He’s spent plenty of time showing his Spiderman persona to the world so when Jonas Gutierrez says “I’m no superhero”, there are a number of reasons why you beg to differ.
Today he might not have his lucky goal Spiderman mask tucked in his pants (we didn’t ask) but he is still equipped with the characteristics that have made him a hero in many people’s eyes, football fan or no.
The former Newcastle United midfielder Jonas says battling testicular cancer has made him a “better person”… and now he dreams of having a family.
The footballing star’s life was put on hold following the devastating diagnosis, forcing him to hang up his boots for 17 months.
It was, he said, the toughest time of his life – but also a time when he learned a great deal about himself.
Jonas spoke to Luxe before jetting ‘home’ to Argentina at the end of June.
We met at his modest home (by Premier League standards), a short walk from Jesmond Dene.
With mixed feelings he prepared to leave the city that become his home. His time in the city and his profile following his cancer treatment made him a hero not only to NUFC fans but also to the wider footballing community who respected and admired his attitude to the game and to his illness.
One of the occasions when the picture became bigger than the game of football on the pitch.
Stoically, Jonas, 31, admitted of his cancer: “I’ve been lucky because it could have been much worse.
“The cancer was discovered almost by accident because I complained of pain in my groin area after I had been tackled by Arsenal’s Bacary Sagna.
“My doctor told me that if it had been a year or two later, it could have been more difficult to treat.
“But that is life, and I believe it was an experience I had to go through. Life put the cancer in my way, and when something like that happens, well, it teaches you a lot, you know?
“And I think that, really, it made me a better person. Now I care more about the little things – things I never paid much attention to before.
“Because of the environment we are in as footballers, you don’t normally think about little things – in football, everything is so massive and sometimes your head can be in the clouds.
Now that the dark days are behind him, Jonas is comfortable discussing his illness. Indeed, he regards it as important to do so, understanding that his remarkable recovery offers hope to others struck down with the disease.
However, he added: “People say to me ‘you are an example to us all’ but I am not an example. This was just something that happened to me, but if I can help others by talking about it, then of course I will do that.
“What I would say to anyone who finds themselves in the situation I did is that you have to remain strong and try to be positive at all times – you have to believe deep within yourself that you will be healthy again.”
At the outset, however, Jonas chose to keep his illness from his teammates – a decision he found difficult but necessary.
He explained: “It wasn’t easy, but at the time I felt it was something I had to go through on my own.
“If I had made it public before going through the chemotherapy I think it would have made it very hard for me to cope. The treatment makes you very tired and I would not have had the energy to talk about it.
“When I finally told the press, it was the right moment for me because I was in the last period of my treatment and I was starting to feel better.”
Despite the shoddy way in which he was told his contract would not be renewed – in a phone call from the then head coach John Carver along with teammate Ryan Taylor – Jonas refuses to dwell on negatives.
Instead, he chooses to focus on the possibilities the future holds. Just hours before boarding a plane to Buenos Aires, he spoke of how much he was looking forward to catching up with family and friends back home… and to being reunited with his girlfriend, Argentine model and TV host Alejandra Maglietti.
“Right now I just want to enjoy time with my family and girlfriend,” he said. I don’t know for certain what I will be doing in the future, but I know I want to have a family. That’s how I see myself five years from now. After that, who knows what?”
He also insists he has no regrets about the time he spent at St James’s Park and is looking forward to coming back to the city in November for the Spiderman Ball, an event named in his honour that will raise funds for Ballboys, the UK testicular cancer charity.
The Spiderman in the ball’s name is of course a reference to the Spiderman mask that Jonas sports when he scores a goal.
“It was a dream for me to come to a club like Newcastle and it has been an amazing seven years,” he said.
“I never expected to be here so long and I am grateful for all the support the fans have given me. I have enjoyed living in the city and I will miss it a lot, although maybe not so much the weather!”
“But I know the fans will give me a great reception when I come back for the charity ball, so I am looking forward to that.”
Jonas’ triumphant return to action after his illness saw him score the goal that triggered a collective sigh of relief across the city as Premier League status was secured.
It’s a memory he will treasure and take with him as he prepares for the next chapter in his life.
He said: “You could feel the fans were so nervous, so of course I was very pleased to get that goal.
“Even if I end up staying back in Argentina, I will continue to follow Newcastle. I will watch their games on the internet and I hope, for the fans, that they have a better season.”
And Jonas also revealed his fond memories of Newcastle’s famous hospitality are not all he’ll be taking home with him to Buenos Aires. He has acquired some of the lingo too.
“Whey aye man, canny lad,” he chirped in his best Geordie accent.
Scale the heights
The Spiderman Ball will be a sparkling fashion, sporting and entertainment highlight of the year.
It will be held at Hilton Hotel, Gateshead on November 24.
Hosted by Sky Sports presenter, Pete Graves, players from Chelsea will join their North East sporting counterparts to raise awareness of testicular cancer and raise vital funds for the charity Ballboys.
Fellow footballers such as Branislav Ivanovic and James Milner are showing their support and will join Newcastle defender Steven Taylor at the Ball.
“It was a massive boost to have Jonas around the place,” says Steven, pictured below.
“We never think about getting checked. But, when this happened to Jonas, I got checked straight away. Someone like Jonas is a massive role model. He beat cancer and he’s given lots of other people the belief that they can beat it, too.”
Ballboys aim to raise awareness and educate the population (not just the guys) on the facts, figures and issues surrounding testicular cancer as well as to provide easy access to resources, information and hands-on support for anyone who is concerned about or directly affected by testicular cancer.
The charity’s aim is to educate people on how to identify any potential problems at an early stage and what to do next if you are worried.
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men. It typically affects men between the age of 15 and 49.
If detected early it is a very treatable cancer and the survival rate is around 98%. Ballboys promotes the message that men should know how to check themselves, know the signs and symptoms of testicular cancer and then know what to do if they are concerned.
Rosie Colfer from the charity adds; “The purpose of Ballboys is to raise awareness. The Spiderman Ball is going to be a fantastic night and with support from the players and local businesses who can relate to Jonas’ story, it will really make a difference to helping more young men and fans.’’
For information on how you can be involved via sponsorship, donating prizes or buying tickets, contact [email protected] | thespidermanball.co.uk | ballboys.org.uk
Make a donation to Jonas and the Ballboys charity at the JustGiving page: www.justgiving.com/luxeballboys