How the soccer world is supporting Eduard Löwen amid wife’s cancer battle

It has been a difficult 2024 for Edu Löwen.

The year began with a frustratingly long green card process that kept him in his native Germany for a chunk of the preseason. Once he returned to the United States, it took time for the St. Louis CITY SC midfielder to catch up, and he missed the club’s brief CONCACAF Champions Cup campaign as the staff brought him through. He then played less than 270 minutes before succumbing to a lingering hamstring injury that forced him to the sideline.

At the same time, while at home, Löwen was dealing with something much more serious than an ailing leg.

His wife, Ilona, had been diagnosed with brain cancer, leading Löwen to take a leave of absence from the team. Last week, during an emotional press conference at CITYPARK, Löwen publicly revealed his wife’s diagnosis for the first time, while explaining that the reason for his leave went far beyond sports.

“I think this is a great opportunity to be as transparent as possible,” Löwen said. “This is a request to pray for my wife, and for her health and courage at this time.”

The emotion poured out of Löwen as he recounted the challenging journey his family had embarked upon over the past few months—a journey that also allowed them to see the best in the people around them.

“Whether it was in the club or with my friends, we received flowers, people would bring meals and it was incredible. We were drawn to tears so many times by the love of so many people. Obviously, sometimes you don’t even know what is going on within yourself. I talked to my wife the most during that time. The crazy thing is my wife, she’s suffering from her health issues and she’s encouraging me more than anyone. We kind of leaned on each other.”

The outpouring of support felt by the Löwens went beyond their church and Eduard’s CITY teammates. Löwen’s former club, Augsburg, tweeted last week: “We have received the news that the wife of former FCA professional Eduard Löwen has cancer. The #FCA family wishes her and Edu only the best! Be strong!”

Meanwhile, in Cincinnati over the weekend, players wore armbands reading “IL” during their pregame warmups in support of Ilona’s fight. Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan, a St. Louis native, wore the armband throughout the match.

“I’d like to say thank you to Pat [Noonan], the whole Cincinnati organization for the classy, heartfelt gesture towards the Löwen family,” CITY coach Bradley Carnell said after his club’s defeat. “During this time, we truly respect that and it shows a lot of class. Thank you for that. And the next thing, thank you to our fans. It’s been a heavy week and we know that. … It just goes to show that, sometimes [in] this profession, we’re all engaged in it and there’s something secondary. Soccer is always secondary to what’s going on in our lives.”

Löwen made his return late in the match to applause from both the home fans and the CITY faithful. The match would end 3-1 in favor of Cincinnati, but Löwen’s 16-minute appearance included four passes into Cincinnati’s final third. Although Lowen’s outing was brief, it was a quick reminder of the skill he can bring to the lineup when he’s available.

“You could see Edu is a little bit away from fitness,” Carnell said. “But the only way to get real minutes is in real games, and that’s really good for Edu. Hopefully he can use this as an outlet. Sometimes players are seeking an outlet, and soccer could be the outlet.”

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