Rome (AFP) - Bologna coach Sinisa Mihajlovic revealed on Saturday that he is battling leukaemia after being diagnosed with the disease a day before pre-season training with the Serie A club was set to begin.
Club president Joey Saputo confirmed that "Mihajlovic is and will remain Bologna's coach" while he battles the blood disease, with his treatment set to begin on Tuesday.
"When I got the news, it was a real blow. I sat there for days crying, your life passes before your eyes," Mihajlovic told reporters at a press conference which ended in a standing ovation for the Serb.
"I will face it, with chest puffed out, looking it in the eyes, the way I always have done.
"I cannot wait to go to hospital and start the fight. It is aggressive, but it is beatable.
"Unfortunately, nothing was given to me in life. I had to fight for everything. I'll fight this too."
Club doctor Gianni Nanni said that Mihajlovic had "acute leukaemia" but insisted that the 50-year-old had a good chance of recovery and could continue working as Bologna coach.
"Twenty years ago we might not even have talked about challenging this illness, but today with the knowledge that we have we can even talk about a rosy future for a coach that can carry on with his career," said Nanni.
"This is an disease that can be beaten... He needs to carry on his work and tell those players when they've done something wrong."
- Serie A support -
The shock news comes ahead of a first full season at Bologna for the 50-year-old, who arrived as coach following the sacking of Filippo Inzaghi.
He guided them to 10th in Serie A after a blistering run of form that saw them win eight of their last 12 games and finish well clear of the relegation zone.
Mihajlovic has been in Italy since he moved to Roma in 1992 from Red Star Belgrade, where he had won the European Cup, but is best known for his time at Lazio.
He won the Serie A title, two Coppa Italias and the Cup Winners Cup in his six-year spell with Roma's fierce cross-town rivals, and remains a hero figure among Lazio supporters.
Mihajlovic is also considered one of the best set-piece takers of all time. He jointly holds with Andrea Pirlo the record for free-kick goals scored in Serie A, striking 28 times from dead ball situations.
Lazio were among the clubs and players to show their support for Mihajlovic on Saturday, tweeting: "We won lots together, and we're with you in this battle too."
Since retiring as a player in 2006 he has coached a succession of clubs, mostly in Italy, and the Serbian national team.
"Wishing you strength, Sinisa. Everyone at Inter is by your side for the battle ahead," wrote Inter Milan, where Mihajlovic ended his career on the field and started life on the bench.
However he had ties to notorious Serbian nationalist paramilitary warlord Arkan -- who was assassinated at the start of the century -- and after becoming coach of his country in 2012 he ordered players to sing the national anthem before matches, kicking attacking midfielder Adem Ljajic off the team when he refused to do so for "personal reasons".
In 2000 Mihajlovic admitted racially abusing Patrick Vieira during a Champions League match between Arsenal and Lazio.
Vieira said Mihajlovic called him a "black bastard" and a "fucking black monkey", insults which the Bologna boss claimed came after Vieira called him a "gypsy shit".