Tim Leibold: "It was just the joy that prevailed".
The vice-captain celebrated his competitive comeback in Braunschweig after a break of almost nine months. In an interview with HSV.de, the 28-year-old talks about his journey and his ambitions for the future.
The comeback in a competitive match in Braunschweig (17 July, 2:0) almost didn't happen. Although Tim Leibold was ready for his substitution on the sidelines well before the end of injury time, the game was not stopped and then the fourth official missed a possible substitution window for a throw-in by the hosts. Around 60 seconds before the final whistle, however, the time had come: Tim Leibold stepped onto the pitch at Eintracht Stadium and celebrated his hard-earned comeback 264 days after tearing his cruciate ligament. "I didn't think too much about it before my substitution, in principle it was just the joy of finally being back on the pitch in a competitive match that prevailed," explained the protagonist with regard to the moment of his return.
Review: Around 460 kilometres away from Braunschweig, in Nuremberg, "Leibe" suffered the most serious injury of his professional career to date on 26 October 2021. At his old stomping ground of all places (he played for the "club" from 2015 to 2019), the left-back had to be taken off the field on a stretcher, and the subsequent MRI examinations confirmed the worst fears. A long rehabilitation process began, but the left-back accepted it just as it suits his nature: with a smile on his face and a lot of positive energy. The vice-captain, who is highly respected in the team, did not let it get him down and fought his way back onto the pitch together with many helping hands. "My girlfriend also had to put up with one or two bad moods from me, so she certainly deserves the most respect. But the physiotherapists and Sebastian Capel also played a big role. The healthy mixture of meticulous work and light-hearted jokes was ideal for me. Of course, the phone calls with the family and the conversations with Sonny [Kittel, editor's note] and Stephan [Ambrosius, editor's note] also helped a lot. Especially in the beginning, when I had a lot of questions, they took away my fear."
As early as February, the 28-year-old did his first running laps in the Volkspark together with rehab coach Capel, and before the end of the last season he rejoined team training. The next milestone followed on 29 June, when he earned his first playing minutes in the test match against Hajduk Split (2:2) and showed that he has not forgotten anything about the ball and tackling. At the team evening afterwards, an emotional speech by HSV physiotherapist Christian Tambach finally rounded off the rehab process. "I must honestly admit that this feeling of "being there" was already there again at the end of last season because I was back with the team then. The moment when Christian gave the speech was nevertheless moving, that's why I had a bit of wee-wee in my eyes. That was really nice for me and also for Stephan, who also celebrated his comeback that day."
So it was already clear at that point: Leibe is back - and the substitution in Braunschweig underpins this assumption. A potential exceptional player of the 2nd Bundesliga is thus fully available again, in the coming weeks and months the experienced left-footer (145 second division games) can and wants to play a very important role in the HSV construct. "The remaining grains will now come over the games. But I am on a really good path and would like to be back on the pitch continuously, because that was always my own aspiration in my professional career. I am also aware that I have to be patient. The fact is that the almost non-existent substitution in Braunschweig was only the beginning.