Sébastien Haller savored the “amazing” opportunity to play his first game for Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday after testicular cancer sidelined the striker for six months.
The 28-year-old underwent two surgeries and four rounds of chemotherapy after receiving his diagnosis in July having just signed for his new club.
He eventually made his debut in the second half of Dortmund’s 5-1 win against Fortuna Düsseldorf in Tuesday’s friendly match.
“It was an amazing moment on the pitch. I received lots of applause and a lot of messages. I spoke with my teammates and the opposition,” he told reporters.
“I finally wore the BVB shirt for the first time after six months. I was really delighted to play because I couldn’t do so immediately after my transfer.”
The German Bundesliga returns later this month after the winter break, with teams now preparing for the restart.
Dortmund, which plays Augsburg in its first match back on January 22, currently sits sixth in the table and Haller is relishing the chance to finally help his team.
“Playing is a much better feeling than training and running through the woods. I’ve missed this feeling,” Haller added.
“I would like to stay fit until the end of the season and play as many minutes as I can. Perhaps, I might even get some more minutes in the next friendly.”
‘Very special moment’
The Ivory Coast international scored 47 goals in 66 games for his former club Ajax during an 18 month spell, 11 of which came in the Champions League.
He signed for Dortmund on July 6 but had begun to feel unwell during a preseason training camp in Switzerland later that month.
Head coach Edin Terzic said that, after Haller’s difficult year, he was proud to see the striker finally wear the Dortmund shirt.
“It was a very special moment for Seb and his family, but for us too,” Terzic told reporters.
“It was the first time that he was wearing a Borussia Dortmund shirt rather than a training top. We’re proud that he has taken this path and that we could experience this today.”
Haller’s American teammate Gio Reyna has hopes that Haller’s return can help inspire the team to improve performances after the restart.
“Sébastien’s comeback was amazing. We’re delighted that he’s back,” Reyna told reporters.
“He’s such a good guy; he works hard. You immediately see his quality on pitch. He brings something new to our game.”