Nico Pasquotti’s 2020 season did not go nearly to plan.
Perhaps it should’ve been a hint when, in Cavalry FC’s first match of The Island Games, Pasquotti had the first of his patented long-distance throw-ins whistled down by the referee for a foul throw. Tongue in cheek, the Lethbridge, Alberta native joked that it was all downhill from there.
“I think it was pre-determined that I was going to get that first one,” he quipped, chatting with CanPL.ca. “Because I looked to the side official that was standing directly beside me when I threw it, and I asked him, ‘What did I do wrong?’ and he gave me the answer, ‘I’m not too sure.'”
He added: “It’s whatever, but if you watch back other people’s throw-ins, there was a lot worse than mine. [Laughs] There were some horrific throws that don’t get called. I think it’s just the fact that mine goes further than everyone else’s that it just gets a little bit more attention.”
As small a thing as that was not, sadly, the low point of the season for Cavalry’s right winger, though. That would be on September 9, in a group stage match against Pacific FC. Midway through the first half, Pasquotti got tangled up with Pacific midfielder Matthew Baldisimo, and his right foot caught in the turf, sending a pain up into his knee.
“I knew something was wrong, but I’ve never had this type of injury before, so I didn’t know how serious it was,” Pasquotti recalled. “I think in my head I was telling myself at the time, it wasn’t serious, it’s fine, you’re ok, it’s just a knock. Get up, run around, it’s like everything I’ve always done before.”
After a brief attempt at returning, Pasquotti had to leave the game. A doctor’s examination at halftime suggested the damage wasn’t too bad, but a second opinion the next day figured otherwise. An MRI was the next step, and Pasquotti missed the rest of Cavalry’s campaign.
It wasn’t until the club was leaving the PEI bubble — they were literally in the airport waiting to fly home — that Pasquotti received the bad news: His right ACL was torn, and would require serious reconstructive surgery.
“Any athlete that gets told they’ve got to go have major reconstruction surgery, they never want to hear that,” Pasquotti said. “So it was hard, I’m not gonna lie. The first few days afterwards were rough.”
Since then, he admitted that he’s watched back the footage of his injury quite a few times, despite its gruesome nature. According to him, it’s helped him come to terms with what happened.
“I’ve had to, man, I wanted to know exactly why it happened,” he said, adding that he’s come to the conclusion that, had the incident happened on the grass pitch at Spruce Meadows, he might’ve been fine.
“My studs would’ve ripped the grass and I would’ve done a kind of splits, or my foot would’ve dug out a piece of grass and away we go,” Pasquotti suggested.
So, 2020 strikes again. Pasquotti had the surgery on October 15 — thirteen hours at the hospital, all told. Now, the challenge will be rehabilitation; he’s working with a physiotherapist five days a week at home in Lethbridge, and he’s got plenty of other work to do on his own to prepare for an eventual return to the pitch.
It’s been difficult, though; Pasquotti isn’t afraid to admit that.
“As much as I don’t want to feel bad for myself or anything like that, which I don’t, I think you’ve got to take those times to say, you know what? This sucks,” Pasquotti said. “This sucks, and just live with that being the reality, and pick yourself back up, and go, I’m gonna come back from this. I’m not gonna let this end my career, I’m not gonna let this slow me down.”
Having the support of friends, family, teammates, and fans — including those from other CPL clubs across the country — has been extremely helpful in that regard. When he broke the news online of his injury, messages of support poured in from across Canada, which certainly didn’t go unappreciated.
Pasquotti also pointed out that, closer to home, he’s had help from his brother, who actually tore his ACL a few years ago while with the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program. Plus, he’s been speaking frequently to Cavalry teammate Oliver Minatel, who broke his leg just a few days before Pasquotti’s injury in PEI. Although their injuries are different (and although Minatel is back in his hometown in Brazil right now), they’ve been able to lean on each other during the arduous process of long-term recovery.
“I guess in a way we have different but similar injuries, but I’ve talked to him quite a few times,” he said. “We get along pretty well so it makes it a little bit easier too.”
At the end of the day, the support system is vital to someone going through any kind of challenge, and Pasquotti indicated that above all, he’s incredibly grateful for everything.
“It’s not an easy injury to overcome. People see that and they know, you know what, support is what you need,” he explained. “You need people to support you and get your mental state well so when the days are not so good, when you’re not seeing any progress in your rehab, that there’s gonna be better days, it’s gonna get better. I think that’s huge.”
There’s a long road ahead to Pasquotti’s return to the football pitch — the timeline is still counted in months rather than weeks — but that light at the end of the tunnel is exciting.
“I’ll be back,” Pasquotti concluded. “Don’t worry.”