How Spain midfielder battled cancer and is chasing Euros dream

Two years ago, Virginia Torrecilla, now 27, was living life as a professional footballer to the fullest, training with Atletico Madrid and dreaming of the next World Cup with the Spanish national team. Then 2020 arrived. The pandemic hit, but there was more troubling news for the young midfielder: she found out she had cancer.

Football quickly took a back seat. “When I was diagnosed with cancer, the first thing I think about, obviously, is living. Football went from my priority in life to fifth or sixth place for me,” Torrecilla said in an interview. with ESPN.

The Atleti player was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2020. It all started with a series of headaches and neck pain, which prompted her to undergo a CT scan to get to the root of her problem. Doctors discovered a brain tumor. After undergoing surgery, Torrecilla posted a video on her Instagram explaining the situation and said she was thrilled to win the “most important match of her life”.

She announced to her social media audience that she would be out of the game longer than expected, with the caption, “I’ll be back! For now I’ll be one more fan in the crowd,” wrote the Midfielder.

Doctors predicted that Torrecilla would struggle to return to the sport she had dedicated her life to. after all, the midfielder made waves in 2012 as one of the youngest to make an appearance in the Primera División of the Liga de Fútbol Femenino (known as the Superliga Feminine at the time). when she entered the first team at UD Collerense at the age of 15. However, as the months went by and chemotherapy, she kept dreaming of returning to the pitch.

“They were telling me I could play again because everything was going well and I was motivated,” she said. “At the end of the day, my priority was my recovery, my health and above all [to] live, but there comes a time when you are told that it will pass. With that came my motivation to play football again and be the Virginia I was before.”

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The players showed their support throughout his treatment – Diego Costa celebrated a goal in holding his #14 shirt – and in October 2020, Torrecilla made his first public appearance at the club and received a special message in the press room: “For you, for Vir, for everyone. Atleti.”

She was progressing on the road to recovery last year when life threw her another personal challenge: On June 3, 2021, Torrecilla and her mother, Mari, were in a car accident that left her mother paralyzed from the waist down. at the feet. Torrecilla, unhurt from the crash, described the incident on his social media.

“I remember perfectly how my mother told me that she no longer felt her legs when blood was flowing from her forehead. After these last two years that we have gone through, she continues, after my illness, it’s true i have been through cancer but what i went through with my mum was horrible i can’t explain it because its something i would never wish on anyone and when its you not going through it and can’t do anything to help, it’s really hard.”

Fortunately, Torrecilla’s mother is doing well at home and her daughter now knows where all of her own strength comes from. “She’s a fighter,” Torrecilla said with a proud smile, “and anyone who asks me where I got the strength to fight, that’s it – those are my parents.”

Not leaving her dad behind, Torrecilla mentioned how he’s been a big part of the past two years as well. “He’s the soul of this family. He’s always done a bit of everything, but I really realized he’s a true warrior.”

You would think that Torrecilla would like to forget the last two years these challenges were used as opportunities for personal growth.

“If I was Virginia 2.0 before, now comes Virginia 4.0. I need to improve in many aspects, and I do. I’m not the Virginia I was before. I’ve improved a lot in so many aspects, especially on a personal level… life puts so many obstacles in your path [that you must] overcome them, and I think I do.”

In January this year, Virginia 4.0 returned to the beautiful game. She did so in the Women’s Supercup final between Barcelona and Atletico de Madrid, playing her first minutes since being diagnosed. After the game, which Atleti lost, her teammates and Barcelona players celebrated Torrecilla’s return by throwing her in the air.

“I think my new debut that so many people were waiting for, that I had dreamed of after being off the pitch for so long, was something really special and something I never imagined,” he said. she declared. “I never thought I would get through what I went through and how everyone after all supported and encouraged me like they did… like the rival team did.”

Torrecilla returned to the Spanish league a few weeks later, while Atletico de Madrid extended his contract until this summer.

“I know I have to keep working and improving,” she said. “I work to earn minutes on the pitch and I’m very happy and proud of everything we’ve achieved.”

Winning minutes with Atletico de Madrid means working towards his goal of also returning to the national team to play for Spain at Euro 2022 this summer under coach Jorge Vilda. “[He] has been there throughout my illness – not just him, but the whole coaching staff,” Torrecilla said. pre-game chats via FaceTime. I really appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.”

The former Spain captain wants to be considered for the national team purely because of his skills on the pitch.

“I know they are waiting for me. I really hope, from the bottom of my heart, that I can be [at Euro 2022] on my own terms. I don’t want people to think ‘poor Virginia’ because that’s behind me.”

Since this spring, Torrecilla remains cancer-free and regularly proudly posts on social media about his daily training sessions with Atletico de Madrid. It’s a stark contrast to when she was posting about battling an illness that didn’t stop her from returning to the game she loves.