Pune FC goal stopper Abhra Mondal tided over pain, anxiety and hope for a sensational comeback. Forced out of competitive football after being left with a cracked right leg shin during last season's I-League game against Shillong Lajong FC (28th January, 2012), the Bengal-born custodian made his return against Sporting Club de Goa at Goa (27th November 2012). The Round-8 encounter thus ended the Bengal-born 'keeper's 304-day wait in what was his career's worst injury.
The 26-year-old's comeback caps an interesting statistic. In his debut match in 2011-12, the then 'on-loan' Abhra was part of the Pune FC side that beat Air-India in a Round-7 game in Pune. Interestingly, his comeback-match runs in parallels as it turned out to be his maiden match in 2012-13. Having turned a new leaf in his career, Abhra spoke to punefc.com about his new beginning.
Describe playing your first match after a long injury lay-off?
It was a really good feeling to be back playing. The period (10 months) was a long time to be away. The injury was huge and all through the process was all about building confidence and getting ready. However, it will take time to totally be at peak match-fitness, which as I said is a match by match process.
... it must have been tough?
Fitness-wise a lot has to be achieved. Being fit is vastly different from attaining peak match fitness. I need to work hard and a lot has to be done. Taking goal kicks is a problem and I am going slow in that aspect.
What was your reaction when Coach said 'You are in the eleven today'?
To be frank, I have been practicing with the team for some months continuously apart from the rehab that I was already into. So basically, I was prepared and Coach all through has been accommodating, patiently waiting and monitoring my progress.
Is there anyone particular who helped you during your recovery?
All have been very helpful and it begins with the Pune FC team, the management, Coach and every single wish that helped motivate me to get over such a big situation. Back home my dadi (grandmother), and ex-coach Prasanta da were there by my side in testing times.
How did your fans and well wishers react after seeing you play?
Messages were aplenty and were sent in all forms - SMS, social media, phone calls. Most of the messages revolved around my fighting sprit which many were astounded about. I thank them all, once again.
Sitting out must have been hard?
It feels bad for starts. But then, face it, I was determined to get back and thus worked in earnest. I went through the break not thinking much because I knew that my day was to come and was just a matter of time.
Winning against Sporting Goa, runs in parallel to the result achieved against Air-India last season?
(Ha, ha) I am happy to be part of a winning unit. I have done my best to contribute, for me the game against the Goans was huge personally. But yes, winning on the whole brings back confidence in the team and I am glad for that.