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Petrov thanks fans for messages of support

updated 12:20 PM EDT, Sat March 31, 2012
Stiliyan Petrov waves to the crowd at Villa Park on Saturday as he and his family attended the game against Chelsea
Stiliyan Petrov waves to the crowd at Villa Park on Saturday as he and his family attended the game against Chelsea
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Stiliyan Petrov attends Villa' Park on Saturday to watch home match with Chelsea
  • Announced Friday that Bulgarian international is suffering from acute leukemia
  • Veteran midfielder will start treatment for illness at a London hospital on Monday

(CNN) -- Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov waved and applauded from the stands of Villa Park on Saturday as fans showed their support for the Bulgarian international a day after it was revealed he is suffering from acute leukemia.

The 32-year-old midfielder, who will start treatment for the illness at a London hospital on Monday, was attending the English Premier League's side match with Chelsea.

His appearance follows a statement released Saturday on the West Midlands club's web site where he thanked everyone for the support he has received over the past 24 hours.

"I would like to thank all of the people who have left messages of support. The response has been overwhelming and I appreciate it very much," Petrov said in a statement.

I would like to thank all of the people who have left messages of support. The response has been overwhelming and I appreciate it very much
Stiliyan Petrov

"This is a difficult time for my family and myself and I ask people to respect my privacy.

"With the help and love of my family, my teammates, all of my friends in football, Aston Villa and all of the fans, I am sure I will beat this illness and I am determined to do this."

Petrov also added that the photo of fellow Premier League player Fabrice Muamba which was released on Friday has "inspired" him.

Muamba recovering after collapse

Both Chelsea and Aston Villa players wore t-shirts with messages of support during the warm-up before the match.

Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov also issued a message on his Facebook page urging fans to pray for his compatriot.

"Let's all pray and believe, that Stiliyan Petrov, one of the best football players Bulgaria have ever produced and one of my best and closest friends, will win this battle. He deserves all your support. BELIEVE," Berbatov wrote.

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