Football

Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger beat thyroid cancer twice, now she’s a Champions League semi-finalist

Seven months after undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer, Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger saved two penalties against Champions League holders Lyon to send Chelsea into the semi-finals of Europe’s elite competition.

The 32-year-old German, who helped the Blues win a historic third successive Women’s Super League title in May, confirmed back in August that she had been re-diagnosed with thyroid cancer after four years in remission.

It was a real setback but the inspirational Berger refused to let the return of her cancer stop her. She remarkably returned to action just over a month later, playing in Chelsea‘s WSL clash against Manchester City .

And several months later, she was the hero on a memorable night against the mighty Lyon at Stamford Bridge.

After the last kick of extra-time from Chelsea’s Maren Mjelde levelled the scores on aggregate, former PSG and Birmingham City shot-stopper Berger saved two spot-kicks from Wendie Renard and Lindsey Horan to win the game.

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes was full of praise for the goalkeeper after Thursday’s full-time whistle.

“She’s someone who thrives in big moments. She’s done that her entire career,” Hayes said. “She’s probably the best penalty-saving goalkeeper I’ve ever worked with so I felt really confident going into the shoot-out, even if I didn’t look it.

“Every day [in training] everyone always hates going up against her. I felt this was her moment after everything she has gone through.”

Speaking to the BBC in February, Berger admitted it has been a tough year but she has come out of it even stronger.

“To be at a Euros [when] nobody knew then, the emotion of the Euros took the negative part away from my brain,” she said. “It was a good year. I didn’t let my illness come across and say ‘hey, you shouldn’t have a good year because I’m back again’.”

The experienced goalkeeper also spoke about her cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“I actually quite like to talk about it,” she added. “It’s a topic nobody likes to talk about but in my position I think I can help people.

“I’m not sitting here saying everything was easy, because it’s not, but whatever your main focus is – and mine was football – you can achieve everything you want to.

“That’s why I think it’s really important for me to be open. I did it, so why can’t everyone else?”

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