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bigmattb28

Living the nightmare

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‘How does is it look?’ he asked the medic in English

‘At first glance I can’t tell you, but it is very purple’ the medic replied before adding ‘Take this, it’ll help with the pain, eventually’

It wasn’t that bad a tackle, just late. The attacker had every right to go for the ball but he was late and caught the left back. As soon as the defender felt the impact hit he knew it was bad. How bad he wasn’t sure, that type of pain doesn’t happen often, but in the coming days he was going to find out just how bad it was.

4 days later in the hospital the surgeon appeared and spoke in Portuguese

‘I won’t sugar coat it, you are going to be able to walk again in around…’ he was cut off by the man laid on the bed with his leg held up on the hospital bed.

‘When can I play again?’

‘As I was saying, you will walk again, that’s not in question, but I have to be realistic with you, when professional athletes suffer ACL injuries they are out for what, 7 maybe 8 months before they’re able to train again, footballers are usually back within the year. Athletes that tear their quadriceps are out for around the same sort of time, but semi professional footballers, that have never worked on conditioning, or been on a proper fitness plan suffering both of these injuries? You’re not going to be walking without crutches for at least 10 months, yet alone running on a pitch’ the doctor replied. After a short pause the doctor continued ‘My prognosis is that at least a year is going to pass before you are able to train properly if you’re lucky, and then it’s going to be however your body reacts to the rehab if you’re going to be able to play again’

‘Thanks’ the man said as he tried sitting up. Now was not the time for thinking about playing again, he knew the road ahead was going to be a slow and relentless struggle. For most players, an ACL injury is badluck, as is a torn quadriceps, but to suffer both injuries at the same time? He must’ve pissed somebody off in the previous life for this he thought to himself.

Everything seemed to be falling in place for Miguel Sanchez. Finally after playing semi-professional football for what seemed like forever, he had signed for a professional team. He was contracted on a pay as you pay deal for Grupo Desportivo Estoril Praia, or just Estoril to most people, however he’s never been anywhere near the first team and had found minutes in the reserves hard to come by, until the last 4 weeks. In those 4 weeks he’s played 9 times, all starting at left full back and finishing each game, winning 5, drawing and losing 2. In the last 3 games, including the most recent where he suffered his injury, the Estoril first team manager and assistant manager had been to watch, and the first team manager even spoke to Miguel after the second of those 3 games. ‘Keep that up, you might just find yourself training with the first team’ were his words after Miguel put in a man of the match performance, finishing with a 3 nil win, 3 assists and 2 goal line clearances. Clearly there was some talent there, but he was just never able to get that break when push came to shove.

As a life long Sporting Lisbon fan, he was conflicted when he’d been invited to trials as a youth player at 16 with FC Porto, after winning the regional championships but wasn’t selected for the next step after the initial trial. After that he’d signed as a semi-professional for Associação Desportiva de Oeiras and went on to play for them over 200 times in the 9 years since leaving school. During this time he again had a trial at FC Porto, despite being a die hard Sporting Lisbon fan he couldn’t turn down this second chance to impress. This time he was more seasoned and could be considered an experienced head at 25, however after passing the initial trial, and making it through the first and second 6 on 6 games, he wasn’t able to maintain his fitness and wasn’t called back after the first medical. After leaving Associação Desportiva de Oeiras at 26, he spent 2 seasons north at another semi professional club, ARC Oleiros. During the first season with them he was the first choice left back but he didn’t stand out too much, a modest return of 4 assists and 1 goal, however his defensive play earned him a spot in the Portuguese Football Reporters non league team of the season, as well as being named in the top 10 players to watch next season. It was during his second season that he really shone through. In the first 19 games however he managed a staggering 12 assists and 4 goals, which would be considered a fantastic return at any level for a left full back, and it was this form that caught the attention of Varizm who were in the second division of Portuguese football, the Liga Pro

Despite scouts being sent to no less than 7 of his games, nothing came of the reported interest. His morale didn’t drop however and from the turn of the year to the end of the season, he finished with a total of 38 appearances, 21 wins, 19 assists and 9 goals, named player of the season for the whole division as well as the clubs fans player of the year. This form had seen Oleiros get into the play offs, only to lose to Santa Clara over 2 legs. This great season saw him attract the attention of recently relegated from Liga Nos, the top division of Portuguese football side Estoril, professional neighbors of his first club.

