Brendan Gan, one-on-one: I would have "gone crazy or quit football" if I did my recovery in Malaysia

Malaysia international Brendan Gan tore one anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in 2015 and then another in 2016. But after a self-funded recovery regime in Australia, the central midfielder is close to full fitness now and says he is ready to do battle...

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On the night Brendan Gan suffered his second ACL injury, he was playing in a friendly which by his own admission, he shouldn't have agreed to feature in.

“We had tough domestic fixtures of 13 games in just over a month and I played every single minute of it," said the former Kelantan man. "I was carrying a little knock and told the medical staff. I trained a day before the match and felt relatively okay, but still slightly sore."

I probably regret saying okay but when your country needs you to play, how could you say no? I actually felt strong on the pitch

“The coach (Ong Kim Swee) said Indonesia were going to put out a strong team and asked if I could play because he needed me. I could hear the crowd roaring and it was my first match against Malaysia’s arch-rivals.

“I probably regret saying okay but when your country needs you to play, how could you say no? I actually felt strong on the pitch.”

Even though it was a friendly, former Malaysia coach Ong had a point to prove with the result as the Tigers were playing for the first time since four key players - Safiq Rahim, Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, Amirul Hadi Zainal and S. Kunanlan – decided to retire from international football.

Malaysia headed to Solo for the tie with 13 changes from the Oceania Tour in June. Three players – Safawi Rasid, S. Veenod and Fakrul Aiman Sidid – were handed debuts while Irfan Fazail was given a start despite missing international football for several years.

“A 100 per cent that the absentees were a factor. I think if the four that retired were around, I would not have played. Ong would not have been thin on options and could have moved things around otherwise,” Gan said.

Gan's second ACL injury was sustained playing for Malaysia

But play he did, and Gan suffered his second ACL setback in the 3-0 loss, was substituted at halftime and thus began what he described as the "hardest" year of his life.

“The second ACL was very similar to the first one, but the recovery needed more time because a little bit of the meniscus needed to be repaired too,” Gan told FourFourTwo.

If I was in Malaysia, I think would have gone crazy and even maybe given up football

“Mentally, this has been the hardest year of my life," said Gan. "I’ve been lucky because I’ve had family, friends and my fiancee around in Australia for support. If I was in Malaysia, I think would have gone crazy and even maybe given up football."

While Gan insists he does not have any sore feelings over his injury, he felt the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) could have borne the cost of his surgery, something the national body offered only if the surgery and rehabilitation was done in Malaysia.

“I feel because it was an international match, FAM should have paid for wherever in the world I wanted to do my surgery. As an athlete, you should have the right to choose where you want to do it. I don't have a grudge though, I'm not that type of person.”

But the Australian-born midfielder opted to head Down Under instead, and fund his own recovery.

Gan went back to Australia for his recovery process

“It was the process that I thought was right for me and returning to Australia was something I was most comfortable with,” said Gan. “I did the first surgery there and was very comfortable doing it there again. Football is my livelihood and I wasn’t going to take a gamble.

“I worked with the Socceroos Under-23 physio Kieran Rooney for my whole rehabilitation. That has been very positive. I just recently started seeing a mental coach back in Australia to sort of stop doubting myself on where I am in my progress.”

Gan bounced back in 2016 and soon won over admirers with his robust display for club and country.

Gan's injury woes began in 2015 when he suffered his first ACL injury on the first day of the season against ATM at Paroi Stadium.

But he bounced back in 2016 and soon won over admirers with his robust displays for club and country.

Then came the second hammer blow.

[NEXT: Refuting the critics and the search for a new club]