Barça joy as amazing Abidal in line for final after cancer scare

After all that had taken place before it, the fact that an 89th-minute substitution became the moment of the night at the Nou Camp on Tuesday is a measure of Eric Abidal's incredible story this season.

The Frenchman's introduction for Carles Puyol with one minute left was cheered like a second Barcelona goal. And the manner of his introduction – a sprint across the pitch to the far touchline to take the very throw-in that had allowed play to stop for the change – was indicative of the spirit he has shown over the last two months.

There was no time to waste when Barcelona doctors discovered a 4cm long tumour in his liver on Tuesday 15 March. He underwent a three-hour operation two days later and was back on the pitch in a Champions League semi-final seven weeks later.

When he said goodbye to team-mates in an emotional send-off before the operation he joked that he would be available for selection the following weekend. There were optimistic assessments that he would indeed be back training around six weeks later but most team-mates contented themselves with the prognosis that he was likely to make a full recovery and return next season.

"He will come back and everything will revert to normal," said goalkeeper Victor Valdes during the uncertainty of the days following his diagnosis. "We know he is strong and being able to dedicate victories to him gives us even greater strength."

The final could easily have been dedicated to the absent Frenchman but it turns out he will be at Wembley on 28 May. "He has told us he is ready to help," said Pep Guardiola, buckling under Barcelona's never ending defensive injury problems before the semi-final second leg with Real Madrid. "He has lost a lot of weight but he is very, very strong and already fit enough to play 15 or 20 minutes."

With over three weeks between now and the final Abidal has every chance of playing a big part and even starting the match at Wembley. In every game since his operation Barcelona supporters have sung his name in the 22nd minute.

Barcelona's No 22 had already endeared himself to them with the way he has played. One extraordinary clearing header made while he was lying face down on the turf at the Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium in a hard-fought draw against Sevilla was typical of his "they shall not pass" spirit.

On Tuesday night he was tossed high in the air by his celebrating Barcelona team-mates, relieved he has won his most daunting battle.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas