Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang said he lost a significant amount of weight after contracting malaria which left family members scared for his health, and after recovering vowed to kickstart his season by firing his side into the Europa League final.
The 31-year-old opened up about his experience in detail for the first time at a news conference on Wednesday ahead of Arsenal’s semifinal second leg clash with Villarreal at the Emirates Stadium.
Aubameyang scored in Gabon’s 3-0 win over DR Congo in an African Cup of Nations qualifier on March 25 and returned to London afterwards, playing against Liverpool and Slavia Prague before being diagnosed with malaria.
The forward said: “I was feeling just normal, a bit down. I thought that it was the travel. As you know, going to Gabon is not so close to here. I felt just a bit tired, especially against Liverpool.
“I was feeling very, very bad. This was the worst moment of being sick in my life because it was really hard. I had three days in a row, fever, all day and all night, non-stop. Even the paracetamol and stuff had no effects on this.
“After that, I spoke to the doctor. I said I needed to go to the hospital because definitely I was travelling to Africa so maybe it was something like malaria. I stayed in hospital for three days. I was really, really down and I think I lost four kilos (8.8bls).
“It was a really bad moment and I think my family was a bit scared to see me like this. After that, I had some good treatments. I have to tell the truth that the staff did very well and the doctors as well in the hospital.
“I am lucky that we took it in the end at the right moment because sometimes with malaria, if you don’t treat it quickly, you can have some big problems.”
Aubameyang has scored 15 goals in all competitions this season but has endured a difficult campaign complicated by off-field issues including his mother contracting a serious illness in January.
“She is feeling so much better now,” Aubameyang said. “She is doing very well, thank you very much for asking. I have to tell the truth, when I had this issue with my mum, for example, the club were really, really kind to me. They let me go to see her. It was a really nice thing from the club.”
Aubameyang was also fined and dropped from the team that beat north London rivals Tottenham in early March after reporting late at the training ground on match day.
“It was a bad moment,” he said. “But after that, I think my feeling after the game was just we won the derby and this is it. This is part of this season and now it is gone. We just have to look forward and keep focused on the end of the season. But of course, I regret some things this season, definitely yes. But I can’t do anything right now about the past. I am just looking forward to ending the season well.”
That task continues with Thursday’s game against Villarreal. Arsenal are trailing 2-1 from the first leg and Aubameyang believes he is ready to play despite feeling not 100% physically fit.
“In my mind I feel more than 100%, but physically maybe I’m not 100%, hopefully my body will respond well,” he said. “But I’m ready, definitely. In my mind I’m ready. Maybe it’s the start of the season for me.”