Even though you probably haven’t heard much of Martin Hofbauer, his truly inspirational story is one that will resonate with everyone. The 22 year old Austrian footballer, who sadly passed away last week from cancer, was one of a kind – a genuine football pioneer who has changed our game forever.
First diagnosed with cancer in November 2011, Hofbauer’s promising football career was in jeopardy. After numerous months of chemotherapy in an attempt to get him back on track, multiple complications meant that he was forced to have his right leg amputated. Not swayed by this life-changing event, Hofbauer was resolute in his effort to play football again. His resolve was admirable – helped by some advice from Matthias Lanzinger, a former World Cup skier who lost his leg following an accident, he was back moving again complete with a new prosthetic foot just two months after the amputation. In little over a year after this, Hofbauer made a successful return to action for UFC Miesenbach in Austria’s top amateur division. Despite marking his return with a goal in a friendly, Hofbauer was not allowed to play in league games due to the potential risk his artificial leg presented to the opposing players. Hofbauer was not deterred – after appealing to FIFA, they granted him a license to play in the league for his team, making him the first ever footballer with a prosthesis to play in an official match.
Unfortunately, less than two years later, the cancer returned and eventually took his life in March this year. Awarded the Styrian Sports Award, Hofbauer fought till the end to live his dream. In doing so, his story is proof that no obstacle is too large to overcome. Hofbauer’s incredible courage is inspirational.