ZURICH: FIFA president Sepp Blatter has wished Stiliyan Petrov well as the Aston Villa captain began his treatment for acute leukaemia.

The diagnosis of Petrov’s illness was publicly announced on Friday, sparking a wave of sympathy and encouraging messages towards the Bulgarian.

That was most notable on Saturday as players from both Villa and Chelsea wore T-shirts showing their support during the warm-up ahead of the Barclays Premier League match at Villa Park.

Petrov – nicknamed Stan – addressed the Villa squad in the dressing room prior to their 4-2 defeat, when he vowed to fight the condition and beat it.

He then stayed on as a spectator at the match with his family, and stood to acknowledge an ovation from both sets of supporters in the 19th minute, timed to match the player’s squad number.

On Monday Blatter said on Twitter: “Very sad to hear about Stiliyan Petrov’s illness. Wish him strength in his fight to win this battle.

“Support shown at Villa Park by both sets of fans another sign of all that is good in football.”

Petrov was in London on Monday for the start of his treatment, initially embarking on a course of steroids and tablets that will prepare him for chemotherapy.

His close friend and compatriot Martin Petrov has revealed he only decided to play in Bolton’s 3-2 win at Wolves on Saturday after the 32-year-old told him he wanted him to do so.

Trotters winger Petrov scored a penalty at Molineux and celebrated by revealing a T-shirt with the message “Be Strong Stan” written across it.

The pair had spoken on Friday, with the Villa man indicating he did not want the news of his condition to stop anyone playing.

Referring to the conversation, Bolton’s Petrov told www.bwfc.co.uk: “It was very difficult when Stan told me this.

“It’s incredible that he was at the Aston Villa game but that shows the character he has.

“I’m sure he is going to win this fight, 100pc. I made the decision to play this game after I spoke with him on Friday. He told me that he had wanted the Aston Villa players to play their match and that he wanted me to do the same.

“He said that he is going to fight, and so that was enough for me.

“It’s more bad news after what has happened in the last couple of weeks with Fabrice (Muamba, the Bolton midfielder who is recovering from the cardiac arrest he suffered on the pitch in an FA Cup tie at Tottenham on March 17) – it’s the first time that I’ve known anything like this in my career.

“I’m strong and I will pray for Stan. I will fight this with him and I know that next season I will meet with him on the football pitch again.”

# # # #