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Louis van Gaal on living with prostate cancer: I can never look sick – I am used to death

Louis van Gaal
Louis van Gaal stood down as Netherlands manager for the third time after the 2022 World Cup having been diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier that year - Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press via Getty Images

Louis van Gaal has revealed that he is “used to death” after he vowed to fight his prostate cancer with the tenacity he showed in his stellar management career.

The former Ajax, Barcelona and Manchester United manager stepped down from his role as head coach of the Netherlands national team after the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 having revealed his cancer diagnosis.

The 72-year-old requires regular radiation therapy and needs to use urine bags, but is determined to retain a sense of perspective and refuses to feel sorry for himself.

Van Gaal has been filming a documentary titled Always Positive in partnership with the Spanish National Cancer Centre, which premieres on Wednesday and is in support of oncological research.

To promote the film, the Dutchman, who was manager of Manchester United between 2014 and 2016, winning the FA Cup in his final game in charge, has given a candid interview to Spanish newspaper AS.

“When I first heard I had cancer I said, “OK, it’s not good news,” explained Van Gaal. “But I better try to do something about it.”

“Each human can react in a different way. That’s why I say: ‘Be yourself.’

“I have been living with the disease for just over three years, with radiation, hormone injections, operations, catheters and urine bags. It’s unbelievable, but I can handle it. I have managed it, and I have been able to do it even working during the last World Cup.

Van Gaal
Van Gaal was managing his cancer treatment during Holland's run to the quarter-final of the 2022 World Cup - Mike Hewitt/FIFA via Getty Images

“I even think that during the World Cup I managed it even better, because I had a goal. And with the cancer process it happens just like with the process of being a coach, you look for a goal. For me it was positive to deal with both things.”

Van Gaal was always known for his blunt and direct approach when dealing with the media as a manager and he was equally forthright when asked if his health problems had changed his attitude towards life.

“Not much, really,” he added. “Look, I come from a family in which we are nine brothers. I am the smallest. My father died when I was 11 years old. He died at 53.

“My first wife died when she was 39. And all my brothers died too soon. I’m used to death. That’s why I know that death is a part of life, and you can deal with it.”

He added, with a laugh: “I have always looked very young, that is the reason for my good appearance.

“My mother was dying and until the last moment she had her face like a flower. No one could see that she was sick. And I have the same problem. Or the same luck.”