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Charlie Davies’ soccer career was reborn not far from where he almost lost his life
Question of the Day
That was before reality set in. Once it did, Davies‘ thoughts never wandered far from the sport. While many immediately ruled him out for the World Cup, which was eight months away, he was having none of it. Davies promised he would work his way onto the tournament roster.
“Since day one, it was, ‘I need to get back. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get back on that field, and I’m not going to take no for an answer,’” he said.
Davies had burst onto the U.S. national team scene the previous June during the Confederations Cup, serving as a vital cog for the squad that pulled off an upset of top-ranked Spain en route to the tournament final.
The former Boston College Eagle parlayed his fine play into a transfer from his team in Sweden to Sochaux of France’s Ligue 1. In an August World Cup qualifier, he used his trademark pace to slip behind Mexico’s back line and become only the fourth American to score at the country’s futbol fortress, Estadio Azteca.
“His speed was something that nobody really had on our team,” U.S. midfielder Benny Feilhaber said. “He was able to give us that extra dynamic part of our offense — it became something we relied on, almost. He was just a player you could get the ball and know he’d be able to spread the defense.”
As with any daunting task, the support of family and friends became a crucial crutch to lean on while Davies learned to cope with his reassembled body, which suddenly included a slew of plates, screws and titanium rods.
In those first months, perhaps no one understood what he was up against more than his girlfriend — and as of August, fiancee — Nina Stavris, a cancer survivor with plenty of experience in perseverance.
“I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for her,” Davies said. “She’s been there since day one of the hospital. She was watching me go to the bathroom in a bedpan. She was pushing me around in a wheelchair.”
As hard as he worked, though, he ultimately fell short of his World Cup dream. Sochaux doctors didn’t clear him, and U.S. coach Bob Bradley called in May, a month before the tournament, to tell him he did not make the preliminary roster.
“We were all disappointed for him,” U.S. midfielder-forward Landon Donovan said. “For him, the reality he wasn’t ready was difficult. He tried as hard as anybody could to make it.”
A fresh start
Shortly before Christmas last year, Davies took to Twitter with a long-awaited announcement: “I AM IN THE SQUAD FOR TOMORROW’S MATCH VS BORDEAUX!!! Another step toward the ultimate goal.”
Following weeks of reserve games, it was the first time he dressed for a league contest since the accident. But he was left on the bench by coach Francis Gillot as an unused substitute and would not be placed on the team’s game-day roster again.
Davies said he then came upon some startling news: According to what captain Jeremie Brechet told him, Sochaux president Alexandre Lacombe sent Gillot an email instructing the coach not to play Davies because the club was trying to collect compensation for his accident.
“They didn’t basically want me to get back so they could get money for me from insurance,” Davies said. “When you hear that, it’s almost surreal because you’re like, ‘After everything I’ve been through, you would do that to me?’
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