Fans of Italian soccer know who Simone Pavan is. Until recently he was in the news for his sports career — first as a player for SSC Venezia, Atalanta BC or Modena FC, and then as a coach for Modena and Vis Pesaro. His name may be new to the rest of us, but his devotion as a father is inspiring, even for those of us who don’t know the first thing about soccer.
Simone Pavan is now making headlines because he has decided to abandon his professional career to focus on the most important goal of his life: the healing of his 5-year-old son, Leonardo, from leukemia. “Soccer is my life, but for now it can wait,” he told La Repubblica.
“We discovered our son’s illness in June 2020, shortly after confinement. It was a blow, but we rolled up our sleeves and started fighting,” he explained to Corriere della Sera.
For the now 47-year-old athlete, a glimmer of hope for his little boy’s health opened up when doctors looked into the possibility of a bone marrow transplant. Pavan told Corriere della Sera, “The chemotherapy was devastating. An agony to live through every day. When I was told that my son needed me, I didn’t think twice. We’ve done all the compatibility tests, which show that we can proceed.”
On January 10, Simone Pavan was admitted to the Gianninna Gaslini Institute pediatric hospital in the city of Genoa, one of the most prestigious health centers in Europe for the treatment of childhood leukemia. The medical team performed the intervention the following day, first extracting marrow from the coach and then proceeding with the transplant to his son.
Pavan is aware of the risks that both he and his child face, and prefers to be cautious when making statements about the future. Still, he is finding the strength to face such a difficult challenge, supported by the love for his family. “We will continue to fight as long as necessary, all together.” Pavan says that little Leonardo’s illness is making the family “more united than ever.”
Leonardo has a twin sister, Valentina, who hugs him constantly and helps him to be positive as the boy comes to understand the difficult situation he’s experiencing.
For Pavan, this is a time of trial, because he was dismissed from his job as coach for the Vis Pesarosoccer team in February 2020 due to poor results. Now, however, the number one priority in his life is the health of his son, which has made him turn down offers to be the coach of other Italian soccer teams. He told La Repubblica:
I said no to two offers that arrived for this season. How could I throw myself [into the job] body and soul, in this situation? It wouldn’t have been honest to those who wanted to offer me a possible job. It wasn’t possible because Leonardo’s situation requires my stable presence at my son’s side. If I can do anything to help him, here I am.
There’s been no shortage of affection and support among the sporting world. This is a father who’s doing everything possible to save the life of his little boy.