It is often said that miracles happen in the world of sports! Well, the fans have seen quite a few in recent times. After Christian Eriksen stepped onto the football field a few months after suffering a cardiac arrest, a similar story revolves around Norwegian defender Omar Elabdellaoui who made a comeback to professional football 423 days after almost becoming blind.
The whole journey dates back to 31 December 2020 when the Galatasaray player had a tragic incident during New Year Celebrations after fireworks exploded on his face. "I can’t see, I can’t see,” he immediately shouted, with the potential damage quite evident to people around him.
“I just thought I had something in my eye and had to clear it out but then I felt my face totally burning and everything was black,” Elabdellaoui said in a recent interview with the Guardian.
Everything was dark – I didn’t know if it was night or day: Elabdellaoui
He added, “I tried desperately to understand but it was difficult. Because of all the gunpowder my face was burned. I think it was difficult for them to say how bad it was straight away." The 30-year-old revealed that doctor told him that while his left eye wasn't that badly hurt, they could not say anything about his right eye.
Elabdellaoui continued, "I didn’t really have control over the first days. Everything was dark – I didn’t know if it was night or day. Time was irrelevant. There were a lot of people and noise. Voices become so much louder as you hear everything when you can’t see. The longer it took, the more afraid I was.
"I didn’t dare to sleep. As soon as I got a bit of light after a few days in my left eye, I was afraid to sleep as I was afraid of the darkness, so was afraid to close my eyes. Even though it was a tiny bit of light from my left, I was always checking if the light was there because I was afraid of losing it," he added.
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However, he finally found a ray of hope in February 2021 when a doctor at the Cincinnati Eye Institute admitted that there was still a slight possibility of getting his eye sight back. Elabdellaoui's sister was luckily found to be a perfect match and with the help of Ocular stem cells from her and an anonymous donor, the surgery could successfully take place.
As many as 11 surgeries happened before Elabdellaoui got his vision back. "It was really special – I do not know how to put it into words. You can try to imagine but I do not think it is possible for anyone else who hasn’t been in the position," he recalls the moment of miracle.
He added, "I was taking off the patch and had a bit of vision; I was closing my left eye and could actually see my hand on my right side; I could see all the movements on my right side that I hadn’t. It was a miracle, like a dream come true. You never think that to see is a dream – you just take that for granted."
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As it happened, the footballer finally completed a miraculous recovery and fulfilled his dream of playing the sport once again. He played full 90 minutes during Galatasaray’s incredible 3-2 win over Goztepe on an emotional evening for everyone.
Omar Elabdellaoui's miraculous comeback story once again teaches everyone that it's not over until it's over. He fought his way back to do what he loves the most and his willpower and dedication is what makes him a fighter both on and off the field, inspiring millions of people to never ever lose hope in life.