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The Daily Tar Heel

Ababio puts '09 injury behind him, ready for senior year

ababio

after suffering a stress fracture in his foot last season, defender eddie ababio returns to the UnC lineup as a team captain in his senior year.

Eddie Ababio wasn’t going to let an injury keep him from his natural position on the North Carolina men’s soccer team: leader.
The senior defender has always led on the field, but last season Ababio was forced to take his guidance to the sidelines. Unable to perform, Ababio was no less a teammate off the pitch as he was on it.

Early into his 2009 campaign, UNC’s outside back suffered a stress-fractured sesamoid bone — a small pea-sized bone — in his left foot.

“The bone had actually crumpled into pieces,” Ababio said. “Initially I wanted to play through this injury and help my team, but in the end the pain was too much to handle.”

Ababio’s injury was so severe that he needed surgery. He found a foot specialist to perform the procedure, but even the specialist gave Ababio a 40 to 60 percent chance that he’d play soccer again.

The surgeon removed the bone, replacing it with a tendon. Ababio healed well during the six-month recovery time, but he was forced to walk the sideline during the remainder of the season.

“It was obviously very hard for him to sit on the sideline last year,” coach Elmar Bolowich said. “He was almost like another coach on the sideline, instructing and cheering on his teammates while they were competing. He did his part to our success, talking to the players, helping to integrate players.”

Ababio wasn’t only held from his passion for soccer; he missed out playing in the College Cup.

“Even though I was injured, I always felt like I was still part of the team, and I was very proud of the guys for making it to the final four,” he said.

Now almost a year after his injury, Ababio is prepared to make his return to the field. He already got a taste of competition in a 1-0 exhibition win against UNC-Wilmington on Saturday.

But the Ghana native’s foot will never be the same as it was before. Ababio can’t put too much pressure where his sesamoid bone once was.

He has been experimenting with different cleats and has two options: try to find a cleat that doesn’t have a spike directly beneath the injury, or cut off the spike that is.

While his footwear poses a problem, it does not deter his enthusiasm. Ababio has been preparing to return for months, and he’s ready to lead a senior-laden defensive unit.

“He’s a great teammate,” junior midfielder Kirk Urso said. “He’s always there for the guys. He works hard. He’s a great leader.”
Ababio’s efforts towards his team never slowed. His support and leadership are so evident that the team voted Ababio a captain this season.

In a game that’s played by 11 players, Ababio has managed to remain as much a part of that winning formula as possible. Now he’s just glad to be included among the 11.

“Soccer is my passion, and I am happiest when I am playing,” Ababio said. “Since my injury I’ve been impatiently waiting for the day that I can return to doing what I love.”

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.

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