During that summer Estoril went on a recruitment drive and snapped up a lot of young players, so for Miguel to get that call, he thought it was a joke. ‘Seriously homie, you’re not funny’ ‘I’m not your homie, and I’m being serious, you’re invited to our open day, and you’re going to be the oldest player the clubs new manager is considering’ the voice replies. ‘Okay sorry, I just can’t believe that a massive club like yours is really interested in a semi pro left back like me’ ‘Between me and you, from what I gather he likes to have a large squad, now I can’t guarantee anything, just keep your head down and do your best, I’ve seen your stats for last season, great return for a player in your position, carry on what you’re doing, and good luck’.

Third time’s a charm as they say and he absolutely smashed the trial with Estoril. At 28 he was in his physical peak, his form last season had been all the hard work from the previous year’s paying off, and by the end of the 3 day trail, the reserves team manager approached him

‘Firstly, thanks for attending these last 3 days, I just want to let you know where we are’ he said as Miguel thought this was where he was about to be told thanks but no thanks. ‘As you know the club unfortunately suffered relegation so the manager is looking for players to come in and make an impact straight away, he doesn’t want to be out of this league any longer than this 1 season, so with that in mind, we are happy to offer you a pay as you play deal and contract you to our reserves side’

‘Wow really?’

‘Yes really’

‘I’ll happily accept’

‘Great stuff, our HR guys will sort everything out for you, I guess as you’re on a semi-pro contract at Oleiros you can sign straight away?’

‘Yes of course I can I just…’

He was cut off by the reserves manager ‘Great stuff Miguel, see you at 6AM in the morning’ and he walked off.

The next 3 months were mainly training and making the bench for Estoril reserves. He got a few appearances from the bench, but never long enough to make an impact. He spoke to the manager but he was met with the same response, he was told he was brought in as a back up at best player, and this was not an opportunity to be sniffed at, his time will come eventually. It did eventually come and by the time November 2018 rolled around, and he was laid in the hospital bed wondering where it all went wrong, a sudden realisation crept over him that he was probably never playing football again.

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This is a prelude to my save that I will be posting on here in FM20, and will document the time between November 2018 and the start of the game when the beta is released.

I’ll try and get updates up at least once a week.

Edited by bigmattb28
Housekeeping.

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‘I told you it would end like this’

‘No, you really didn’t, you said many times I wouldn’t make it, but I did’

‘Well you didn’t really. You’ve made 4 appearances for Esotril reserves, I would hardly say that’s making it’

‘I’ve had 15 years in a profession I love, and I’ve…’ Miguel was cut off

‘You’ve done nothing. You lost in the playoff final with Olerios and won the regional championship whilst you were still in school man! Sorry to say this, but you’re going to struggle to get a proper job you know’ the older of the men said to Miguel

‘A proper job? What do you mean?’ Miguel replied to his comment.

‘Well your playing days are as good as over’.

Miguel Sanchez didn’t respond. He wasn’t so sure his playing days were over, he was hopeful of getting back on a football pitch, but he was a long way off even walking never mind running. His recovery and then rehab would be the main focus for him. Whilst Estoril had contracted him on a pay as you play deal, they have been gracious enough to pay him a basic wage whilst he is out injured, and have assured him their full cooperation during his recovery phase.

