Eintracht Frankfurt’s German Cup match against Arminia Bielefeld saw the emotional return of their club captain after cancer treatment.
Less than a year after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, Eintracht Frankfurt defender Marco Russ made an emotional return to the football pitch during the closing stages of their latest match.
Russ was named on the team-sheet for their DFB-Pokal quarter-final clash with second tier outfit Arminia Bielefeld after completing his recovery from the illness that he discovered nine months ago.
Following surgery and treatment, the 31-year-old was given the all-clear by doctors in October and resumed training with his team at the start of this year, leading up to his popular return to the field on Tuesday night.
Frankfurt coach Niko Kovac opted to introduce substitute Russ in the closing stages of their 1-0 victory over Arminia, where he received a wonderful reception, to get his first taste of football in 285 days.
Speaking to reporters after the final whistle, Kovac said: “Special situations require special measures. I had to bring him on because we needed his ability in the air in the final minutes. We have suffered with him throughout and are simply delighted that he has returned.”
Russ’ road to recovery began in the closing stages of last season, as he was diagnosed with a heavy tumour disease and required imminent surgery in May 2016, on the day his struggling Frankfurt side were due to face Nuremberg in their promotion/relegation play-off.
Despite the tragic news, the skipper admirably expressed his desire to take to the field and help his team preserve their Bundesliga status. Although he registered an unfortunate own goal to give Nuremberg the lead, Frankfurt ultimately prevailed 2-1 on aggregate to secure their survival.
While his team were battling for their top flight status, Russ began his battle to beat cancer, undergoing surgery and chemotherapy treatment in a bid to return to action as quickly as possible.
The 31-year-old, who has made 276 Bundesliga appearances in the colours of Eintracht Frankfurt and Wolfsburg, was offered a touching gesture of trust and support in September as his current club handed their captain a two-year contract extension while continuing to undergo treatment.
After flirting with relegation last season, Russ’ Eintracht Frankfurt side have so far enjoyed a much more positive 2016/17 campaign. Currently sitting in 6th place, three points adrift a Champions League spot, and with a cup semi-final to look forward to, Russ’ return to action was yet more fantastic news for Kovac’s side.
Speaking to the club’s website after their 1-0 win against Arminia, an emotional but fully focused Russ said: “It was, of course, a very emotional moment for me today, after such a long and hard time, when the coach called me to the substitution, I was not nervous, I just enjoyed the atmosphere.
“It was important for me to be in the stadium, who had accompanied me through the difficult times, my family, my wife.
“Now we are in the semi-finals and would like to have a home match, the opponent is completely irrelevant to us, our goal is Berlin.”
But even if Eintracht Frankfurt can battle past the likes of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach to make it to Berlin and lift the German Cup, it will be hard to top Tuesday night as the biggest victory of Marco Russ’ season.