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I suffered the Premier League’s worst-ever injury… 16 years later I want to play in the FOURTEENTH tier of England

A FRAMED pair of battered football boots hang on the wall of ex-Arsenal striker Eduardo Da Silva’s Brazil home.

They are a grizzly reminder of the day his life changed forever.

Eduardo Da Silva is coming out of retirement to play in England's 14th tier with Gillingham

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Eduardo Da Silva is coming out of retirement to play in England’s 14th tier with GillinghamCredit: X formerly Twitter / @ClubGillingham
The former Arsenal star suffered one of the worst injuries in history against Birmingham

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The former Arsenal star suffered one of the worst injuries in history against BirminghamCredit: Action Images – Reuters

It was February 23, 2008 — less than 48 hours before his 25th birthday — when Birmingham defender Martin Taylor’s “brutal” tackle left him with a hideous double broken leg and open dislocation of his left ankle.

With the 16th anniversary of that ghastly injury looming, the 40-year-old former Croatia international is now planning to come out of retirement and sign for an English grassroots club — in the Kent County League Third Division!

Eduardo has never watched any video of the St Andrew’s horror and is even considering asking tech giants to remove all gruesome images of it from the internet.

But the boots he wore that day are now motivating his talented 12-year-old son Matheus’ dream of following in his footsteps and playing for the Gunners.

Sat in his plush Knightsbridge hotel, Eduardo said: “Because of the humidity in Brazil, the boots are falling apart. But I couldn’t throw them away.

“Although they have tragic memories they also have good ones, so they are framed alongside an Arsenal shirt and my individual awards in a memorabilia area at home.

“After a year’s rehab I wore those boots again in my comeback game — against Cardiff in the FA Cup — and scored two goals.”

They still carried a ripped scar but were his favourite footwear and, amazingly, were back in his dressing room locker when he returned to the Emirates.

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However, Nike banned him from wearing them again.

Eduardo explained: “I had a warning from Nike because, by then, they were outdated and I had to wear the latest boots. So I only wore them again for that game.”

His body also still carries the scars from that tackle.

The metal plate inserted in his fibula and the five pins in his ankle during an emergency operation at Birmingham’s Selly Oak Hospital remain even though doctors have told him he can have them removed.

He recalled: “It was a brutal tackle. I cleared the ball and my standing foot was planted on the ground, supporting my body.

“That’s when the impact came. I fell to the ground and when I looked at my foot it was pointing sideways.

“I realised it was bad.  I panicked, I was scared, as anyone would be when seeing your foot at a horrible angle.”

“I have never watched a replay of the tackle and don’t want to.”

Eduardo

His Arsenal team-mates were distraught at the sight of bone protruding from his sock as head physio Gary Lewin and his medics rushed to his aid.

And he added: “I felt a burning pain. But Gary gave me morphine to kill it. From then on I don’t remember too much.

“I do believe the foul was deliberate and the outcome could have been avoided. But only Taylor knows.”

Taylor did email Arsenal, welcoming Eduardo back on his return against Cardiff, while the stricken striker was also told the defender had visited him while he was in surgery.

But Eduardo insists he has never received an apology from the player or from Birmingham.

Eduardo suffered a double broken leg and open dislocation of his left ankle.

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Eduardo suffered a double broken leg and open dislocation of his left ankle.Credit: PA:Press Association
It took Eduardo 18 months to fully recover after two surgeries

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It took Eduardo 18 months to fully recover after two surgeriesCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd

However, he believes he was fortunate, despite trauma surgeon Dr Khalid Baloch’s initial fears he might have to amputate the leg, describing the injury as “the most serious I have ever seen”.

Eduardo continued: “The surgeon had treated war victims and specialised in the injury I had, so I was lucky.

“He performed two emergency operations, one to fix the break and the other to straighten my foot.

“When I woke up he told me, ‘You will play again’, so after that I was never worried about my career.

“My leg’s stronger now. But when I returned I found it difficult to get my form back, because I suffered a lot of muscular injuries. I would feel my hamstrings, back muscles and it took 18 months to get back to my best.

“But even then it had a negative impact on my career. Because the injury looked bad, people thought something must still be wrong, like when you buy a car that has been repaired after a crash.

“If I missed a chance, or a challenge, people would say, ‘Oh, he’s not the same any more’. There was always that question mark from everyone else.

“Just like a damaged car, you don’t know if it’s going to break or not.

“When I returned I wasn’t getting enough minutes at Arsenal.

“I love the club and maybe I could’ve had a longer career there but I was 26 and had to look at what was best for me long term.”

