By Liliana Marquez
It all happened in a matter of seconds.
In one moment, Carlos del Campo was in a face-to-face challenge with an attacker from the opposing soccer team, in the next, he fell to the ground in excruciating pain.
He was doing what he loves the most and it wasn’t the first time he made that play.
“I faked going in on him, so he (the attacker) backed out. When that happened I made that sudden move to change direction with the ball. That’s when my knee went backward and I heard the pop,” Del Campo said.
He said he knew right away that it was something serious. As soon as he heard the pop, he was on the ground and his right knee was getting swollen. His teammates asked him to get up, but he couldn’t.
Del Campo had torn his anterior cruciate ligament, better known as ACL. It was something unexpected, but not impossible to happen.
Like many athletes, Del Campo is always in danger of suffering different kind of injures.
The ACL is one of the four ligaments that stabilize the knee.
An ACL tear can result from sudden changes of direction, jumping or landing. This causes the shinbone to slide forward onto the thighbone, causing the knee to give out.
Del Campo, 20, just ended his last season as part of the ELAC men’s soccer team where he played as a defender and was also co-captain of the team.
The ACL injury happened during his junior year playing for the Thomas Jefferson High School men’s soccer team.
Del Campo was forced to abandon that game. He went to the doctor three months later and after running some tests, Del Campo was told that he needed a surgery in order to keep playing.
He went to surgery about five months after the injury and missed his last season with the team.
“I didn’t know how to react to that. I was young and I still am. I went through a lot of stress. I just wanted to play and I didn’t do my rehab.
“It was so much time off the field and I couldn’t handle it. I was supposed to stay without doing anything for six months,” Del Campo said.
Seeing her son go through the recovery process was something difficult to handle for his mother Sonia del Campo, but she told Carlos Del Campo that he needed to be patient and wait for the right moment to play again.
But being away from one of the things he loves the most was unbearable. Four months after the surgery, Carlos del Campo decided to go back on the field.
“I just got on the field and that was my rehab,” Carlos del Campo said.
For his father and coach Jose del Campo, his son is someone who never gives up and has a great fighting spirit.
“Thank God he has been recovering little by little. He is a strong player and he doesn’t like to lose,” Jose del Campo said in Spanish.
Everyday athletes around the world suffer ACL injuries. Most of the time, these injuries require surgery and the recovery can take from six to 12 months.
Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose also suffered an ACL torn last year and went to surgery about a month later. He spent an entire season recovering.
FC Barcelona midfielder, Xavi Hernandez, suffered the same knee injury while training back in 2005, but he was back on the field within five months.
Almost four years have passed since Carlos del Campo’s injury.
He recovered and kept playing, but other injuries prevented him from playing most of his first season with the ELAC men’s soccer team.
His mother said that the ACL injury helped him mature.
“He learned to value things in life. Everything requires effort and sacrifice and he realized that after the injury,” Sonia del Campo said in Spanish.
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Carlos del Campo moved to this country along his family when he was four years old.
“I followed in my dad’s steps. He is an ex-professional soccer player who played for Atlas. I started playing when I was five. I joined a club when I was six and that’s how it all began,” Carlos del Campo said.
Soccer has been Carlos del Campo’s passion for more than 15 years and is now a crucial part of his life.
Despite the injuries he suffered over the course of the years, he has never given up, training and working hard everyday.
Being named co-captain for the ELAC soccer team during his second year was something that made his family proud.
“He was captain of the teams where he played as a young boy. He always tries his best and he always works hard to be the best,” Jose del Campo said.
His brother and ELAC teammate Ivan del Campo, sees his brother as an inspiration.
“The thing that inspires me the most about him is that he is fearless. He is a guy that you would look up to,” Ivan del Campo said.
Carlos del Campo had chances to play for professional teams before attending high school, but injuries and personal issues prevented him from doing it.
“I was in Mexico with Pachuca and Tecos (in the reserves). I spent most of my time there. I was 15 years old and it’s a whole different thing. You are alone and everything you do is (play) soccer. You live for soccer,” Carlos del Campo said.
He was recruited to play for Mexican team C.F. Pachuca and went to the team’s school located in Hidalgo, Mexico.
Although that was a dream come true, Carlos del Campos said he started to feel homesick. He missed his family and their support.
“It is a hard thing to do as a young player, because you have no one else to talk to, just your teammates,” Carlos del Campo said.
For that reason and with the support of his family, Carlos del Campo decided to go to Guadalajara where his grandmother from his mother’s side lived.
Once there, he went to tryouts for Tecos (now known as Estudiantes Tecos) and made it to the team’s reserves, signing a one-year contract.
Then, the unexpected happened. Carlos del Campo got injured.
“I told him to be patient because he would received the therapy required to recover, but he needed our moral support. He felt hopeless,” Sonia del Campo said.
Carlos del Campo decided to come back to the United States.
Although it’s been years since that happened, his mother said that nowadays he regrets making that decision.
“Thank God I am playing again. As soon as I went to another 50/50 (challenge) and I saw that my knee was OK, I knew I was back,” Carlos del Campo said.
Now that the season with the ELAC men’s soccer team is over, Del Campo has decided to get some time off the field to recover and go back to his full level. For him it is important to give it all on the field.
“You cannot just play soccer. You have to feel it inside in order to play it they way it should be played. If you love it, you will give everything on the field,” Carlos del Campo said.