he was able to play in a competitive match again, after the appearance against the Latics left him physically drained.
By the time his chance came again it must have felt like somewhat of a second debut for the Perth-born player, as he came on for the last 15-minutes in a youth game against QPR.
It was no doubt an emotional match to be a part of, not just for Dylan and his family, but also for everybody involved at the club.
The appearance was also a proud moment for club physio John Irwin who had stood by Tombides during every oncology meeting that the striker had attended.
You can tell by the youngsters body language that every time he gets onto the pitch he feels he’s being rewarded for his courage, bravery and hard work.
And so he should, because Dylan Tombides is a true footballing inspiration.
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