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28.9.2004
Get well soon

Crystal Palace - Man City 1-2
Aston Villa - Crystal Palace 1-1

ĒGod chooses the ones who can take itĒ
Would you say this first thing after career threatening operation! I wouldnít. I would probably feel sorry for myself, knowing that I have to go through at least six months of pain and struggle. Restless nights and often so joyless days ahead, surely nobody can be this noble after such a massive shock. Mikael Forssell can. One of the most prolific goal scorers and the most exciting young players in the world is calm and determined only hours after his serious knee operation. If this was meant to be, he didnít want it to happen to anybody else. He is adamant that heíll be back. He knows from experience he can. The way he says it, you know that he will.

When people talk about injuries they relate it to pain. Pain it is, but not the kind people think of. Almost all injuries donít hurt that bad physically, they try to break you mentally. Professional athletes are capable of coping with pain and physical pressure. Youíve been trained that there is nothing that can really beat you. Except taking the ball away, denying it from you. The biggest pain is to be on the stands. Itís a feeling of total uselessness. It has nothing to do with people taking sicky from a work. It is taking something essential away from your life. It is not just your job and income you might be losing. It is everything you believed in and the way youíve lived might be never the same again. You just want to get back there no matter what. Even the worst game of your life doesnít hurt as bad as not being able to play it. It is by far the biggest low a professional athlete can experience.

Adversity can create bitter people. Everyone knows it is not a matter of a laugh. Who would dare to judge if someone is whining about his bad injury? Nobody should look bad about people who couldnít recover, couldnít make themselves to bounce back. I have heard and felt sorry for loads of players and ex-players when they have told me about their sad stories. Itís devastating tragedy whenever someone has to call it a day because of an injury. In many ways these unfortunate people have right to question ďwhy meĒ? Unfortunately some even might start to ask that question from brother alcohol. However feeling sorry or complaining has never cured anyone.

Adversity can also create heroes. The people, who have gone through tough times, have been constantly found out to been able to use some sort of inner strength to rise to a higher level. Many times it feels like people have to experience some sort of personal conflict to be able to grow their standards. Too often in football and in life, Neil-Normal-niggles is accepting whatever he gets in good and bad. Lance Armstrong instead didnít ask why him. Neil Harris didnít blame it on others. Marcus Babbel wanted to make his own story again. Mikael Forssell scored 17 goals in Premiership. They all were against all odds. They all wanted to be. And they did. They came back even better than they were before. Cancer, neurological disease, serious knee injury, they didnít ask for them. They didnít let them take over either. They beat these cruel physical boundaries by believing. These athletes are true heroes. Not just coming back from a serious illness or injury. But actually afterwards successfully competing against best athletes in the world.

Iíve been fortunate not having ever a longer injury than four months. I often forget how thankful I should be for that. Still even those minor knocks, which I could never compare to serious injuries people gone through, have felt like my biggest mountains to climb. Those times Iíve felt useless. It is lonesome time. Normally people donít have time and effort for you because you are not going produce the goods this weekend. Or next, or not even in the near future. You are last in the pecking order. You have one fifth from the buddies of good times. People only give you moments of sympathy. That doesnít mean anything to you. Mainly you are by yourself. Days are long in the gym or physio room. You donít feel complete. Itís a long and winding road. And it is not just strawberry fields forever when you become fit, you still have to win your place back and have to proof everyone that youíve got back where you once belonged.

I donít blame people who donít want to go through it. Taking the career ending insurance money could stop the pain. Itís very much a human choice. Still many athletes wonít even consider it. Sport is a calling for them. You feel you need to be back. Just to feel complete. Sometimes you recover. Sometimes you canít. So I would say a career ending insurance is a must. It wonít compare to goals, games and feelings youíve missed out. The money in the bank account might not mean anything to you. But it might to your family. They have often done sacrifices for you, so at least you should do it for the sake of taking care of them.

As a professional athlete you have worked hard to get a long way in life and in sports. You think you are in control of many things. Still you canít tell when an injury is around a corner to shock whole your life. It doesnít ask permission. It just comes, but you have to make a massive effort to make it go away. I donít know, it is all probably just a part of a bigger plan of God. Thatís how the best ones take it. People like Mikael Forssell are big enough to understand it. That is why he will score more goals quicker than Arnie will say Iíll be back. I would like to wish him strength in his recovery. I know that he already has it though.

Aki


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