Thought I’d never be able to compete: FC Goa’s Nongdamba Naorem shares inspiring road to recovery

Indian winger Nongdamba Naorem was always in the reckoning for the big stage, since making an appearance in the FIFA U-17 FIFA World Cup and then proving his worth further with AIFF developmental side Indian Arrows in the I-League. However, it was his loan move to Mohun Bagan (then) in 2019-20, from Kerala Blasters FC that sprung him into the limelight. Having steered the club to their second I-League win, Blasters had no option but to keep him in the act.

However, a horrifying ACL injury, midway through the Hero Indian Super League 2020-21 season, halted the flight which just took off. A swap deal to ATK Mohun Bagan, which sparked more controversies, rubbed salt to the wound even further. In the midst of the dispute between two clubs, it was Naorem who suffered the most.

“At that time (during the injury), I did not know what to say. I was feeling very bad. The first thing I did was call my dad and told him that I have this problem and I will have to do a surgery. While saying that I literally felt like crying, I just came from a new club and further thought that I have to go for surgery and have to wait for at least one year for the whole process. I felt very bad,” said Naorem, during an interview with FC Goa.

The rehabilitation process started in Chennai, where the post-surgery treatment was being overseen by physio Tiyame and sports scientist Shivani, both of whom played influential roles in the whole process. Slowly and steadily, the road to recovery was visible!

“Around two and a half months, I was there in Chennai, and that was the time I met Tiyame mam, she was a physio. I was working alongside her for more than one and a half months. She helped a lot. Then I met sports scientist Shivani mam, she also helped me a lot,” stated the footballer.

It is never easy to regain the lost touch, however, with mental strength, the process becomes easier. For a footballer who used to run up and down the field for 90 minutes for majority days in a year, staying indoors for several months felt like no less than a prisoner. But, little strides towards normalcy kept the dreams alive.

“When I first started jogging, I was limping, I was scared, I was not able to run properly. Sometimes I used to feel how I would be able to compete with the other players. I can't even jog properly. Sometimes these thoughts keep on coming, but the thing I did back then was I started speaking to myself, that before three months I was not able to walk properly, but now at least I am able to jog and do exercises,” added Naorem.

Aligning with his speedy recovery, FC Goa secured his service ahead of the new season, however, he was well short of being match fit. But, with the magic he’s capable of creating on the field, the ISL side never lost faith in him.

“He met us in the first week of August, and I was quite disappointed with his improvements because he was very limited, bending his knees and muscles were weak as compared to the normal leg,” said Venkadesh Rethinaswamy, first-team physiotherapist.

It was during FC Goa’s visit to Kolkata for the Durand Cup that actually helped the winger fastrack his fitness to an optimum level. Even though he did not play a single match in their campaign win, the footballer stayed close to them and always trained with the team.

“After I came back to Goa, the very first time I came back to training, I was very excited because I had not played for 10 months with my teammates. I had almost forgotten playing with my teammates. It's been a long time, so I was happy. Before the training also, I was very excited and after training, I felt really good,” recalled Naorem.

It was time consuming, but the process was worth the wait, as Naorem is up and running now, having already made an appearance for FC Goa in the ongoing season. Irrespective of how he performs in the Hero ISL 2021-22, Naorem’s comeback story will remain an inspiration to all!

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