Later that night, he was alone in the hospital bed. His leg propped up on those stilt things, the TV was on but he wasn’t paying much attention. But the little voice inside his head was talking to him again, was it the meds? He’s taken so much tramadol and naproxen these last few days he genuinely doesn’t know if he has overdosed, there it was again that voice, ‘what if you never play another game again?’ ‘I’m going to, mark my words’ ‘You might not you know’ ‘Yes I know that, stop repeating yourself’ ‘You’ll struggle to get a game at Estoril, you need to think about something else’ ‘Listen if I wanted to get nagged at, I’d buy a clock work wife, shut up will you’ ‘No woman would want a failed semi pro footballer’ ‘Listen here you…’ ‘You need a contingency plan, something to fall back on’ ‘Like what? Become a motivational speaker, what not to do as a professional footballer?’ ‘Just think about it’. Eventually he fell asleep and slept a good 8 hours.

The next few days were nothing short of boring. Sat in hospital, getting the occasional nurse coming and asking if everything is alright, of course it’s not alright I’m sat here watching the faint hope of my career pass me by, oh thanks for the coffee. Finally there was something to be happy about, during all the pain and worrying, he’d completely forgot that there was the Sporting Lisbon game showing on the telly. They were playing at home to Braga in the Liga Nos.

Nothing seemed to pass time better, in hospital or not, for Miguel than watching the team he loves the most play. After a fairly even first half, where Sporting’s best chances both came from set pieces. The first being from a corner, the ball came in and Bas Dost headed low towards goal but the Braga keeper saved it at the last moment. The second was a free kick around 35 yards out. Bruno Fernandes hit it up over the wall but the keeper was there to deny Sporting again.

The breakthrough for Sporting came in the second half. After 65 minutes Fernandes found himself on the right wing, swung a great cross in and Bas Dost was there to bury in a sweet volley from inside the penalty area. As the ball went in Miguel jumped up, completely forgetting the predicament he was in and the pain was ruthless. AARRRGGGGHHHH he screamed as his leg was propped up on the bed and the restraints being brought down on his injuries. The nurse came rushing in with a look of panic on her face ‘What is it, what’s wrong?’ ‘Nothing, just argh, let me just’ the nurse cut him off ‘Here let me help’ as she turned towards the screen, as well as noticing the green and white scarf across the end of the hospital bed, she then put 2 and 2 together ‘Please me be more, erm, relaxed, whilst watching the game’ ‘I’ll try’ he said with more than a hint of sarcasm in his voice.

Around 20 minutes the later the same nurse was outside Miguels room when she heard a voice screaming obscenities, she just shook her head and carried on walking. By the time she finished her round of the ward and got back to her desk, her colleague was also watching the game. ‘What’s the score Frank?’ she asked Francisco, a medical student on a work placement, who is attending the Lisbon school of medicine, who in turn replied ‘Those green and white bastards have just got a penalty, it’s 2-1 to Braga, come on goalie save this penalty’. Again the nurse just shook her and went towards the mess room, which was to the left of the nurses desk and to the right of the room where Miguel was staying.

As she poured the hot water from the kettle into her cup, at the same time she heard from the down the hall a loud YES COME ON and just behind her, a just as loud OH FOR GODS SAKE YOU TWATS. She didn’t need to ask but Sporting Lisbon had just scored a penalty in the final minute of the game to salvage a draw. She decided to go check up on Miguel, as she walked in he was on the phone speaking to someone

‘To be fair they were lucky today, they’ll need to pick it up they want to win the league’ there was a bit of a pause before he continued ‘How exactly? I’m stuck in the god forsaken fuc…..’ as he was about to swear about the hospital he noticed the nurse stood in the doorway ‘Erm, I’ll call you back’ he hung up

‘How was the game?’ The Nurse asked sheepishly

‘So so, the boys snatched a draw at the end, can’t moan really’

‘I take it you didn’t reinjure that leg of yours when they scored the penalty at the end? She said with a smirk on her face

‘Haha, no, I learned my lesson with the first goal’

She then checked his chart and gave him his final dose of medicine for the day.  As she did Miguel noticed her name tag ‘I have a niece called Leonor, we all call her Leo, but she hates it’

‘Haha yes I used to get Leo too, it never bothered me though, how old is she?

