The international football community is in mourning. Today on April 25th, 2014, FC Barcelona announced that former player, coach and life-long fan, Tito Vilanova passed away from a courageous ongoing battle with throat cancer. It was a tremendous shock to the world as well as local communities in Barcelona. With immense sadness and deepest sympathy, I'm writing to my readers in Tito's memory.
Tito Vilanova was a man of quality. Born in Catalonia, he grew up at La Masia like many youngsters in the region. He never made it to the first-team as a youngster, but nonetheless his presence was always felt at Barcelona. Tito went through the ranks of La Masia with best friend, Pep Guardiola throughout the 1980s up until 1990. He went on to play for various clubs throughout Spain before making a decision to take up a career in coaching during the 2003-2004 season.
Tito was appointed to assistant manager of the B team under Pep Guardiola in 2007. The B team was in the fourth division at the time. In a matter of one season, Pep and Tito were able to lead the squad to promotion. Tito was infamously known as Pep's "right hand man" throughout his managerial career. The duo had quite a successful career with Barcelona. Together, they managed the first-team to 14 different titles over a span of four years. After Guardiola's decision to take a sabbatical from football in 2012, Tito was appointed manager of the first-team.
After being diagnosed with a tumor in early 2011, Tito Vilanova started the most important battle of his life with throat cancer. The cancer unfortunately returned in late 2012 and forced Tito to take months of absence from his first-team duties to travel to New York for urgent care. In the meantime, he would review his tactical game plans with his assistant, Jordi Roura at the time. Roura assumed duties as the interim manager while Tito was out. Cancer did not stop Tito from his passion for football. He routinely talked to the team and management while in New York. Despite his health condition, he won the league in just his first season as manager of the first-team with a decisive 100 points and 32 victories. Not only did Barcelona win the league, but they also managed to make it to the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League for a record-breaking sixth consecutive season.
Tito was forced to step down from his post as manager that summer. His cancer had returned and he was not fit to continue week in and week out in charge. The club, as well as fans from all over the world wished Tito the best in his battle with cancer. It was a battle that he would sadly not win. On April 25th, 2014, the club confirmed his death after he had been rushed to hospital due to a relapse according to various media sources throughout Spain and Catalonia. Many of us are still left in grief-stricken shock at the news. Tito was a warrior and a courageous man who fought until the end on and off the pitch. His fighting spirit will live on in the hearts of millions of passionate fans around the world as well as through his wife and two children he leaves behind. I leave you with a quote from Tito: "Football is not a job, but my best therapy"
Thank you, Tito for everything you did for us. May your memory be blessed and your legacy live on forever. Rest In Eternal Peace.