Editor’s note: Chris Moore takes a close look at Hector Bellerin’s ‘Unseen Journey’ to share his insight into the extraordinary story about how the Arsenal footballer bounced back from a serious injury.
Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin is quite frankly one of the more interesting soccer players in the world. Not only is the 25-year-old Spaniard a quality defender for a big club, but he’s also vocal about social and environmental issues, a creative director, podcaster, and amateur photographer. While most professional players are certainly much more than ‘just an athlete,’ Bellerin’s abilities and interests off of the pitch are undoubtedly compelling. On the pitch, the Spaniard was undoubtedly entering his prime leading up to a horrific knee injury during the 2018/19 campaign.
When Bellerin collapsed on the pitch in pain against Chelsea back in January of 2019, most people knew it wasn’t good. The pain on his face, the screams, it was a terrible sight to see. News soon followed that he, somewhat predictably, ruptured his ACL. When players suffer such a terrible injury, we, the fans, don’t necessarily get to see what happens behind the scenes leading to their comeback to the pitch. ‘Unseen Journey’ allows access to Bellerin’s particular struggles with the unfortunate injury.
Available on Bellerin’s own YouTube channel, ‘Unseen Journey’ shows insight into the injury, the surgery, his physical recovery, and perhaps most important and intriguing, his mental state during the entire process. Nine 20-minute episodes, this documentary series is comprehensive and thorough covering the eight months between Bellerin’s injury and his comeback.
Obviously beginning from the moment Bellerin suffered the injury, the series starts with interviews from Bellerin himself, his close friend (and former Arsenal teammate) Jon Toral, Arsenal doctors, and his surgeon Ramon Cugat. While most people would be down and depressed about such a significant setback, Bellerin was positive from the beginning. He essentially told his doctors that he will handle whatever he must do and move on from there.
Dr. Cugat explains exactly what the process of repairing a ruptured ACL entails and the series even shows footage from the actual surgery (episode two if you’re squeamish). Interesting, yet not exactly easy to watch, the early episodes really show the difficulties regarding physical pain and stress in Bellerin’s day-to-day life. However, as tough it must be to go through a painful injury such as a ruptured ACL, ‘Unseen Journey’ really emphasizes a person’s mental state during a significant setback.
READ MORE: View our archive of Arsenal opinion articles
Both Bellerin and his doctors claimed that his mindset was the most important thing during the entire ordeal. Remaining positive and open to change was constant in the player’s mind throughout the series. Bellerin even claimed that the injury could be seen as a positive thing. He was able to go back to Barcelona for the surgery and the first few months of rehab. This allowed him to spend quality time with his family back home without any soccer-related duties, something that he did not experience for quite some time.
Time away from the pitch also allowed Bellerin to explore his other passions. The Spain international has always loved fashion, photography, and drawing, and this scenario, while physically painful, gave him the opportunity to have fun with his free time. He even co-designed the suits Arsenal players would go on to wear for the FA Cup final in the summer of 2020.
Throughout the series, Bellerin credits the people at Arsenal for helping him during his senior career. “Arsenal means so much to me. I mean I’ve had an amazing upbringing when it comes to football in the Barcelona academy… but Arsenal made me a footballer.” He specifically picks out former managers Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery, coach Steve Bould, and many teammates including Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney.
Bellerin was able to go through parts of his rehab with both Holding and Tierney. The series shows the strong bond between the teammates and how necessary it is to have important people nearby when going through something traumatic. Holding was there with Bellerin from the middle of his rehab phase, while Tierney trained with the right back near the end of their comebacks.
‘Unseen Journey’ is essentially a must-watch series for Arsenal fans; however, it’s much more than just for Gooners around the globe. Sports fans in general will appreciate the detailed comeback story of an undeniably likable person. Although there is some strong language for children, the production, interviews, behind the scenes insight, and story make for a very interesting watch for most viewers.
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