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22nd Feb 2022

Omar Elabdellaoui completes miraculous return to action after losing sight

Simon Lloyd

“You never think that to see is a dream – you just take that for granted.”

Omar Elabdellaoui has completed a miraculous return to professional football, 14 months after losing his sight when a firework exploded in his face.

The 30-year-old was named in Galatasaray’s starting XI for their Super Lig game at Goztepe on Monday night, playing a full 90 minutes in his side’s 3-2 win.

Elabdellaoui, a Norwegian international, began his career at Manchester City and was also loaned to Hull City by Olympiacos in 2017. Months after joining Galatasaray in 2020, however, it appeared his career was over when he sustained serious injuries to his eyes when a firework exploded in his face during New Year celebrations.

Elabdellaoui has since undergone 11 surgeries to save his sight. Despite one of the doctors who treated him rating his chances of recovering it as somewhere between five and ten per cent, the defender has defied the odds.

Having been named on the Galatasaray bench for a game against Kayserispor earlier in the month, he went one better on Monday, wearing specially adapted protective glasses over his eyes for the duration of the game.

“I just thought I had something in my eye and had to clear it out but then I felt my face totally burning and everything was black,” he told the Guardian ahead of his comeback.

“Because of all the gunpowder my face was burned. I think it was difficult for them to say how bad it was straight away. In one moment I grabbed the doctor to say: ‘Just tell me the truth, tell me how bad it is.’ She said: ‘Your left eye doesn’t look too bad but your right eye, we do not know.’ But the way she said it, I knew it was not good.”

Over time, he started to see shapes and colours as his vision gradually returned to his left eye. His right eye, however, had been more severely damaged and required a corneal transplant and several months of treatment and rehabilitation.

With much of his recovery taking place in the US, Elabdellaoui worked on his fitness when he could, never giving up hope of a return.

“It was a miracle, like a dream come true,” he said of being able to see again. “You never think that to see is a dream – you just take that for granted.”

Posting to his Instagram after his return, he said: “I have really missed this feeling!!! Thank you all.”