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My life as a crash test dummy

Finland - Wales 0-2
Sheffield Wednesday - Crystal Palace 0-0
Crystal Palace - Gillingham 2-2
Stoke - Crystal Palace 1-1

I was quite a happy footballer. Till the day that a man with a white coat told me that I had lateral ligament rupture in my ankle. In English it means three weeks of recovery. Who the hell he thinks he is, I have been playing five years without missing a game and now a man with a stethoscope tells me I am not allowed to play football. To prove this Dr. No wrong I try my boots on but they are too small since the ankle is swollen. Even walking is painful. After trying every trick to be fit I have to accept the fact that I am ruled out with the title, injured player.

So the doc says three weeks. In professional athletes language it means a week and a half. After good treatment and painkillers I was ready in eight days. I had beaten the medical world again. However my body still reminds me about it. I donít mind the pain but I donít feel comfortable. I just try to survive the games. Between them I spent my days in a treatment room and taking painkillers plus running around in scans and meeting specialists. Every morning getting out from the bed feels like climbing the Mount Everest.

I want to play, I have a pressure on of comeback and I would do anything to be fit again. So I come early to the training ground and wrap many parts of my body into a big nice bandage. I could be a serious candidate for a leading role in a Mummien III movie. It is a vicious circle: you start too early and try to compensate your injuries with for example strappings or limping and eventually you often hurt yourself again. And because you are injured you are not running fast enough away from the Dr. No. This time he says that I have a grade III tear of the vastus lateralis muscle with a massive haematoma. Why cant he ever speak English, just tell me how long! Couple of weeks are added to my files.

Injuries are like ketchup: first there is long quiet period but then suddenly there comes out a big wave of shit. You may have been feeling like a sport-car but suddenly you are actually only a crash test dummy on it. Furthermore you play often like a muppet since you are never really at your own level of fitness and you are missing a lot of normal training. It doesnít only do your body, but your head as well. The frustration is the worst pain, not been able to do your thing. You feel how many things have changed: I come earlier and leave later and yet I feel I havenít done much. And in the end it is not just trying to be able to play again. You have to train double as much to also reach your peak form and earn your position in a team again.

Last five years I have been moaning about small silly things like boring coach trips to away games or tight hamstring muscles. Now I realise how lucky I have been even to have being able to walk most of the days. One forgets easily. I have had my share of long-term injuries in the past. However last five years I have had nothing serious enough to avoid me playing, even though I have sometimes been carrying some smaller knocks. So I havenít been grateful from that. And in a one second your priorities have changed. Your whole life is about getting fit.

I am a walking medical record. I have scars and wounds all over my body as souvenirs from the game I love. I have an impressive collection of scans and X-rays from each part of my body. Many physiotherapists have become my good mates and I have met numerous doctors. One of them said once half joking that I can easily play until I am thirty-five but I could be in a wheelchair when I am fifty. After career those unhealed wounds may come back to haunt me.

Thatís is partly true but gives a wrong picture anyway. Sure there are often pain and always a risk of getting injured. And every player has had his visit to a treatment room. That is sad. However it is only a small dark side of the game. Most of the time football presents a bright and healthy way of living of extremely fit people. And even in a worst possible scenario I am pretty sure that when my time has come, there has been invented a proper artificial joint.

I would love to be a Superman but I am not. And even the best treatment or physiotherapists canít make me one. But with help from them and my body I will soon be able to run away from the Dr No. again. I feel the ketchup bottle is almost empty and I am starting to be quite a happy footballer again.

Now I just have to show it on the field, get back into my form again and do the things I can for Palace and Finland. I have been frustrated and tired for not being able to do any good lately. No more ketchup to this table please!

This month I recommend:

1. Being a Superman
- anyway it is much better than being A.Riihilahti -
2. Jordans Sultana and Honey -morning cereal bar
-If you cant make scrambled eggs, why not eat something in a car -
3. People in the medical research industry to hurry up
- just in case if my life as a crash test dummy continues -

I do not recommend:

1. Climbing The Everest
- if it as hard and painful as getting out from the bed, why bother -
2. Atomic Kitten
- so unoriginal -
3. Playing with injuries
- you dont do any favours for anyone by doing that -

And he had a long and healthy life,


ps. this story is been inspired by The Times and has also been published there partly.

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