Joe Vide has always been a fighter. As a player, he was a heart and soul type of guy who left everything out on the field. There wasn’t a ball that he didn’t go after, or a challenge he shied away from. Drafted in 2006 by the Red Bulls, Vide became a go-to player in the midfield for the Red Bulls, starting 13 games in the 2007 season, and appearing in 23 games overall over two seasons. Now, Joe is fighting a battle tougher than any studs-up tackle or 50-50 ball he endured on the pitch. In early April, Vide was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the blood.
After leaving soccer following the 2008 season which he split between the San Jose Earthquakes and D.C. United, the twenty-five year old Vide had returned to the University of Virginia to complete his degree. He graduated in 2010 and was looking for employment when he started feeling ill.
“I had a really elevated heartbeat, and was feeling really dizzy and lightheaded,” Vide said when describing how he initially felt. “My heart rate stayed elevated and I couldn’t stand up or do anything. The only thing I’m thinking is, ‘I’m having a heart attack at age 25’”.
Vide went to the hospital where he went through a full heart examination, and found out that there was nothing wrong with his heart. But an ensuing chest x-ray found something “suspicious”, and upon further testing two weeks later, doctors had found the suspicious object was a mass in his chest. Doctors removed part of the mass from his chest and a biopsy was done. Vide was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the blood. Obviously, this came as an incredible shock to the previously healthy Vide.
“It’s something that’s life changing, it’s a pretty big step backwards,” Vide said. “It’s still something I’m grasping. But in a month or so since I’ve known full what it is, it still kind of shocks me day by day. You always ask yourself, ‘Why? What could I have done?’ Cancer seems like something that doesn’t happen to younger people, even though it does. But you never think that it will invade your life.”
After being diagnosed, Vide completed his first round of chemotherapy treatment, the best course of action to rid the cancer from Vide’s body. Things, however, would take an incredible turn for the worse. After the first round of treatment, Vide’s insurance company notified him that they would no longer be covering any of his treatments because of a preexisting condition, which about Vide would say, “There’s no way that’s possible.” Either way, Vide and his family were left with an incredible financial burden that is nearly impossible to overcome.
Looking for any help at all, Vide’s friends and family created a foundation in his name, The Friends of Joe Vide (www.thefriendsofjoevide.org). The initial support from friends and family meant a great deal to Vide.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Vide said of the support he’s received from friends and family. “You always want to think that people will be in your corner, and that they’re going to help you out. People have been unbelievably generous. I’ve received more phone calls and e-mails than I can physically get back to.”
During his two seasons with the Red Bulls, Vide was a fan favorite. His hard-nosed, never-say-die attitude resonated with fans. He wasn’t the biggest, fastest, or most skilled player on the field, but in every match he played in, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who was giving a better effort than Vide. The fans who so graciously rooted for Vide during his playing days have showered him with support after word of his diagnosis and subsequent situation got out.
“That’s probably the biggest surprise,” Vide said, speaking about the support he’s gotten from fans across the league. “Obviously, you expect (support from) your close family and friends, but the amount of response I’ve heard from fans across the league, whether it’s New York, San Jose, or D.C., has been pretty amazing. It’s obviously people I don’t know, and vice versa, people who don’t know me. It’s pretty emotional, to say the least, because it says a lot about people.”
On Saturday May 15th, the Red Bulls host Seattle Sounders FC at Red Bull Arena. The fan support on the evening will be needed for much more than just the eleven Red Bulls’ players in uniform. While the foundation has been set up in Vide’s name, and anyone can donate via the foundation’s website, the Red Bulls have organized efforts where fans can help out at Red Bull Arena this coming weekend. Fans will have the opportunity to bid on signed, game worn jerseys of the Red Bulls’ entire Starting 11 of the game, where all proceeds will go to Vide’s foundation. Collection buckets will be passed around the Arena during the match, where fans can donate as well. Every little bit helps, and collectively, Red Bulls fans can go a long way in helping out Vide during this tough time.
“It’s unbelievable,” Vide said of the Red Bulls’ efforts to help out. “It’s really hard for me to put into words. When I hear that the first team I played for is wanting and willing to help out, it’s just unbelievable. I will always be indebted to New York and for everything they’ve provided me with, and for giving me an opportunity that I’ll never forget. And for this, even more so, it’s pretty special.
“Thanks to all the fans and the organization as well, it really means a lot. It shows a lot of class coming from that big of an organization to be helping out one small person. It’s really special, and it’s something my family and friends are really happy about.”
Even though it’s been over two years since Vide put on a Red Bulls uniform, the organization still recognizes him as a member of a tight-knit family.
"Joe was always the first player to volunteer to help those in need in the community,” Red Bull New York Community Relations Manager Christina Giunta said. “Now it's time for us to show Joe what an impact he made on this community and that his New York Red Bulls family is behind him in his fight."
Seven of the current Red Bulls’ players were teammates with Vide during his tenure with New York. Forward John Wolyniec is one of those players. Wolyniec shares the sentiment that Vide is not just a former teammate, but forever a member of the Red Bull family.
“It makes me extremely proud to be a part of a club that goes to such measures to help a former player in need,” Wolyniec said. “Lots of organizations talk about family, but Red Bull is stepping up and showing that Joe is part of a family.”
Wolyniec also heaped praise upon Vide as a person and a teammate.
“Joe is a great guy and was a special teammate,” Wolyniec said. “He brought an energy and excitement everyday that made it a pleasure to be around him. I truly enjoyed playing with Joe, and wish him the best and a speedy return to health.”
With the help and support of family and friends, and now Red Bulls and soccer fans, Vide plans to one day return to the team and check out Red Bull Arena. Vide admitted, “I’m a little jealous that I didn’t get a chance to experience that,” but he plans on visiting one day in the future. “As soon as I beat this, I’d love to come up and show my gratitude to everybody and come visit.”
The support of the Red Bulls and their fans can help Vide check out a match at Red Bull Arena one day, and more importantly, can aid Vide in his effort to beat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and live a long and healthy life.
“Its pretty overwhelming, but it’s definitely a great feeling to have in the back of your mind that people are wishing you well and want you to get better,” Vide said. “It says a lot about people in life. I think it also shows that if you try to be a good person, good things come to you in the end.”
We all hope there’s nothing but good things in Joe Vide’s future.
Christopher Celletti is a reporter for NewYorkRedBulls.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.