Getting back on the pitch is the only thing on my mind: Shankar

Out Since March With An Injury To A Cruciate Ligament, Blues’ Midfielder Shankar Sampingiraj Says The Thought Of Getting Back On The Pitch Keeps Him Up At Night…

Two-nil read the scoreboard at the Nehru Stadium. The Blues had scripted their first ever away win against Shillong Lajong and the second of a seven game unbeaten streak that would take them to the League title. But for midfielder Shankar Sampingiraj, the game marked the beginning of another journey; one he was all too familiar with.

“It was a crucial period in the season where we needed to win all our games to keep up with Mohun Bagan. In the closing stages, we were going all out for the win and I didn’t pay attention to my fitness. I overworked my knee and went down. The team traveled to Goa for another away game but I came back to Bangalore for the scans.”

Diagnosed with an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury for the second time in his career, Shankar says it was all too much to bear until support from the management made it easier.

“Initially, I wondered why it was happening again. But when Ashley (Westwood) found out about the injury, he called me from Goa and asked me not to worry about anything. He mentioned that the club would take care of me and look to get me back in the team as soon as possible. The club has done really well and I’ve felt in safe hands throughout this tough period. I’ve had expert physiotherapist help from Samuel (Coleman) first and Noel (Augustine) and Timothy (Vadachalam) now. I’ve also been spending time in the gym and on the field with JSW Sports’ Josh Fletcher and Wayne Lombard, who have been very dedicated towards getting my strength and conditioning right.”

Head of Sports Science Donavan Pillai speaks of a unique mental coaching that was provided to Shankar to get him away from the stress of going through the rehabilitation program again.

“Patience is key with any knee injury. We’ve put systems and practices in place to monitor Shankar’s weight, his body fat, muscle mass and nutrition throughout the rehabilitation process. We did a lot of mental coaching and education to make him understand the intrinsic and extrinsic steps to be followed and he understood the value of that,” Donavan says.

When the final whistle blew against Salgaocar two months later, Shankar was pictured on his crutches, applauding the fans as the Blues celebrated a second League title. The 21-year-old says he cannot thank them enough for all they’ve been to him and the club.

“I went out there on my crutches and though I hadn’t been in a game for over a month, they sang my name. I can’t explain that feeling. They are amazing and I’ve never seen fans like them anywhere. They’ve been there for us in the sun and in the rain, all over the country and to hear them sing for me that day was a great feeling.”

With the weeks on his expected prognosis running out faster than before, Shankar says that getting back on the pitch is the only thing on his mind right now.

“Walking out on to the pitch, seeing the banners that are always there, hearing all those fans shouting; it’s something I miss dearly and to think I’m getting closer to being there once again keeps me up at night sometimes. It’s the only thing I’m looking forward to right now.”

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