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International Soccer
Klasnic continues to overcome the odds

Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Ivan Klasnic scored with four minutes left in Bolton's 3-2 win over Everton on Sunday. It was a dramatic game-winning strike that moved the team three points clear of the bottom three, but it also served as an inspiration.

Late goals to win matches will happen plenty throughout the course of a long Premiership season, but what makes the goal scored by Klasnic special is that he pulled it off with two transplanted kidneys.

The problem was first discovered in September 2005 during a routine appendix operation, when doctors found that he was suffering from a rare kidney ailment.

They first prescribed drugs to treat the problem, but when that didn't work, there was only one option left, and that was a transplant.

Ivan Klasnic is playing with two transplanted kidneys.
The news came as a huge blow to Klasnic, who had just scored 28 goals combined in two seasons for Werder Bremen and who was viewed as a potential star for the Croatian national team.

"It was a terrible blow when I heard the news," Klasnic told the Times Online. "But I believe it happened for a reason. God gave me that challenge, but he also gave me the tools to overcome it."

A few of those tools that Klasnic speaks of were dedicated parents.

He could have continued dialysis for three times a week until a compatible kidney became available, but Ivan's parents were not willing to sit idly by while their son's soccer career slipped down the tubes.

His mother, Sima, donated one of her kidneys to her son on January 24, 2007. However, Ivan was informed five days later that his body had rejected it.

But on March 13 of that same year, Ivan received a kidney from his father, and underwent a successful operation.

Finally, 11 months after his last appearance, Klasnic was put into the starting 11 for Bremen in a Bundesliga match against Energie.

It was an emotional return for Klasnic, but after moving to Nantes in 2008, the club was relegated to Ligue 2, with Klasnic finding the net only six times during a disappointing season.

However, overcoming obstacles seems to be a hobby for the 29-year-old, who joined Bolton on a season-long loan deal right before the close of the transfer window in September.

The move didn't exactly make the front page of the papers, but the courage he has shown throughout his career deserves plenty of attention, and it is a message that the striker hopes will reach others.

"I want to be an example to others," he said. "I want to show people, especially sports people, that they should never give in.

"I was the first [footballer] to play for a national team with a transplanted kidney, but I hope I am not the last. It is simple: you have to fight, you can't allow the illness to be stronger than you."

Sunday's goal was the first for Klasnic in the Premiership, but Bolton manager Gary Megson has been especially impressed with the resilience of his striker, and is amazed at how he acts just like any other player.

"I don't think there's anyone else playing who has been through what he has," the manager told the Times Online. "He never mentions it, just gets on with things and wants to be treated like everyone else. If you didn't know about it, you'd never realize."

Bolton is one of a number of clubs that could find itself in a battle for relegation as the season goes on, but they don't have to look too far to find inspiration.

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