Petrov: Muamba's recovery inspires leukemia fight

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BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) -- Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov is hopeful of a full recovery from acute leukemia, inspired by Fabrice Muamba's continued fightback from his on-field cardiac arrest.

A photo of Muamba sitting up and smiling appeared on his Twitter account on Friday, the day Petrov's illness was announced. It is still unclear whether Muamba will ever be able to play professionally but his recovery since collapsing on the field two weeks ago has been unexpectedly strong.

"With the help and love of my family, my teammates, all of my friends in football, Aston Villa Football Club and all of the fans, I am sure I will beat this illness and I am determined to do this," Petrov said in a statement on Saturday. "I saw the picture released yesterday by Fabrice Muamba, my fellow player, and it has inspired me -- as has all of the support in the past 24 hours."

The 32-year-old Petrov was diagnosed with leukemia after he developed a fever following last weekend's Premier League match against Arsenal.

The Bulgaria international is due to begin treatment in a London hospital on Monday but still attended Saturday's match against Chelsea at Villa Park.

Petrov was visibly emotional as he waved from the stands to the fans giving him a standing ovation.

"For me, football will have to take a back seat for a while, but I'm here to support my teammates today and I will continue to support them, as I know they will support me," Petrov said.

Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells. In acute leukemia, the cancer progresses rapidly and requires immediate treatment.

Petrov joined Villa in August 2006 in a transfer from Scottish side Celtic. He signed a new four-year deal with the Birmingham club in 2009.

Petrov made his 100th appearance for Bulgaria last year in a European Championship qualifier against Switzerland.