‘Just turned 6, she was actually at the game when I got injured, the first time she’d ever seen uncle Migi play football’

‘Oh no that’s really sad’

‘Ahh it is what it is’

‘Well that’s it for medicine for you today, I’ll see you tomorrow, don’t go anywhere’ she said with a laugh

Miguel took the joke light heartedly in the way it was intended and just pointed to the straps on his leg ‘I’m going nowhere any time soon’ he replied with a smile

‘See you tomorrow, Migi’

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‘Just think about what I said, with your experience at lower levels, I think you’d make a great coach’

‘I had 1 chance to impress at professional level and got injured, I’m going to be lucky to play again, what makes a failed semi-pro footballer a good coach?’

‘Just think about it’

He woke up suddenly. For the third straight night, he’d had the same dream, a figure dressed in white was sat in a restaurant opposite Miguel, and was telling him how he’d make a great coach or manager, and every time Miguel asked him how he as a failed footballer could be a good manager, he suddenly wakes up. After a few moments he’d forgot all about it, and decided to go to the canteen for some breakfast. 

By the start of December he was now walking with the aid of crutches, whilst his left leg was still in a lot of pain, the amount medication he was taking helped take the pain away. As was normal by this stage, he’d see Leonor sat at the same table in the restaurant waiting for him. It started out as a means to get Miguel walking with the crutches on his own. 

At the start of this part of his rehabilitation, Leonor would get to work early and would walk with him, usually having 1 hand on his shoulder as he walked to the restaurant and she’d walk him to a table, after which she’d go for coffee and some breakfast. However as the weeks went by he was able to get himself from his room to the restaurant and meet her there. He was making incredible progress she’d often remark to herself, if he carries on at this rate, he may just put on a pair of football boots again, but even she was getting ahead of herself here, there was a long way to go.

After around 20 minutes or so of this morning’s discussion she asked him about his career. She’d never met a professional footballer, although he kept reminding her that he was only a professional for 9 games, 1 of which he was brought to hospital after suffering the current injury he finds himself with, but she was still interested in what he had to say.

‘So did Varzim ever contact you?’

‘Yes and no, they told Oleiros their scouts were there to watch me specifically, and each of the games they were there I did well, scored or assisted in each, so I think I did well but nothing ever came of it’

‘Were you upset at that?’

‘Nah, not really, I never thought I’d ever make it as a pro, I had a decent little number at Oleiros, I was player of the year, club ambassador, I had it good, but the money wasn’t the best, I just kept thinking if I make it I make it, if not it’s not the end of the world, and between you and me, I’m not actually that good a player, I’m what you’d call the best of a bad bunch’ he said with a smile on his face.

‘But Estoril are a pretty big club aren’t they? They were willing to give you a chance’

‘Yeah but even then I only made the reserves, and I did give it my all, I would’ve been happy playing back up to the first team. Anyway, when we talk it always seems to be about me, I don’t know much about you’

‘What do you want know? I’m a trainee nurse and qualified physio, so I split my time between here and the physio therapy center downstairs. I don’t really have a lot of time on my hands, so getting this time with you some mornings I really enjoy’

Miguel didn’t know if she was being genuine or not, but he appreciated the comment

‘Anyway, from my professional point of view, I think you’re making remarkable progress’

‘Thanks, I’m not getting ahead of myself, I do hope to play again 1 day though’

‘1 step at a time. Oh dear look at the time, I’ve got to get going, I’ll try and see you on the ward later, maybe grab lunch?’

‘That’d be nice, have a good day’

‘You too’ she smiled and walked off.

As has been routine for most of his life, Miguel continued his support for the football team he loves the most. By the end of December Sporting Lisbon had won 3 and lost 1 in the league to keep them near the top pushing Benfica and Porto all the way. There was the big derby game between Sporting and Porto coming up on the  12th of January, but he’ll probably get to watch it from the hospital, he’s nowhere near confident enough to leave just yet, plus the doctors wouldn’t sign off on his release yet any way. 

As for the big game itself, it wasn’t anything special. Both teams were riding high in the league, Porto leading the league in first place and Sporting in third, but it was a nervy game with neither team really taking many chances, and the end result of a 0-0 draw surprised no one.

