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Christian opens up

Posted on 2 March 2004  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

Christian Ziege sits down with www.spurs.co.uk in Dubai to talk about his return from injury, the nightmare of being 'completely destroyed mentally' and his dream of representing Germany again.

MOST fans know the Christian Ziege story by now, but here it is again anyway.

After playing against Charlton on Boxing Day 2002, Christian left White Hart Lane with a slight pain in his thigh, what he believed was a dead leg.

But the pain grew worse and within hours, in agony, he had contacted the club's doctor and was rushed to hospital.

His thigh muscle had swelled to double its normal size - known as decompartmentalisation of the muscle - and led to complications with his blood supply. Thankfully, an operation was a success.

Where once his leg - let alone his career - was in doubt, Christian worked hard and incredibly returned to Premiership action as a second half substitute in the final game of last season, just five months later.

Pre-season appeared to be going well but there were complications in the thigh and he needed another operation.

That kept him out until the Carling Cup tie against West Ham in October and things looked to being going well until the hour mark when he limped off, distraught, with a knee injury. It needed surgery and he was out until the New Year.

Still is wasn't plain sailing though. As he built up his fitness in the reserves, he picked up a nasty cut above the eye that needed five stitches and put him back another week.

He finally returned at Fulham in January and, touch wood, he's had no problems since.

So what stopped him from throwing in the towel? "As I've said before, I have to thank my wife and my family because it wasn't easy with me through that time.

"I got upset at times and there is a situation where you think you might just give it all up.

"But you think about so many things. I would watch football on television, my own team playing at the weekend and those things kept me going.

"I still have dream of playing for Germany again and that has spurred me on all the time, even in the days when it was really hard, going into the gym again, rebuilding muscles again, going through lots of pain. It's all part of football. I am not the only footballer who has had injuries - some have had worse and still come back.

"It was an experience, a good and bad experience, and I'm glad I'm back."

There must have been so many highs and lows as comeback followed comeback but Christian revealed the toughest time was his knee injury after that West Ham game.

"At the start, everyone told me it would take six months to come back from my thigh injury but all of a sudden it was three months and I was back on the training pitch. I was so happy and it was going so well.

"Obviously at that time I realised that I had a strange feeling in my thigh but everyone thought that was because of my injury.

"I went on holiday to Greece, continued training there and then started pre-season training and all of a sudden the leg felt so strange that I was worried.

"We had a friendly at Wycombe and I had to come off. I couldn't really push myself, couldn't really run and I needed to know what was going wrong. The thigh needed to be re-opened and that was a big setback.

"But what can you do? You can sit back and feel sorry for yourself or say 'ok, this is the situation' and try to come back.

"I did that and my first game against West Ham I damaged my knee. The day after that game I was completely destroyed mentally.

"I thought 'what's going on?' I've done five seasons in a year and I was thinking 'why?'. Had I upset someone?

"It was hard but it's the same situation, people say you will be alright, you get the confidence back and just start again."

So, as we said earlier, having recovered from the serious threat of losing a leg and then losing his career, the icing on the cake for Christian would be a return to Germany's national team.

He was, after all, a member of the squad that reached the World Cup Final in Japan/South Korea in 2002 and, with 71 caps, one of the more experienced German internationals around.

Could he, at 34, play in the World Cup on home soil in Germany in 2006?

He added: "My main target was just to play again but always at the back of my mind I wanted to play for Germany.

"I'm only 32 and that's the best thing you can have as a footballer, playing in such big tournaments like Euro 2004 and then, two years later, the World Cup in Germany.

"That would be the best ever. I will be 34 and I would love to make it there.

"To play in a tournament is great enough but to play in your own country, that happens very rarely. It would be a huge thing for me.

"We were close to winning the World Cup last time and if we go that close, to be there and win it and it being in Germany, there can be nothing better."

There would be few in football that wouldn't want to see him there.