Young footballer eyes new goal after beating cancer
A former Hong Kong football prodigy hopes to achieve his goal of playing in the English Premier League after beating cancer.
Australian Dylan Tombides, 18, played with the Brazilian Soccer School in Yau Ma Tei for more than a year. He went on to join the first-team squad at London club West Ham United, who have just been promoted to the Premier League.
Yet 10 months ago, a random drug test after a match for Australia under-17s uncovered a tumour on one of his testicles. 'I was on such a high throughout the first six months last year - then I came down with a thud,' Dylan says.
'I returned home to London and my mum had spoken with the West Ham medical staff, who immediately put in place appointments, tests and scans. Within five days, I had my first operation to remove the tumour.'
The Tombides family moved from Australia to Macau, where his mother had got a job, in January 2007. During their 14 months in Macau, Dylan travelled to Hong Kong each week to play for the soccer school. He would arrive to train on Friday nights and then play on Saturday mornings before returning to Macau the same evening. If there were tournaments, he would stay the whole weekend.
In October 2008, the family moved to London, where Dylan signed for West Ham United. A gifted centre forward, he was named the team's Academy Player of the Year in the 2010-11 season and featured in the first-team squad for their final 2010-11 Premier League fixture against Sunderland.
In June last year, he played for Australia in the Under-17 World Cup in Mexico, scoring against Ivory Coast. But then came the shock diagnosis of his cancer. Because of the chemotherapy, he lost 10kg.
He had an operation in January to remove a four-inch blood clot in his abdomen and cancer cells in his lymph nodes. The surgery also left him with a 12-inch scar. He says: 'I relied very heavily on my family to function during this period. It was a difficult time.'
West Ham players did their best to lift his spirits, wearing T-shirts in his honour before January's game with Nottingham Forest.
Now that Dylan is back to full health, he has set his heart on playing for the club at the top level.
'We still keep in touch with [the Brazilian Soccer School],' Dylan says. 'We made many friends while in Macau and Hong Kong, and Facebook and Twitter enabled me to receive a number of 'get well' messages and support.'
His priority is to get back into the West Ham first-team squad and the Australia team. 'Being able to return to playing, and continuing on from where I left off, means that I am in good health,' he says.