Injury has sadly meant we haven’t heard from Viktoria Schnaderbeck for some time – but after many months of hard work, she's finally back in action.
In a heartfelt blog, Viki tells us all about the highs and lows of her rehab, the isolation of being injured in lockdown and why she’s still taking small steps in 2021/22.
I have to start by saying that the last three weeks have definitely been better than the last three months! It has been amazing to finally be back on the pitch again and I feel so grateful to be back with the team. I’m genuinely happy and excited for every single training session, and that feeling of being back in the squad and travelling with the team again – it’s just the best. When you’re out you obviously miss the game, but only once you’re back involved do you realise just how much you’ve missed it.
This has been a really tough one for me because when I first picked up the injury I didn’t have a bad feeling about it at all. The club thought the same too, after the first diagnosis, that it would only be a few days, but then that become two weeks, and then two weeks became one month. In my mind I still thought of it as a short-term injury and I had the hope of coming back soon, but after I felt no improvement through physio and individual training we decided to have another scan around Christmas and my 30th birthday.
That’s when I got my scan back and we found out that my knee had actually got a lot worse. That was a real shock for me because we had to change my plans completely and I quickly realised this wasn’t going to be a short-term absence. It was also in the middle of lockdown and that’s when the tough times really started for me. Everyone was back in training and together again, but I was alone and that was really difficult. I couldn’t do anything and then around March time we decided we’d try to rebuild my schedule and work on a comeback, but this time I had a feeling something wasn’t right and I didn’t feel confident.
At this point I decided that I wanted to go for surgery because I didn’t know what else to do. I’d tried everything else in terms of physio and treatment, so I felt like it was my only option left and that was really scary for me. I was really worried because I had so many negative experiences and moments throughout my rehab, but the last few weeks have been so positive for me and it has all come together as a really happy ending. Finally I was back out there with my team-mates!
I’ve realised it’s not necessarily the amount of time that you’re out for, it’s the unknown. I’ll take six months out if I know that I’ll be back then, but not knowing when or if you’ll return is really scary. The uncertainty can be really difficult to handle, and it was constantly on my mind because football means so much to me. That was the hardest thing.
I really missed my team-mates during lockdown. I had a support bubble with Manu and that was really helpful to me, but I couldn’t see anyone else. I was just really lucky that I had my girlfriend with me. All of my team-mates were so supportive, but when you can only communicate over the phone it’s just not the same. I was missing their energy in person! I was alone mentally with my thoughts too and that’s something my team-mates just couldn’t help me with because of the circumstances.
I was always cautiously happy and tried to celebrate my little wins whenever I got them, rather than worrying about the bigger goal of getting back to full fitness. I felt that kept me on track and I wanted to just take things day by day. I was scared of thinking too far ahead and then being disappointed if something else bad happened, so I tried to enjoy the moment and the little things. But when I was back on the pitch and had my first few touches of the ball, wow, that felt amazing. I’ve come so far and I’m really quite proud of myself.
Of course I had a lot of spare time while I was out of action so I had to keep myself busy, and I’m actually doing a Masters in business psychology at the moment. While some people might think that it would be a burden during my recovery, it was actually really nice to have a distraction and something that I could put all my focus on. I was also doing a lot of speeches virtually with various companies and I really enjoyed it because I felt like I was succeeding in something, which is what we’re used to as footballers in training and games.
It’s all about performing at the highest level and you get that feeling when you know you’re doing something well and you get that confirmation of success. That’s what I missed: working hard and getting that good feeling at the end. It’s not the same as playing football, I know, but it did help me a lot.
Life returning to “normal” is amazing because I think the fans can see just how close we are as a group. It has been tough because we’ve had so many games, but being “locked in” makes such a big difference mentally. You can feel it and I think that closeness is showing on the pitch too.
I’m still focusing on the little goals and trying to get the best out of myself in every little thing I do. It’s still a process because I’m coming back from a long-term injury, but right now I just want to contribute to this team in any way and the best way for me to do that is by picking up more and more minutes.
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