Christian Obodo has stated that he feared he would never play football again during what he describes as the dark period of his injury torment.
Obodo, 27, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in April 2007 and spent over two years out of football.
“That was the worst time of my life. “Some days I would wake up in the middle of the night fearing that I would never play football again.
“It was so bad that I could not even bear to watch football. I kept thinking, if I can’t play, how can I watch.
“It was a dark period for me, but I thank God that I was able to overcome it”
The midfielder was training with Udinese for a midweek fixture against Empoli when tragedy struck.
“It was our last training session on that Tuesday. Our captain passed the ball to me and I was just running to control it when I heard something pop as I put my foot on the ground and then I felt the kind of pain that I cannot describe.
“We went for the check up immediately and they said it was a tear”.
That injury kept him out for about 8 months.
On his return in December 2008, he featured in just one game, the final match before the winter break against AC Milan before suffering a relapse.
“I was playing and just felt some pain. After the game against Milan, I had to go for a check up. It was there that they told me they had to re-open it and scrape it again.
“That was like doing the surgery all over again.”
Again, he was out for about another eight months, only to suffer more injury woes when he was kicked from behind in a pre-season game friendly against Ascoli in July, 2009.
“It was the last day of pre-season and we were playing against Ascoli. I went up to control the ball, and as I landed, one defender kicked me from behind, in the same place where I had the operation.
“As soon as it happened, I knew I was going away again.
“I felt really bad about this one because at that time, I had a lot of offers coming in. some were from England, one was from Spain and there was even one from AC Milan.
“But Udinese put a price of 20 million Euros and I had to even beg them myself to come down on it because that was too high for a player just coming back from injury”.
“Times like this show you the people who really care about you and I thank all the fans and the club fore standing by me”.
Eventually, the injury rendered that situation academic.
Obodo eventually returned full fit in January 2010 and played four months without injury with Uddinese before he was loaned to Serie B side Torino that summer.
This season, he has had again gone out on loan, this time to Lecce in Serie A. As he enjoys a career revival, Obodo said that fear of an early retirement haunted, then pushed him.
“It was like a nightmare. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Sometimes, I was even scared to touch the ball because I was thinking I would get injured again.
“But I had to encourage myself because football is in my blood. It is the talent that God has blessed me with and I told myself that I can’t allow my talent to waste without trying.
“So I pushed myself during my therapy and I made sure I did everything they told me to do”.
The fierce defiance paid off. Since joining Lecce, the midfielder has started and lasted all 90 minutes of the club’s Serio camping, and although they have only managed to glean 4 points from seven, the Nigeria is basking in his rejuvenation.
“Every day I play, I discover how much I missed football. I always want the ball, and all the old things I used to do with it are coming back to me, and I am even trying some new ones.
“I am just like a little child that has discovered something new to play with.”
Obodo, who lost his father during that trying period, said his family was a rock behind him.
“My family always encouraged me. My mother kept telling me not to give up, and they were all behind me.”
Even the Udinese fans stood behind their injured player. “I got so many cards and letters from the fans of Udinese that I couldn’t believe it. Even when they saw me on the streets, they would wish me well.
“Times like this show you the people who really care about you and I thank all the fans and the club for standing by me.
“I think they are the best fans in the world.”
The silky midfielder now hopes to help Lecce stay in Serie A, and was heart-broken when they surrendered a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3 to AC Milan on Sunday.
“Milan are a big team, and even when you are leading 3-0, you have to keep your concentration. We did not, and they punished us for it.
“But that is behind us now. Our focus is to stay in Serie A, and we will do it.”
Obodo last played for Nigeria in a World Cup qualifier against Sierra Leone, scoring in a 4-1 rout, but says his focus is to maintain a consistent club run.
“It is sad what is happening to our national team. I could not believe it when I heard we did not qualify for the Nations Cup.
“But I think what is important for me is to continue to play well for Lecce.
“Whatever will happen, will happen.”