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My Dreams Came Crashing Down

When Jeffrey Oredein found out he had to get ankle surgery at seventeen years old, his heart sunk. It was a gigantic thing to hear. As an aspiring footballer on trials at Manchester City, “my dreams came crashing down after one fall”.

“There is a stigma behind having surgery that you never come back the same.” Jeffrey Oredein

Whilst kickstarting his football career, Jeffrey was on trials at Manchester City Football Club. However, during the trial, he landed awkwardly and broke his ankle. Once told he needed surgery, he was extremely apprehensive. Jeffrey had never had surgery, nor knew anyone that had. However, he knew it was surgery or nothing to play football again. Manchester City helped him out as the injury occurred on their ground. They also introduced him to Colin Lewin, a physiotherapist at The Lewin Clinic.

The operation was in October 2019, and he took himself back to London alone after the surgery. With his crutches and orthopaedic boot, he dragged his suitcase through Euston train station to South London. He was tired and already over it. Jeffrey powered through his rehab to February when he was back on the pitch. Nonetheless, his ankle did not feel right again. Something was still wrong. XYZ Academy helped him with his funding as he wanted to go privately to ensure everything was quick. Colin, his physio, kept a positive outlook. Jeffrey claims he was very pessimistic, but Colin was optimistic. “I used to question, will I ever play football again?” explains Jeffrey. After several injections, pins in his ankle, and many scans, the minor break in his ankle still was not healing. He had to undergo another ankle surgery in August 2020.

Jeffrey playing football
Jeffrey Oredein

However, Jeffrey was still having issues with his ankle. He felt confused and stuck.

“I sat down on the kitchen floor and burst into tears. I did not even want to go out.” Jeffrey Oredein

It was a lot for Jeffrey to take in. “Ask my mum I would cry in front of her,” states Jeffrey. He would find watching his friends play football when he could not tough. Jeffrey stopped going out and going to parties. He did not feel like doing anything and felt completely out of everything. He would wrap up his ankle and try to play football, but that did not even work. It was extremely tough for Jeffrey.

The first time he played football pain-free was in January 2022. Nearly two and a half years after his first operation. He felt as though he missed out on a lot. People tell him he is still young, but he feels as though he missed out on so much development. It continues to be heartbreaking for him. Even though training and playing again, he has to do double the work to strive to be where he was before the injury.

Nevertheless, he has had tremendous support throughout his recovery. Jeffrey had incredible support from his mother, brother, sister, Colin Lewin and XYZ Academy. To Jeffrey, Colin’s positivity was crucial. Something that was a minor injury, why was he not getting better? He thought he would never play football again. Something was wrong, but the scans were saying otherwise.

“My head was all over the place. I would cry myself to sleep.” Jeffrey Oredein

Jeffrey could not even bear to watch football. He was struggling that badly. However, Jeffrey had not come this far to give up. Although he was not seeing progress, he was resilient. “One of the biggest things for me was finances. I was seventeen from South London, and I did not work. I had a lot of support,” describes Jeffrey.

Jeffrey's X-ray scan with pins in his ankle seen on the screen
Jeffrey’s X-Ray showcasing pins in his ankle

Some of his friends explained they would have quit long before getting to where he now was. However, Jeffrey loves the game so much that he refuses to quit his journey. He knew his ability, and once he could play, he could be better.

Nevertheless, in December 2021 Jeffrey had his third ankle surgery. He knew he was running out of options and this had to work. There was a lot of pressure for this surgery and the doubt about playing again really kicked in. Jeffrey was in total disbelief he would ever play again after three surgeries.

However, after three ankle surgeries, he has started to play football again as of March 2022. Jeffrey is training hard to be fit again and be back in the motion. When he looks back on his journey, things were difficult for him. None of it was easy. Mentally he struggled a lot. However, he continued to push through. All he wanted was to play. He would question why this was happening? Maybe football was not for him? Through these doubts, he would cry all the time.

“One thing goes wrong, and it can feel like the end of everything.” Jeffrey Oredein

Once he started playing football, he was in complete disbelief. After all the trauma he had gone through, he was shocked he had gotten through and back up. Jeffrey had always had minor ankle issues. However, the surgeries made it real for him.

Jeffrey believes that his injury has been a blessing and a curse.

“Coming out from this I feel like I can do anything. I see life from a different perspective. I value the little things.” Jeffrey Oredein

His change in perspective and valuing the little things have helped him. Jeffrey is working hard to get his fitness up and reach an even stronger place than before. Jeffrey loves football. It is a way he expresses himself. He will leave the house and play.

Jeffrey in training with electrodes attached to his body to monitor
Jeffrey undertaking rehab

Alone with your thoughts. Alone with your feelings. This was all happening during lockdown from Covid-19 too. Even after restrictions began to lift, Jeffrey was still very down and did not go out and asked people to not talk about football. Jeffrey did not want to talk about it. He was tired of talking about it and did not know when he was coming back. It was hard to keep telling people that. He went from being seventeen years old with opportunities lined up to having them all get taken away. It broke his heart. However, nothing was going to stop Jeffrey. “Even if I needed ten surgeries, I would never give up,” explains Jeffrey.

Furthermore, Jeffrey is utterly grateful for those around him and does not know where he would be without them. Before the Manchester City trial, he spent all summer training. 8 am in the gym, training after lunch, and back the next day. This cycle became his six-week summer break. Now nineteen years old, there is no holding him back. “I call it character building,” Jeffrey explains with a grin. 

“When the thing you love most gets taken away from you, you feel very alone.” Jeffrey Oredein

Having lost a lot of self-confidence during the last few years, he is stronger than before. Jeffrey has a positive outlook on life and has learnt so much about life at only nineteen years old.

“Always look at the other side, focus on the other side. If you believe in God, then pray. Make sure you have good people around you with a similar drive, motivation and resilience. Have a non-stop drive. And never give up,” states Jeffrey. He would not say he is out of the dark place, as he is not playing football to his full potential. However, he knows things will change once he can get back into the groove of playing. “It is a new dark place”, Jeffrey describes. From being in tears at physio and constantly questioning why what did he do to go through this? He can now share his story with strength.

“Never write people off because of their past and what happened.” Many football coaches knew he had talent when he was seventeen and not injured. But once they kept hearing about the surgeries, they thought his career was over. Jeffrey’s career is not over. He works hard and moves forward. Jeffrey has always wanted to share his story and talk about it, and his career as a footballer has only just begun.

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