| 16°C Dublin

Mustaki finds perspective as she battles her way to fitness following horror injury

Close

Hard at work: Ireland soccer international Chloe Mustaki during a rehabilitation session at the
Sport Ireland Campus in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Hard at work: Ireland soccer international Chloe Mustaki during a rehabilitation session at the Sport Ireland Campus in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Hard at work: Ireland soccer international Chloe Mustaki during a rehabilitation session at the Sport Ireland Campus in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The crest of the same wave can bring you crashing to the earth with a shuddering shock.

And, in that very moment, perspective is hard to grapple with when the pain is so unbearable, that all you can do is scream.

Chloe Mustaki didn't need to be told that she is privileged, fortunate and grateful.

She has a job, a loving family and a clinging dog who, though barking throughout our chat, remains an enduring source of unswerving fidelity.

She has a semi-professional career with ambitious Charlton Athletic and a burgeoning international presence which, sooner rather than later, will unfurl an elusive first cap.

She sees the raft of shocking events occurring within society, and even amongst her closest friends and colleagues, there are more jarring incidents beyond comprehension for many of us.

And so, as she takes a brief respite between the second and third rehab sessions of another long day in the Sport Ireland Institute, enjoying superb facilities she knows are denied so many of her fellow citizens, she can't help but express gratitude for what she has.

Yet remembering what she doesn't have, should not invite any admission of guilt.

She was on a high last autumn, securing a cross-channel move to accompany a career promotion in London, before earning a call-up to the senior women's squad as they continued their assault on a maiden voyage in the European Championships.

In one instant, the fall literally cut the legs from beneath her, a freak training-ground clash with team-mate, Heather Payne. The ball went one way, her body went another, and her leg disagreed with both options.

And so she howled, first in physical anguish, then in mental despair. She cried until the meds kicked in. She doesn't apologise. For this is her grief, her feeling.

"When it happened, I knew straight away I was going to be gone for months," recalls the former Shelbourne star, of the training ground smash that happened on the eve of the European qualifier against Greece.

And so on the morning of that game, instead of breakfasting with giddy squad mates ahead of another huge occasion, she was spirited away at dawn to Cappagh as the grim procedures of prognosis continued.

Intimacy

She still wanted to cheer her team on but, weeks before it became a part of all our lives, she chose social distancing over the awkward intimacy of hobbling around the dressing-room on crutches before the tie's kick-off.

Mercifully - more gratitude - Ray Moran managed to shoehorn her cruciate op into a March window before full lockdown. Every step counts when up to a year might be thieved from an ever-shortening sporting career.

And so the 24-year-old, already attuned to formidable personal toil after battling Hodgkin's lymphoma as a teenager, set about dialling into another formidable, if not as terrifying, challenge.

"This is a whole different ball game," she admits. "Even back then, I was able to run and exercise for most of the time I was sick. Now I haven't run in four months and that's mentally challenging.

"Thanks to the FAI, I  can now use the Sports Institute and use all the equipment I need," she says.

"My employers have allowed me to work from home so I'm with my family. With soccer suspended, I'm not actually missing any games, so that is fortunate.

"There are good and bad days. At the start, it was really painful. Then it calms down. It's tricky trying not to aggravate the tendon as you're trying to strengthen the knee. The stronger I get, the less pressure there is. I feel I'm regaining a lot of muscle mass. And I can't wait to start running."

Her international team-mate Rianna Jarrett - who has had three such injuries - is an inspiration, so, too, Tiegan Ruddy, her former under-age colleague.

"I'm accepting limitations as they are," she concedes, aware that she is in control of the boundaries. She can't wait, for example, to share some more memories with Clare Shine, her long-term friend and team-mate, who is undergoing quite a personal challenge of her own at the moment.

"We all wish her the best but she deserves privacy."

Soon they will make happier memories together.

Indo Sport