German second division club Union Berlin have rallied around 34-year-old midfielder Benjamin Kohler, who was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when doctors found a malignant tumor in his stomach. The club quickly acted by extending his contract, which was due to expire at the end of this season, until 2016.
But with Kohler in the stands for Union’s 2. Bundesliga match against Bochum, his teammates organized another show of support by getting their opponents to agree to halt the match in the eighth minute (they were shooting for the seventh minute, since that’s Kohler’s shirt number, but couldn’t quite get the timing down) and leading everyone in the stadium in applauding him.
The Union players pulled off their tops to reveal undershirts with Kohler’s №7 and the words “Together we fight” on them. According to Bild, Kohler was brought to tears by the gesture.
Union went on to win 2–1.
From the Guardian:
“Benny is and remains an important part of our team,” said the manager, Norbert Düwel, in a statement. “His illness came as a shock for all of us. But we are all certain that Benny will again wear the Union shirt. He is a fighter on and off the pitch.”
And the support for Kohler extended beyond the confines of Union’s ground as Hertha Berlin supporters took a banner to their Bundesliga match at Mainz that read “Berlin remains strong, fight Benny Kohler!”