It's been two years since Premier League referee Mark Halsey overcame a tumor in his throat, made it through a serious infection, beat the cancer, passed his fitness test and worked his way back up to the Premier level. And one of the men who had a small part in helping him through his difficult time was a football manager with a reputation for being relentless and harsh on referees.
Though Halsey had only had coffee with Jose Mourinho once at Stamford Bridge before the current Real Madrid manager was sacked at Chelsea in 2007, Mourinho was still the one to initiate contact when hard times hit for Halsey's family.
From the Independent:
The following year, Halsey was struck the first of two blows when his wife, Michelle, was found to have myeloid leukaemia. When Mourinho heard, he paid for Halsey, Michelle and their daughter, Lucy, to stay at a five-star hotel in the Algarve.
"Obviously," said Halsey, "I wouldn't have gone if he'd still been at Chelsea. But what can you say? He's been an absolute inspiration."
Halsey's wife is now in remission, but in 2009 his won cancer fight began when a tumor was found on his tonsil. It was removed, but the cancer had spread and the tumor quickly grew back. Again, Mourinho was there for Halsey and this time he brought jokes.
"All through my treatment, Jose kept in touch. I don't know how he found out, but he was quickly on the phone. Over three months, I lost 10 kilos and my hair. I sent him a picture message of me and he texted back that at least I was better looking than Ray Wilkins!"
After a hard fight and the removal of his salivary glands, Halsey is now back on the pitch and definitely still looking better than Ray Wilkins.
People are complicated and Mourinho is no different. At times vilified for his arrogance, combative behavior and tendency to poke opposing coaches in the eyeball, Mourinho is still a human being -- one that has found managerial success, friends and enemies across Europe -- and thus capable of behavior that doesn't fit into a simplistic, finite description. But if Halsey ever gives Barcelona too many calls, Mourinho will kill him.