Union Berlin extend contract of cancer-stricken player
06 February 2015, 14:20
Berlin - In a show of support, second division club Union Berlin have extended the contract of veteran Benjamin Koehler by a year after he was diagnosed with cancer, it said on Friday.
The Berlin club, known for its independent spirit and fan loyalty, said the contract of the 34-year-old midfielder, running out at the end of the season, had been extended by a year to 2016 after he was informed of the diagnosis.
The former Germany youth international was diagnosed with a malignant tumour in his belly earlier this week.
"Benny is and remains an important part of our team," said coach Norbert Duewel in a statement. "His illness came as a shock for all of us.
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"But we are all certain that Benny will again wear the Union shirt. He is a fighter on and off the pitch."
Union have long carved out a reputation as a non-mainstream club and during the existence of East Germany stayed in the shadows of the hated secret police Stasi-backed club Dynamo Berlin.
The club and its fans are known for their loyalty, having organised blood donations in the past to help save the club.
The club has also given fans the chance to own part of the stadium, by issuing 10,000 shares at 500 euros ($573) each in 2011 while hundreds helped rebuild the stadium two years earlier, working in daily shifts as volunteers.
Koehler joined Union in 2013, playing 49 games and scoring six goals.