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When a dream move quickly became a nightmare: Madhu breaks his silence on Negeri saga

Madhu Mohana was looking forward to 2018 after inking a one-year deal with promoted Malaysia Super League (MSL) side Negeri Sembilan, but the move turned sour when he was cut by the club just weeks later.. The national team defender shares his account with FourFourTwo…

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It had always been Madhu’s dream to play club football overseas and it was finally set to happen when he secured a move to Negeri last December.

But that dream move soon turned pear-shaped just a month later following the shock announcement that the Singapore centre-back had been replaced by Cambodian forward Prak Mony Udom on the club’s roster.

(Steinebrunner) asked me to just play because they wanted to see my centre-back partnership with the other foreign trialist, so I didn’t have the option to say no

- Madhu Mohana

In an Instagram post on January 27, Negeri cited a long-term groin injury as the reason for terminating Madhu’s services, but that did little to prevent speculation there could be more to the decision than meets the eye.

To understand the whole story, one has to go back to Madhu’s early days at his new club.

It all started off well for the 27-year-old upon his arrival in Seremban, featuring in the starting 11 in Negeri’s first two pre-season friendlies on December 15 and 21.

The first sign of the situation starting to unravel came when he was instructed to play in a third friendly on December 29 despite carrying a groin injury, a move that ended up aggravating his condition.

“My contract officially started on January 1, 2018, but I was asked by coach Jorg (Steinebrunner) and the team manager Dato Haslah (Amin) to come earlier for training and games,” Madhu revealed to FourFourTwo.

Madhu's first pre-season game on December 15 last year

“So, I reported on the 14th, played almost a full game a day later and played the full 90 minutes in the second game. Then I was feeling a bit of pain in my groin area and was icing before the game on the 29th, which I informed Jorg.

“However, he asked me to just play because they wanted to see my centre-back partnership with the other foreign trialist, so I didn’t have the option to say no. In the first half, I already got injured with the groin having the effects of overwork.

Madhu went for an MRI scan the following day ... and the resulting medical report surprisingly indicated there was no damage

“However, Jorg continued to play me until around 70 minutes when I really could not take the pain anymore before taking me off.”

Madhu went for an MRI scan the following day in Malaysia to assess the severity of the injury and the resulting medical report surprisingly indicated there was no damage.

But the sturdy defender was still feeling uncomfortable, which resulted in him missing all three games of their subsequent Cambodia pre-season tour in early January.

Madhu says he went on the trip with the squad, but was left to do his rehab on his own.

In a bid to get to the source of the problem, Madhu received approval from the club to return to Singapore to see his resident doctor.

Following an assessment, the doctor identified the issue and indicated Madhu would have to undergo two weeks of rehabilitation and treatment, which the defender had hoped to do in Singapore.

Madhu (far left) in pre-season training with Negeri

Yet Madhu says his his request to stay in his home country for that period was rejected and he was told to return to Seremban to continue his recovery.

“While the doctor in Malaysia didn’t notice anything, (the doctor in Singapore) spotted the specific problem immediately and advise me to go for rehab,” Madhu shared.

We actually allowed Madhu to return to Singapore for two days to see a doctor. It is in our best interest to ensure our assets are in good condition

- Dato Haslah Amin

“I wanted to do it in Singapore where there’s (national team physiotherapist) Kak-Fizah (Nurhafizah Sujad) to help me. But Jorg said cannot and asked me to go back. So, I went back to Malaysia and had to do rehab on my own over there.”

After interviewing Madhu, FourFourTwo contacted Negeri team manager and deputy president Datuk Haslah and asked him if the club had a policy that foreign players needed to return to Negeri for rehab.

"We never stopped anyone and there is no such policy,” he said. “But we do have a physio and doctors here and we want to make sure our players are given the best treatment.

“We actually allowed Madhu to return to Singapore for two days to see a doctor. It is in our best interest to ensure our assets are in good condition."

In the midst of his rehab around mid-January, Madhu was then asked by Negeri to visit another specialist.

Dato Haslah Amin

That was when he suspected something was amiss.

“My condition was getting better already but they asked me to see him all of a sudden,” he said. “I showed him the part where the doctor had pinpointed and he said it’s probably a bone bruising.

“He then diagnosed that I would be out for around two weeks and that was witnessed by our team doctor.

“That was when I heard from a Singapore source that (Negeri were) looking for an ASEAN striker to replace me. Watching our games from the side, I can see that we’re lacking in the attacking part – so I guess that’s the reason why.”

Yet according to Madhu, that initial two-week diagnosis had been lengthened quite significantly when he received the subsequent medical report.

[NEXT: Madhu is eventually released, but the dramas aren't over yet]