He completed a £6million transfer to Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk in 2010 — after scoring 20 goals in 67 Arsenal games.

His favourite Gunners strike was his audacious volley with the outside of his left foot which screamed into the top corner against Burnley to leave TV commentator Peter Drury drooling: “How dare you be that good!”

Eduardo scored 20 goals during his time at Arsenal

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Eduardo scored 20 goals during his time at ArsenalCredit: Getty
Eduardo made 67 apperances before joining Shakhtar

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Eduardo made 67 apperances before joining ShakhtarCredit: Getty

However, Eduardo was one of three Arsenal stars who all suffered horrific injuries in the space of four years.

Abou Diaby’s shattered ankle in 2006 wrecked his career but Aaron Ramsey and Eduardo recovered, with the latter playing on for another ten years, scoring 29 goals in 64 appearances for Croatia.

He revealed: “I have never watched a replay of the tackle and don’t want to.”

His son has confided in his mother, Eduardo’s wife Andrea, that he has seen it, but cannot bring himself to discuss it with his dad.

Brazilian-born Eduardo added: “Maybe the boots and video motivate him to overcome all obstacles he’ll face in becoming a professional footballer.

“Some of my friends have asked me if I want Google and YouTube to remove the images from the internet in Brazil.

“I do believe the foul was deliberate and the outcome could have been avoided. But only Taylor knows.”

Eduardo

“A lot of people back home don’t remember me playing for Arsenal or Croatia, they look at me and say, ‘That’s the player who had the horrible injury’. It’s left that mark.

“At the time I didn’t think much about it but now I might ask the companies to remove the videos.

“My son has seen them but hasn’t spoken to me, maybe it’s uncomfortable for him.

“Matheus is crazy about football. Some people think he’s playing for Flamengo because I’m his dad, but he’s there on merit.”

Eduardo was born in the Brazilian city of Rio and once he started playing it did not take long for him to be discovered.

A scout spotted him at an unregistered club in his community and, at 16, he moved to Europe and signed for Croatian giants Dinamo Zagreb — and later took up citizenship.

Eduardo still has the boots he wore when he suffered his horror injury

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Eduardo still has the boots he wore when he suffered his horror injury
Eduardo's song is lighting up Flamengo's academy

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Eduardo’s song is lighting up Flamengo’s academy

Eduardo now runs a football agency in Rio and is also Croatia’s honorary consulate, following a near six-year legal fight with his former agent and ex-Dinamo president Zdravko Mamic over unpaid monies.

And he was stunned when Interpol officers contacted him over documents they had unearthed containing his forged signature.

Mamic, considered the most powerful football figure in Croatia, was subsequently arrested and, along with his coach brother Zoran, accused of embezzling £13.5m from Dinamo as part of a state investigation into alleged bribery and corruption.

He was sentenced to 6½ years in prison for corruption but, on the eve of the verdict, fled across the border into Bosnia.

Eduardo enjoys friendly games with his son on the mini pitch in their back garden and turns out for a veterans team, winning a Futsal tournament in Croatia after Christmas — cheered on by Real Madrid star Luka Modric.

But now Eduardo is planning on signing for Kent amateur team Gillingham Town.

He is already an ambassador for Town, having invested “a small” amount of his own money into the club.

He is good friends with player-director, Brazilian Alex Bernardes, who he met when first joining the Gunners.

Eduardo revealed: “I love everything England has given me and I always wanted to support a grassroots club because of my background.”

His father abandoned him when he was only a year old.

So it was left to mum Joelma and his grandmother to raise him in a crime-ridden Rio favela, where he honed his craft.

Eduardo, now contemplating moving to England, said: “I am a living example of the importance of grassroots football.

“My son is at Flamengo’s academy but I didn’t play for a big club in Brazil.

“In every community there are hidden gems like me and that’s why I was delighted to become ambassador for Gillingham Town and help them recruit sponsors.”

The Kent minnows are planning a charity match later this year, while Eduardo regularly talks tactics with club coaches who he trusts to take Town forward.

He revealed: “We’ve even discussed registering me to play in the league.

“I want to play because even though I am retired I still play football with my friends in Brazil.”

The fact he can is down to the brilliance of his Selly Oak surgeon.

And Eduardo harbours no malice towards Taylor.

He said: “No, this is something that can happen in football, I was just very unlucky.

“Since then there have been other horrific injuries.

“But this is part of the job, it can happen to anyone and I will never hold any anger or grudge towards any player because that is not my character.”

The boots on his wall are a testament to that.

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