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Interview: “My friend, the superhero” by rhys ryan – Giancarlo gallifuoco shares cherished time with his friend dylan tombides

“My Friend, the Superhero” by Rhys Ryan

True friends are like stars. You may not always see them, but you know they’re always there. 

Nearly ten years have passed since Dylan Tombides. A vibrant flame extinguished too soon.  A decade later and the silence where Dylan’s voice should be echoes painfully for Giancarlo Gallifuoco, stalwart of the Kuala City Football Club.

In that silence, memories of Dylan come rushing back, vivid and alive, flooding Gallifuoco’s mind with images and emotions. Their first encounter at an Australian under-17 national team camp in England remains etched in his mind. There details burning brightly even now.

The smell of freshly cut grass from the training ground instantly takes him back to that time. A flood of memories wash over him as he reminisces about Dylan entering the dining hall.

The warmth of the moment fades as he recalls what happened next. Following their team meal, the coach barked at Gallifuoco to stay behind. His gaze was icy as he delivered a scathing lecture, criticising Gallifuoco for being too welcoming of the new players in England.

Dylan, the eternal joker, playfully peeked through the high cafeteria window with a fellow teammate, his silly faces a sharp contrast to Gallifuoco’s struggle to suppress his laughter during the reprimand. At that moment, their bond was forged.

“One minute I was laughing, the next I was in trouble. Dylan saw the whole thing. I walked out crushed, trying not to cry. He followed, put his arm around me, and said, ‘Hey, don’t listen to that guy. You are a good player.’ At this moment, this guy who plays for West Ham, a club I could only imagine on FIFA, waited to make me laugh, then waited to cheer me up. It was the foundation of our friendship. I thought everything would be okay if I had Dylan. He believed in me when my coach had destroyed me. I felt like an outcast, and this guy who’d achieved more than anyone in the room took me under his wing.” 

Gallifuoco’s heart ached as he watched Dylan bravely battle against testicular cancer. Dylan’s illness was impossible to ignore, with his beanie tightly covering his hair loss and his visible fatigue. No matter how he felt, Dylan would always find time to visit Gallifuoco and his now-wife, Olivia. They avoided talk of the cancer, with their conversations giving Dylan a much-needed escape from the relentless fight. A chance to simply be himself, and a gift of friendship that Gallifuoco deeply valued.

“I think that’s where our bond really deepened… I just had this thing all the time where I thought it’s only a matter of time until he beat it, it’s only a matter of time. Because every obstacle I’d seen him face, he didn’t just jump the hurdle, he demolished the hurdle.”

About 11 days before he passed, Dylan visited Gallifuoco at his house. He’d always kept his treatment and experiences private, but that day, he finally opened up to Olivia, sharing some details of his battle. “He must really like her,” Gallifuoco thought, “because he never speaks about his treatments.” Perhaps a part of Dylan sensed what was to come. Yet, even as death neared, he remained confident to the end.“ An incredible character, he was truly the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a real-life superhero.” Gallifuoco said.

True friends are stars. Even when their light fades, the warmth of their spirit endures. Dylan’s laughter, his stories, and his unwavering strength – that absolute refusal to give up – are echoes of a life lived brightly. 

He wasn’t just a superhero in the way he faced his illness, but an everyday hero in the way he lived his life. Their friendship is a guiding light, and even though he’s gone, his spirit inspires Gallifuoco to live by his three G’s of grind, growth and gratitude to be better every day.