On May 1, former Wilmington Hammerheads player Junior Zarate heard the words no one wants to hear.
“It’s just very scary that you hear the word cancer,” said Zarate. “The fact that you are 39 years old and have a newborn, it shocks you.”
Zarate was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, and has started chemotherapy treatment.
Word of his diagnosis spread quickly through the Wilmington soccer community. Former teammates and friends came together Friday at Legion Stadium to play a benefit soccer game against the US Marine Corps National Team.
“I know he’s strong and he’s going to go through a rollercoaster, but he’s going to get through this,” Zarate’s former teammate Ross Moore said. “I know with the love and support of the community, and the special person that he is, he’s going to do it.”
“If anyone can fight it, Junior can fight it,” former Hammerheads coach David Irving said. “There is no question in my mind.”
Zarate played for the Hammerheads under Irving from 2001-08, and helped lead the club to a national championship in 2003.
“He’s special to me because we have had lots of conflicts over the years,” said Irving. “But we had some great times coming back on that bus from these road trips and stuff.”
Zarate was born in Degollado, Mexico, but said he will always call Wilmington home.
“For me, this is amazing,” Zarate said. “I feel like I am part of this country, and I am.”
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