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What is pain? Agony that disables your mobility, restriction in movement, eating celeriac, feeling down, watching your team losing…? Is pain more physical or mental? When should you play or not? And is risking your health less important than getting results?

I had my first nose job done when I was twenty. It wasn’t to make me look pretty, that would have required magician instead of a plastic surgery. I needed it to be able to breath properly after I was elbowed at a game. The operation was one of the most painful experiences in my life. I dropped the mirror when they asked me if I was satisfied. It wasn’t the ugly view, I just couldn’t control my body because I was shaking from the pain. How would I describe the night before I was operated for compartment syndrome in my leg? Someone non-stop kicking your genitals combined with century’s hangover while Sepultura is playing in the background. Sometimes it could be better to be unconscious. These are the tops of my mountains of pain.

Broken bones, torn and ruptured muscles and ligaments, operations, bad bruises, cuts and illnesses… I have had them all. And played with many of them. Pain is relative, you learn to deal with it. It often eases up in the heat of the battle when adrenaline and pain killers keep you going. Inside the lines athletes can tolerate a lot. If there has been even little chance of dragging myself in, I have never said no to playing. I should have. There is often more stupidity than braveness in soldiering on with injuries. In modern game any restriction limits your contribution to the game too much to make it worth it. Sometimes I have tried on the pitch to escape the fact that I’m playing like a muppet when I should just admit I’ve not simply been fit enough to play at the first place. I have done many misjudgements in my stubbornness of playing while injured. It looks bad, it feels bad, it is bad and it often ends up even worse.

When shouldn’t you play? The moment you are starting to feel the pain or when you can’t move anymore? The moment you are not doing any justice for yourself or the moment you are not helping your team anymore? Or the moment you are making your injury worse?

Everyone has their own answers and limits. Sports are about going over the normal limits. Where the pain starts and ends are questions every athlete has to answer. I think people are fascinated and admire sports people partly because athletes are willing to go further than normally would be tolerated. Normal supporter often likes the fact that he knows he wouldn’t want to or couldn’t go over a limit that an athlete is battling against. And they feel conned when an athlete quits or can’t make that extra effort. They need to feel athletes have made and are making sacrifices that they wouldn’t. What’s the point if athletes would tend to be only humans with normal human sensations! Why do you think so many people love watching boxing? Because it hurts. That’s what we want to see. That is what differ sportsmen from spectators. Spectator’s pain is too see his athlete or team is not competing enough or not willing to hurt himself as much as he would himself as a supporter.

During the Christmas fixtures I hurt my calf. There was no time for a break, even to examine it. So I decided to struggle through it only to find out afterwards that I had two strains in my muscle. My illusional best friends Ibuprofen and physiotherapy had kept me going. The truth was I had not done much justice to my team or to myself, plus I had made my injury much worse.

So all of a sudden I was a sick note, not allowed to play and feel any pain. Ironically only then I realised what the real pain is. It is watching from telly text the results of your own team and feeling completely helpless. It hurts not be involved, to watch others playing, I’m feeling only half a man in the sidelines. That is the real pain. No physical sensation can ever compare mental pain. How much I would do or would be ready to suffer just to put my jersey on again. Or even be able to do a hard training session. There is a bit of masochism in every athlete, flirting with the limits and feeling some satisfaction with beating your body’s and minds boundaries.

There are mornings you feel like Satan has corrupted your body and you are just a crash test dummy –lookalike. That’s only part of the picture though. Still even now when I’m injured I feel I’m a healthy man living a healthy life. Athlete’s job is to go over limits and sometimes it can physically and mentally cause some pain. Still the fact is that most of the days are healthy and athletes are extremely fit and happy. So there is no need to read all this like we would be some miserable masochists on a mission of self-destruction.

Football is like a song: interpretation of the real world and people. To play in song you have to be tuned and still feel the sense of rhythm in your body. Sports can sometimes be like REM sings: Everybody hurts! Some days athletes’ theme song is: “Give me something for the pain”. “Sunday bloody Sunday” is definitely too much. I prefer “Don’t worry be happy” or “I feel good”. I am not much of a musician though but at least I hope it is not as painful to watch me play as it is to listen me sing!

To avoid pain I recommend:

1. Playing only when you are fit enough
- people can watch The Muppet Show from television -
2. Studio 51
- occasionally can help you to forget a bad week for a while -

To have pain I recommend:

1. Music by me or Sepultura
- there is a reason why my schools music teatcher asked me to mime during a singsong, obviously Sepultura didn't have as good teatchers -
2. Aviator -movie
- lasted boring three hours, felt like a life sentence. Good reminder why not to go see movies that are nominated for awards -
3. Having compartment syndrome
- unless you like been non-stop kicked to your genitals -

" If better is possible, good is not enought "


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