Dubai: France and FC Barcelona defender Eric Abidal has become the latest addition to an already star-studded line-up of speakers for the 7th Dubai International Sports Conference (DISC), to be held at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel here on December 28-29.
Abidal, who has been in the limelight for his sustained battle with liver cancer, will be one of the high-profile speakers at the final session on the second day of the two-day annual conference held under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Sports Council (DSC).
“I am sure a player of the stature of Eric Abidal will bring to this conference a rather different approach after what he has been through due to his illness not so long ago,” Mohammad Al Kamali, Head of the Organising Committee for DISC told Gulf News.
“This man has experienced life and its challenges from close quarters due to his illness and I am sure he will have a lot of positive energy to pass on during the course of our conference,” he said, adding: “The football fraternity in Dubai will only be richer due to his presence.”
This year’s panel of speakers and attendees for the conference is like a Who’s Who in the world of football, starting with Uefa President Michel Platini, FC Barcelona President Alexandre Rosell, Russian national team coach Fabio Capello, players’ agent Jorge Mendes and Atletico Madrid’s Colombian striker Radamel Falcao to name a few.
In his football career, Abidal has played mainly for Lyon and Barcelona, with whom he has a contract until 2013. The Frenchman has so far won an amazing 22 titles between the two teams, including two Champions League trophies with Barcelona. As a French international in the 2000s, Abidal has represented his country at two Fifa World Cups and once in the Euro Cup.
In March last year Barcelona announced that Abidal had been diagonised with a tumour in his liver. The world of football joined forces to show solidarity and wish Abidal a quick recovery.
Less than three months later, Abidal was back on the pitch playing the entire 90 minutes in the Uefa Champions League final against Manchester United that the Spanish club went on to win 3-1 in front of 85,000 fans. Carles Puyol handed the captain’s armband to Abidal and allowed him to lift the trophy at Wembley Stadium.
However, exactly a year after he was diagonised Abidal was required to undergo a liver transplant due to unresolved problems after the previous surgery. The 33-year-old underwent another surgery and received a new kidney from his cousin Gerard in April this year.
Since October Abidal returned to training, but he has always insisted that he wants to first recover completely before appearing for Barcelona again.