After another uneventful 2 weeks, Miguel had a check in with the surgeon who performed the surgeries on his leg.

‘I don’t think I ever mentioned this to you, but I’ve worked on plenty of footballers in the past’

‘Oh really, like who?’

‘What you’d call big name players like Alan Shearer, Johnathon Woodgate, Robert Pires, Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink to name a few when I was working in England, but when I moved back to Portugal I have worked on Raul’s knee before he went to Qatar, and Alessandro Del Piero came to me when he got injured playing in Australia, he said I prolonged his career, that’s always the ultimate compliment, and they’ve all given me signed shirts as a thank you’

Miguel didn’t know if the doctor was hinting at something but replied with ‘that’s pretty cool, I can give you a signed Estoril shirt if you want’

‘You don’t have to, I never ask for anything in return, I’m just doing my job’

After a general check up and the usual questions, the doctor asked Miguel about his physiotherapy

‘I know a guy who runs a clinic here in Lisbon for recovering athletes, you should check it out when you start you're walking without crutches, I know the guy really well, I think you should meet him and get some advice’

‘Sounds great, I’ll look into it’

‘That didn’t sound convincing, I will ask him to come here and talk to you, doctors orders’

‘Okay thanks’

With that the doctor left. The next few days were spent relaxing and keeping tabs on the things happening in the world of football. In England there’s rumors the team he likes to see do well, Newcastle United are set to break their own transfer record with the signing of Miguel Almiron from the MLS, however nothing has come of it yet. There’s no real transfer news for Sporting apart from a couple of youth players going out on loan, but the club is in a healthy position still in third place in the league, with only 2 league games to come in January, a home game with Moreirense and an away game with Vitoria de Setubal, as well as the quarter final of the Taca de Portugal, the Portuguese cup, against Feirense.  

When he wasn’t thinking about Sporting Lisbon, he was generally thinking about his own future. What if he couldn’t play again, then what? Would he have to go and find a job that doesn’t involve football? Just as his mind started wandering, there was a knock at the door, and a figure wearing a white shirt and grey trousers walked in that seemed to be recognisable, but Miguel wasn’t sure if it was him or not.

‘Hello Miguel, Doctor Martinez asked me to come and speak to you’

Miguel was sort of star struck, that couldn’t be him, surely it was someone who happened to look like him, or was it?

After nearly 2 hours, Miguel’s initial suspicion was confirmed as his visitor was clearly who he thought he was. The man had made time to see Miguel and explained that he owns and runs a rehabilitation clinic in the heart of Lisbon, and specifically caters to athletes that have suffered high level injuries. 

During their time together they also spoke about each other’s career, Miguels own career didn’t compare in comparison to his visitors career, nowhere near in fact, but he seemed genuinely interested in what Miguel had to say about his experiences at semi professional level. The visitor did remark that not every player was fortunate enough to play at the San Siro, Bernabeau, and all over the world, but he was grateful for the opportunities football had afforded him. 

Not long before he left, Miguel’s visitor had also remarked that he was part of a committee in another country that helps people make their way into football coaching. It was only a small operation at the minute, but the aim was to give retiring players, or other people in sport a chance to gain their coaching licences as well as some experience at regional level, in the hopes that they can make it in coaching.

‘Just give it some thought Miguel, we’ve only been running the course around 4 months but we’ve had a number of retiring players come to us and start work on their coaching badges’ the man was saying ‘And if nothing else, it may help take your mind of things whilst you’re here’

‘Thanks, I’ll certainly give it some thought’

‘I’ve got to get going now, here’s my number, just in case you need to chat, or you want some advice’

‘Wow, you, you’re giving me your number? I’m speechless’

‘Don’t be, I’m being genuine, if for nothing else I really want to help other players in tough situations make the most of the time they have left in the game’. With that the man left the room.

Shortly before this conversation Miguel was having bad thoughts about his time in football, now however, there seems to be an option should his playing career be in jeopardy. As he sat back down with a smile on his face, his phone rang, and he recognised the number

‘Hello?’

‘Miguel, we need to talk’
 

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