The opportunity of Sozer’s lifetime shot down by another injury

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Some footballers are born into first grade football and some must wait for that opportunity.

For Central Coast Mariners goalkeeper Yaren Sozer, the seven year journey to the field was gone in a heartbeat, and now endures yet another comeback to the field.

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Sozer knows all about the frustration and heartache of uncertainty surrounding when opportunities come by. For his whole professional career, the 24-year-old has culminated numerous setbacks that has restricted his first grade career.

It was not until Mariners goalkeeper Mark Birighitti’s send-off in their FFA Cup match against Wollongong Wolves where a club debut fell from the heavens.

Sozer felt the waiting game grew his confidence.

“I had a sense of confidence in myself and my own ability. I know how hard I had worked for it and I know I waited a long time for that opportunity,” Sozer said.

“It was just a matter of going out there and proving to myself and everyone else I could do it.”

Unfortunately Sozer’s fairytale ended at page one. A week on and a ruptured quadricep 15 minutes into in his A-League Men’s debut against Macarthur FC forced Sozer back to the bench.

The injury was the first major injury Sozer had suffered in eight years, and it could not have come at a worse stage in the goalkeeper’s career.

“The day before the game I felt a little niggle as do all footballers,” he admitted.

“Fifteen minutes in and I felt like I’d been shot.

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I felt a massive pop in my hip and was in excruciating pain.”

Despite the painful disappointment, Sozer believes the opportunity will come again.

“The pain I was feeling was nothing compared to the disappointment of what I was going through mentally,” the 24-year-old said.

“It hurt me more knowing how hard I had worked and the journey I went through. Going through different countries and waiting for my opportunity and it finally comes and I get struck down like that.

“I feel my previous years of experience has allowed me to grow my resilience. I’ve waited seven years for the opportunity and yes I got struck down with injury, but it will come again.”

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Sozer is a graduate from Melbourne City’s academy. Honing his skills as a 16-year-old in the 2017 A-League’s Youth competition, the dual international could not crack first grade after spending four years in a full time role.

Regardless of not making an appearance for City in the ALM, Sozer saw the absence of opportunity at a young age, instead, as beneficial towards his maturity.

“It was mentally hard those four years at Melbourne City not being given that opportunity,” he said.

“But when you are given an opportunity when you are 17 or 18 you don’t understand the value of it. I had to go through it the hard way. I was always close but it never happened.”

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In 2018, Sozer signed with Turkey’s Super League side Basaksehir F.K, joining the presence of players like Emmanuel Adebayor, Robinho, Demba Ba, Martin Skrte and Arda Turan.

Basaksehir F.K’s stacked rostered denied Sozer minutes, before being loaned to their sister club Esenler Erokpor in the Turkish third division.

Sozer moved onto the Malaysian Super League and signed with Perak FC last season, but visa registration problems sidelined him yet again.

“I trained with the club for about eight months and I wasn’t actually registered, meaning I didn’t play a single minute,” he said.

“I could have played and taken off in the [Malaysian] Super League which was frustrating.”

Setbacks aside, the emotional journey Sozer has been on remains one near impossible to grasp in writing.

Now residing on the Central Coast, Sozer believes all the heartaches and setbacks would not define him. Rather it will give him the strength and passion for the journey to play the sport he loves.

“I’ve waited this long, waiting another two or three months to get back from rehab won’t hurt,” he said.

“I just see it as a delay and only by a few months. I feel I will be back physically and mentally stronger than pre-injury because of my experiences.

“Every footballer has their different journeys and this has been my journey.

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Feature Image Credit: Robbie Szafranek

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Mitchell Roese
Mitchell Roese
Sports enthuse currently studying a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) at the University of Technology Sydney. Covering the Central Coast Mariners 2021/22 A-League Season

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