Galatasaray won 2-1 in the friendly against Fiorentina, but more than the result, it is news about Omar Elabdellaoui’s return to the field after a year. His story is truly chilling.
Omar Elabdellaoui was born in Oslo, Norway, on December 5, 1991. He took his first steps as a footballer in Skeid, but in 2007, at the age of 16, he was bought by Manchester City.
After leaving England (in 2013), he moved to Germany (to Eintracht Braunschweig), then to Greece (Olympiakos), back to England (Hull City) and finally to Turkey, Galatasaray.
A few months after arriving in Istanbul, his career seems destined to end, due to a dramatic accident. On New Year’s Eve 2021, a firework explodes inches from his face and he loses the sight in both eyes.
“When the firework exploded in front of me, I didn’t see anything anymore, but I just thought that something had ended up in my eyes, something that could be removed by cleaning the eyes normally. Then, I felt my face burn and everything went black. It was really terrible: I didn’t know if it was night or day, the time was irrelevant.”
And his career as a football player was practically over.
His manager, Mikail Adampour, however, tries in every way to find a cure, a solution. And he finds it through the corneal transplant suggested by Edward Holland, a specialist at the Cincinnati Eye Institute.
According to doctors, the footballer had a 5-10% chance of recovering his sight. His accident is one of the worst ever treated at the Cincinnati Eye Institute, even “four times worse than that of American soldiers blinded by bombs in Afghanistan.”
In America, the eyes are reconstructed with an amniotic membrane from the human placenta and then with a new eyelid taken from strips of skin taken from his mouth and ears.
The first step is a transplant of superficial eye stem cells from a member of Elabdellaoui’s family, his sister to be exact. Then an anonymous donor contributes so that Omar can undergo the last operation (the 11th) to recover his sight.
Then the successful corneal transplant, the reintegration into the Galatasary squad in early 2022 (one year after the accident) and the return to the pitch with glasses and special contact lenses:
“Seeing you again was an inexplicable emotion. It was a miracle. You never think that seeing is a dream, you take it for granted, but instead it is a great gift.”