Triple knee reconstruction hasn’t stopped Gameiro
If Corey Gameiro manages to play a major role for Brisbane Roar when they take on Melbourne Victory on Saturday night it would take the hardest of hard-hearted Victory fans not to wish the young forward well.
As a youngster the Port Kembla-born and raised Gameiro looked to have the world at his feet.
At 16, Gameiro was signed by London-based English Premier League club Fulham and a glittering career beckoned. His confidence would have been further boosted by the fact that Fulham gave him a contract extension in 2012.
But fortune in football can turn quickly. Just a year later, Gameiro was released by Fulham, having already been shipped out on loan a couple of times, the last back to the A-League, where he played half a season at Wellington Phoenix.
But his real troubles were about to begin.
Gameiro signed for Sydney FC, but soon after he sustained the first of what turned out to be three serious knee injuries which have involved reconstructive surgery and blighted his career.
Gameiro bounced back well initially, scoring a terrific goal for Sydney in a game against Melbourne City, who were to become his next employers. Having joined them he injured his knee on two more occasions.
Through it all Gameiro has retained a cheerful, stoical attitude and never doubted he would get back to the upper echelons of the domestic game.
Seeing friends he had grown up with battle cancer and other serious illness made him realise, even through the fog of his own depression, that he was lucky to still be able to live his life as a professional sportsman.
Now 24, and recovered once again, Gameiro was thrown a lifeline this season by Brisbane boss John Aloisi, and he is determined to make the most of his chance should his body hold up.
Until he came off the bench for Roar last week, it has been nearly two years since Gameiro played a game in anger, his last appearance for Melbourne City.
“It was against Perth where I did my knee the second time,” Gameiro said. “I didn’t quite get back from the third one, which went in training in Townsville in a pre-season camp with City.
“People say I have got mental strength, but I just love it, I love playing, there is nothing else in my life that I want to do.
“The thought of not working this hard to get back to playing is more terrifying than the thought of having to work this hard to get there in the end.
“It doesn’t matter how many times something like this happens to me, I will get back and I want to play. Until the day that someone comes to me and categorically says you can never play again I will keep on trying.”
Gameiro, remarkably, can even find some positives in the way his injuries have occurred.
“I have been very fortunate in some ways as with my knee injuries it’s always been a clean ACL tear. It is the worst ligament you can do, but I haven’t done any other cartilage, no other ligaments, no bone bruising, which is a positive. It’s why I am now running and sprinting and turning and shooting, and I feel no discomfort.”
Gameiro is grateful to Aloisi, who was prepared to take a chance on him.
“I was in talks with a few A-League clubs who were interested, and they all said the same thing … they said we like you, we know what kind of person you are, we know what your attitude is like,” Gameiro said.
“They all said we know you can play, it’s just a matter of whether your body is OK. That was the biggest question mark they all had.
“John said he knew me from earlier days, he knew what I was about, he said it wasn’t about my football ability. He said ‘If you can get ticked off by the doctors and physio and the medical staff there’s a contract here for you. You don’t have to kick a ball to show me’.
“He had faith in me, put a contract on the table and said as long as the doctor ticks you off I will sign you. I don’t need to have you come and trial, I know what you can do. It’s just a matter of whether you are OK.
“Within 10 minutes of the medical the doctors and the physios were pretty taken aback by how well I was tracking considering I had had three knee operations. That’s a credit to Melbourne City’s medical staff and resources, they were fantastic for me, they really fixed my knee up.
“John keeps saying he wants to look after me, and if he has to pull the reins back and wait until I am fully ready to go that’s what we have to do.
“Him, me, my mum and dad, nobody wants to see this happen again if we can help it.”
He looks back on his time at City positively, even though he had such horrendous luck there.
“I was injured the whole time I was at City, I played four or five games off the bench, then my first start for City I got an assist, I think we beat Perth four or five one, but that was the game in which I ruptured my knee, my first start for the club.”
Gameiro acknowledges that his mental strength has been tested and he has had bouts of depression, but it is the example of friends of his who have battled serious illness that made him realise he was, in a way, lucky.
“There’s people going through life, I have had a close friend of mine, who is only my age, he went through cancer while I was going through some of my knee recovery. He is fine now, he has come through the tunnel, which a lot of people don’t.
“To speak to him while I was going through depression, I had a rough period, but it put it in perspective.
“You are a young footballer, you get these injuries, and you are trying to understand how everything can be looking to be so good, then go so dark all of a sudden so quickly.
“You fall off the face of the earth, you are in the limelight, things are going well, but then you just disappear. You ask your self ‘Why is this happening, why me?’.
“Then to talk to my friend with what he was going through, how positive his mindset was, how he coped with what he was going through and still looked positive, that was a lesson.
“It made me realise that even if I couldn’t play I was still fine, I was healthy, my family still love me and everything else was good.
“He was a huge help. That was contagious for me, it made me think I am going to be fine too.
“When you think of what people in that situation have been through, to what I went through. It’s tough, but it’s do-able. Life goes on.”