Fabien Carvajal has a healded ankle, healed heart
By GEORGE ALBANO
Hour Staff Writer
Perhaps no other high school athlete, male or female, in any sport at any school was looking forward to the 2010 fall sports season more than Norwalk High soccer player Fabian Carvajal.
After missing his entire junior season with a serious injury, Carvajal couldn’t wait to get back on the soccer field.
It was a long road back, but the Bears’ senior center midfielder finally returned last Tuesday for Norwalk’s 3-0 season-opening win against Westhill.
Last year at this time, Carvajal wondered if he would ever play soccer again after breaking his left ankle in two places and suffering a crushed fibula right before the season started.
“It happened in our last scrimmage against Fairfield Prep right before the season,” he explained. “One of their players ran into me. Nothing dirty. We were both just going for the ball. I beat him to it, but he slid into me and completely took me out.
“I didn’t know my ankle was broken and I tried to get right up, but when I got up I went right down and started screaming. I was in a lot of pain. I wasn’t crying, but I was in a lot of pain.”
The crying would come later. At the Norwalk Hospital.
“When I went to the hospital they told me I needed surgery and would be out for six months,” Carvajal painfully recounted. “I didn’t cry when I broke it, but as soon as I found out I was going to miss the whole season I started crying.
“The nurse even asked me if I was crying because of the pain in my ankle or because I was out for the season, and I told her because of the season. My heart was broken.”
So was NHS head coach Chris Laughton’s heart.
“Fabian has been on varsity since he was a freshman so I got to know him over the years and I knew how hard he worked,” Laughton said. “Coming into the season he looked the best I’d ever seen him and he was looking forward to having a real good season. Then the last scrimmage, five minutes in, that’s when it happened.
“When it first happened it didn’t look serious,” he added. “He was in a lot of pain but I thought maybe it was just a bad sprain. Then when I got home, I remember I had just sat down to dinner when I got a phone call with the news and I almost dropped the phone.”
The good news, however, is the surgery went well and three months later Carvajal started physical therapy.
“I have two metal plates in my ankle and two screws. They had to kind of rebuild it,” he said. “The doctor said I’ll have them for the rest of my life.
“But I couldn’t wait to get back on my feet and start physical therapy. I started running on the tread mill and they had me push weights with my leg. Basically they had to teach me how to walk again. I had to get the motion in my ankle back.”
Fortunately, Carvajal kicks with his right foot and that was still good as new. Slowly, the left ankle caught up.
“The doctor said eventually it will be 100 percent. I started playing again in the spring and I felt no pain at all. Then I played all summer with the Beachside 17s (premier team) and I felt I was almost all the way back.”
The real test wouldn’t come until the end of the summer when Carvajal reported for preseason practice at Norwalk High. And when the Bears scrimmaged Fairfield Prep again, it brought back memories for their center midfielder.
“I don’t even remember who the player was or if he was still there,” Carvajal said. ” I just wanted to destroy them. Not destroy any player, but just beat their team. We played really well and beat them 3-0.”
Carvajal had one more hurdle to clear. Norwalk ended the preseason with a jamboree and Carvajal remembered what happened in the last scrimmage a year ago.
” I definitely thought about that and I was just hoping to come out of there healthy. I know anything can happen anytime, but I was prepared physically and mentally and got through it.”
Which brought him to the season opener on Tuesday, and after Carvajal himself, no one was happier to see him back on the field that night than his coach.
“It’s a credit to him and how hard he worked and persevere,” Laughton said. “It would have been easy to give up, but Fabian is not that type of kid. He’s very passionate about soccer. He eats and breathes soccer.
“I’ve been there before and I know what it’s like not to be able to play because of an injury,” Laughton, a 2001 NHS graduate who played for the Bears, added. “I injured my calf muscle going into my sophomore year, but I had surgery in June and missed my club season and just part of the fall. Fabian missed all of the season and it had to be hard for him to watch from the sidelines and not be able to play.”
On Tuesday, however, Carvajal was able to watch the Bears play from the field.
“Coming out there for the start of the game, I finally felt like Fabian again,” he said.
But while the season opener was exciting, the next night was even better. Norwalk posted another 3-0 win at Testa Field, this time over St. Joe’s, and Carvajal scored the Bears’ second goal.
“All our players ran over and hugged him,” Laughton said. ” They knew how much that meant to him. As his coach, I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Hopefully, it will be the first of many good memories for Fabian Carvajal this season.
“I’m looking forward to having a good year,” he concluded. “I want to get back to 100 percent day in and day out. I’m just taking one game at a time.”
© 2010 The Hour Newspaper