People always are enamored with the impossible storyline. You know the one I’m talking about; that plot in which the protagonist, with tangible characteristics that are overshadowed only by their immeasurable intangibles, overcomes an incident that had the potential to change their life forever. Moreover, that entire experience makes them even better and they end up obtaining glory.
In Colombia, that is the story that has been Radamel Falcao’s greatest challenge. Nearly eight years to the date of his first anterior cruciate ligament tear, the former River Plate man ends up suffering the same fate with just months before the biggest moment of his already illustrious career.
“Right now Colombia is in the denial stage of grief,” said columnist Gabriel Meluk of El Tiempo in his Sunday column.
Currently you can also say that Colombians are scattershot in their emotions. Some are in the midst of anger, some are looking to bargain while there are others that are depressed and see a dark future for them while their leading goalscorer is out.
There were candlelight vigils and prayer circles done throughout Colombia in an effort to hope beyond hope and reality but the reality of the moment is too strong to deny. Well wishes and holding on to every scant bit of hope that doctors gave of him being in Brazil is still a topic in Colombian culture.
Still it is very difficult to move on when hearing that “the next three months are crucial” and that “there is a chance that he can still play” as was mentioned by doctor Jose Carlos Noronha. Falcao also was willing hold on to hope “even if it was a one percent chance”. All the talk of Falcao using hyperbaric chambers and other elaborate technique to make and attempt to get there harkens back to David Beckham’s sprint to recover in time for the 2002 World Cup after the challenge he received from Aldo Duscher.
There are timetables that a person experiences that is undergoing the type of rehabilitation that Falcao will be beginning in the coming days. He can be the fittest individual; he could be a super-disciplined individual that will make every effort possible to become the exception rather than the rule. He may have all the faith and pray every single day along with 47 million other Colombians; but injuries of his nature only know one thing — time.
These types of injuries need time to heal and based on the math that we’ve seen with other injuries in the past of this nature, it’s not enough. Right now I am talking about just the rehabilitation portion of his regime. Let’s not take into account the time he would need to get back into playing shape to be able to avoid re-injury and have a chance to play Greece on June 14 in Belo Horizonte.
The doctors have talked about the seriousness of this injury, they’ve discussed what needs to occur and they’ve made clear that in three months they will see how the recovery is going.
In other words it’s medicine, it’s not magic. It’s also a chance for Colombian fans past and present to learn from past mistakes.
The Brand Comparison
Do Colombian fans (at least those that can remember that far back) want the experience of Alejandro Brand to hit them right across the face yet once more? Brand was one of the great midfielders of the 1970’s in Colombian football. Brand was a bastion in the midfield where his playmaking abilities made the Colombians a team to be reckoned within that era. His technical skills and ability to change speed as well as his vision made him one of the more exquisite players in South America of the time.
Although his legacy ended up being a great one at his club, Millonarios, many would have told you that Brand had the potential to have left Carlos Valderrama in a close second as a national team all-time great. His story was one that left many, to this day, thinking what might have been because of one serious injury.
Brand, too, suffered an injury similar to Falcao back during the 1974 Copa Libertadores. The inability to properly rehabilitate and take care of this injury resulted after suffering a terrible injury due to a defensive challenge against Peruvian side Defensor Lima on September 24th. After the match, the team’s medical staff worked on Brand incessantly to get him ready for the big match against São Paulo, three days later at the Estadio Morumbí. Part of that preparation also included needle infiltrations to drain the swelling as well as cortisone shots to allow the player to play in a match that could mean a trip to the semifinals of Copa Lib.
Millonarios coach Gabriel Ochoa called Brand up for action against the Tricolor Paulista and he would last all of 30 seconds. He would collapse on the pitch after hearing a “crack”, as he would recall years later in an interview. Millonarios lost that match 4-0 and, more importantly, lost their playmaker and goalscorer for 11 months. They actually lost their idol forever. After that injury, Brand would never be the player he was prior to the injury — and he was only 25. Until his eventual retirement in 1982, he admitted that he sometimes played “on one leg but continued being a goalscorer” because at that time “there was little they could do (for an ACL tear).”
Maybe my comparison is a bit exaggerated. The times have changed and technology and medicine have changed a great deal. The point is that if a joint is not ready, be it five months or three days, there is a tremendous risk for re-injury and the potential to wreck a career. To be quite honest, at this stage it would be much better to let him recover in peace and have him come back at a hundred percent than have him risk his livelihood.
Right now Colombia should be making the transition, as Meluk said, to the acceptance stage. Jackson Martínez has to be the man to play the key role as striker, and he will have to start to step up in a big way, as do the rest of the vaunted forwards looking for a spot on the national team. They all have to do what they must to take up the slack and if it means, like Meluk said, “ironing their hair and using keratin” (to emulate Falcao’s hairdo), then so be it.
For more coverage on Colombia, read our World Cup preview guide to the Colombia national team.