Madrid, Jan 7 (IANS) FC Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova asked for privacy regarding his illness while speaking to the press following his side's comfortable 4-0 win at home to Espanyol.
Vilanova was in the dugout for the game Sunday less than 20 days after undergoing a second operation for cancer in his parotid gland, following an earlier operation in November 2011, reports Xinhua.
His return was welcomed by players and thousands of fans had banners of support for the coach, although he preferred not to talk in depth about his illness.
"I am grateful for everyone who has supported me in this time and for all of the doctors who have treated me during this time as well as to the club and the players who have been able to rise above the news in the way that they have done," said Vilanova, who replaced Pep Guardiola as Barca coach at the end of last season.
"This club has suffered setbacks in the past two years," he said in reference to French defender, Eric Abidal, who recently returned to training following a liver transplant.
"I want to look on the positive side: what has happened to me could happen to anyone and I am grateful to the way the media has respected my illness, but this isn't over yet and there are days when I will be able to coach and others when I won't be able. I know I have a public position but the illness is mine and as such it is private and I ask you to respect that privacy," said Vilanova, who spent most of the game sitting in the dugout, when he is usually more active on the touchline.
"I didn't come out much in the first half and the fact is that I prefer to watch it standing. The team played very well and I preferred to avoid standing too much, there is still a long way for me to go," he assured, before denying that the players had wanted to perform especially well for him.
"I don't think that they were especially motivated. We knew we were playing at home against our neighbours, Espanyol and that is important for our fans. I suppose they are happy to see me and to see me in good shape, but I think they are always motivated," said the Barca coach.