Melbourne Victory defensive midfielder Rashid Mahazi says that club captain Carl Valeri’s sudden illness caused a scare around the club and his absence has been felt strongly amongst the squad.
Valeri, a 52 times capped Socceroo, has not played since November last year after he was diagnosed with an inflammatory brain condition that affected his balance and co-ordination.
Mahazi has since taken over from Valeri in the defensive midfield role.
But even though the 31 year old was still in communication with the Victory players and was keeping his fitness level up, the situation at the moment is that the veteran midfielder was still not ready to come back to play yet.
“It did scare us quite a bit,” he said.
“Everyone around the club and I assume him personally would of as well. Just because it was so out nowhere. He seemed fine one day and then the next day he wasn’t able to train.
“He is a big personality he’s our captain. So he’s definitely missed on the field. But he’s around the changing rooms now. He’s training in the gym and he’s talking to us and talks to me a lot. Obviously with me playing in that same position as him, he tries to help me as much as he can, just like with his advice and where I should be and at what times and those kind of things.”
Mahazi added, “I’ve come in his absence and I’ve tried to do my best. That’s what players have to learn to do throughout their career, they have to come in and jump in for someone else whether it be in their position or out of their position it’s just the nature of football.
“At the moment we don’t know a definitive answer of whether he can play and that he’s still doing tests. This is a big matter than just football. The most important thing is that he just comes back to good health.”
During Valeri’s absence the Victory went on a four game losing streak but seemed to have found their mojo in the last four games with two wins a draw and only one loss.
During the Victory’s run of losses Mahazi said that head coach Kevin Muscat showed no sign of concern
“To be honest I don’t think I saw a point where he seemed worried,” he said.
“He didn’t panic at any time, he always gave us confidence and he always said that he believes in us and the most important thing is that we believe in ourselves.
“We know that we’ve got the best squad in the league. We know that we can play the best football in the league we think that we are the best team in the league. So it was just about the application and so he was drilling that into us.”
Mahazi said that the recent 4-0 win against league leaders Brisbane Roar shows that the team has turned a corner.
“In terms of a 90 minute performance yes,” he said “We’ve definitely had really good patches in some games. It was a game where everyone was really, really focused on doing their own job and everyone at the same time was able to put together a team performance.”