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September 3, 2013 at 12:02 AM

Steve Zakuani: ‘You can’t imagine what the last two years have been like.’

zakuani mug 2013Steve Zakuani hasn’t played a game since April 20. It was around then the lingering groin pain began, something that would eventually require sports hernia surgery in June, and now the Sounders midfielder has missed the past 18 games. This, of course, coming off a long recovery from a leg fracture and related complications that had him out more than a year.

Zakuani had appeared close to a return a couple weeks ago, but then he had a setback in training. Coach Sigi Schmid said after Monday’s practice that the 25-year-old still can’t really strike a ball with his left foot.

When asked if Zakuani can still make a contribution this year, Schmid said: “He still needs to continue to make improvements. … Today and at the end of last week he was able to step up his training again, so hopefully that will be the last thing that will come along and we’ll be able to make a determination. So we still hope that he’s going to be able to make a contribution this year, yes.”

Here is a transcript of an interview Zakuani had with reporters :

*     *     *

(On how it feels to be training…) “It’s good. Obviously I have to go day by day. Some days my groin feels a bit better than other days. It’s okay—still trying to find my feet a little bit and get my fitness back. I was a bit closer a week or so ago, but I had a little bit of a tweak, so now I’m coming back from that. It’s not too far off, but I have to go day by day.”

(On the frustrations of injury setbacks…) “You can’t imagine what the last two years have been like. Obviously it’s not easy, but all I can do is go every day. Like I said, I was a little bit close a couple weeks back, where I felt I was pretty much back, and then I had a bit of a tweak just doing something I’ve done a thousand times. What can you do? You can’t do much about that, so you just have to fight back from it. It’s just coming every day and trying to get my body to feel right. When you get surgery on both sides, you can’t really favor one side over another. Both are recovering, so that’s where I’m at. Some days you make giant leaps and some days you kind of stay the same, so you just gauge where you’re at.”

(On if there is a timeline for his return…) “No. [It’s day by day]. For me, I just want to get my trainings in, my fitness in, my touches in. That takes a little bit of a while to find yourself again, so that’s where I’m at right now. It’s not really that I’m trying to reach a certain goal. I just want to get my health. The lucky thing is I’m young. If I was Djimi’s age or something, it might be a problem, but I’m young so I’m thinking longer-term — big picture. I just have to get my body right before I can think about anything else.”

(On if he feels pressure to get back on the field faster when guys are called up or injured…) “No. There’s no pressure on myself. I wish I would have been out there. Initially after it happened back in April, I just had pain in my groin and I didn’t know what it was. I sat out a few games thinking it would get better. It didn’t. I did everything you could think of to try and get back, then they did an MRI and said I needed two surgeries. I didn’t see that coming. That obviously set me back again. I think if I try and rush back to the team I would do the team a disservice because I wouldn’t be myself. I need to just come back when I can be the Steve Zakuani I know I can be. That’s when I’ll be a help to the team, whenever that is.”

(On if his skills are still there…) “I was born with it. I’ve been doing it since I was five years old. I’ve never worried about the football side of it. It’s having the body that allows me to do it that’s the problem. Being able to think up here is never going to go, but having the physical capacity, being pain-free, having the mobility, agility to do what I did. I would come out here when I was 21 and I wouldn’t even warm up. I would just start playing because that’s what my body was. Now I have a different body and I need to come in an hour early sometimes and just do a bunch of exercises to be able to train. That’s just my reality right now. I never, ever worry about the football side—I know some people talk about it quite a lot—but I don’t really care about that. I just worry about having the right body to do it. Self-belief and self-confidence are never something I’d lose because I’ve been doing this for a long time. I know once my body is right I’ll be able to play how I played.”

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