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Seboloko Khutsafalo has been forced to retire from professional football due to a spine tumour. FIFPro echoes the sentiments of the Footballers Union of Botswana (FUB) who see this as an opportunity to underline key principles in how all players must take measures to protect their own health.

FUB President Mmoni Segopolo said, "We are greatly concerned about the welfare of players. For instance, lack of medical check-ups is one key area that we hope to address at length with all the teams. You will note that regular checks ups could help avert some of these deadly diseases."

Two years ago, Seboloko Khutsafalo experienced health problems that would later cripple him. At the time, he was playing in Botswana's Premier League with BDF XI. His condition deteriorated in September last year as he could barely walk ten meters before complaining of fatigue. Soon enough he was forced to use crutches and ultimately a wheelchair, all in a matter of weeks. An MRI scan revealed a tumour was placing pressure on his spine and attacking his nervous system.

The need for surgery took Khutsafalo to South Africa in December. Separated from his loved ones during this period, the Footballers Union of Botswana (FUB), sponsored a trip to help ease his pain and suffering. Segopolo, led a three-member FUB delegation alongside Kgosana Masaseng and Tiroyaone Lepotokisi to South Africa. They were joined by Khutsafalo's mother and his fiancée.

Khutsafalo was overwhelmed with joy to unexpectedly see his mother and fiancée. "I am very lucky to have the union's support. You will note that for years now, players have been suffering and since your (FUB's) formation, you are now able to address a few challenges affecting us," he said.

He described the union's visit as a great demonstration about their commitment to issues affecting players before adding, "I wish more players could join the union to protect their careers because you never know what might affect you tomorrow."

Khutsafalo, 32, had enrolled himself in courses that would help prepare him for life after football when everything was put on hold. "The little savings I made from football helped maintain my family. It is a difficult period for me now since I am no longer playing. Players (in Botswana) do not make enough money and it is for this reason that we continue to suffer after our playing careers," he said.

"Sitting here, I have developed a lot of interest in making sure that from here, I will join you in addressing players across the country about health issues. A lot of our people are suffering from various illnesses and some, like mine, are not communicated enough," decried Khutsafalo.

He has been doing a lot of reading and research about his illness and would love to be an ambassador, a role that he foresees will bring him closer to other players and members of the community.

Khutsafalo recently completed his radiation treatment and is expected back in Botswana, in March, for further treatment. He oozes confidence when he talks about chances of recovery. "There is hope that I will recover. My medical team has been fantastic and I have got no doubt that I will be able to walk again," he said with a broad smile.