“I want to show that I’m back”
Philipp Mwene: returns to training after undergoing a knee operation – his goal: become a first-team regular
Last fall, Philipp Mwene was on the way to establishing himself within Mainz’s first-team squad. Mwene joined Mainz from 1. FC Kaiserslautern and was intended to play as a right-back, but instead impressed as a central midfielder before being sidelined by a chronic knee injury in November. In Grassau, the 25-year-old is looking to return to team training after an operation. “I’m not fixated on a specific date but I do want to be fully fit again in order to fully take part again,” he said.
Mwene got off to a good start at his new club. He made his Bundesliga debut in Nürnberg, coming on to play 10 minutes. He was on the bench for two matches before delivering strong performances in the following four matches as well as against Augsburg in the DFB-Pokal, making his last appearance during an away win against Freiburg. That marked the end of his season, as his knee issues returned. “The week after Augsburg I also took a hit on it. After that it just kept getting worse and worse,” Mwene said.
Ossification of the patella tendon
“During training camp in the winter I was pretty well fit again and trained for two and a half weeks with the team. Then the pain came back. That was hard to take. I tried everything to make it work. You think that you’re fit but then you can’t do anything. Mentally, that was hard to take,” said the Vienna native.
He found out later that there was no way to push through. An ossification on his patellar tendon was repeatedly rubbing over the bone, causing it to be constantly irritated. As a result, Mwene had to undergo a knee operation in March this year. “They smoothed out the bone and took out some hardened pieces of tendon,” the player explained. “According to the doctor, it wasn’t that complicated of an operation since they didn’t have to go too deep into the knee. But, anything to do with tendons tends to take a while, since they are slow to heal.”
In the meantime, the 25-year-old has gotten the okay to take part in individual training in Grassau with rehabilitation coach Axel Busenkell. “I’m happy to finally be allowed back onto the pitch,” he said. “I spent a long time working hard on my rehabilitation. I feel like I’m on the path back and definitely feel better than I did before the operation. That proves that it was the right decision. After all, it was a foreign body that didn’t belong there. Now it’s about building up my fitness levels, getting back into the rhythm of things and getting that stability back.”
Using the experience as motivation
Mwene tells his story in a matter-of-fact tone and has accepted it. However, at the same time it was a hard time for the young player, who came to Mainz with plenty of ambition. According to him, he is happy to have been allowed to travel with the team in order to clear his head and get to be with his teammates. He still has one appointment left with his Swiss doctor before he can hopefully make his return to team training.
“I think that’s a semi-realistic goal,” he said. “I want to show the coaches that I’m back, that I have something to offer and want to play as much as possible. The goal that I have is to become a first-team regular. What I was able to show during the first half of last season was just the beginning. I’m certain that I’ll be able to get back to that level once again. Having had the experience and the knowledge of being close to achieving that once before has definitely helped me. I will try to use that to strengthen myself and to use it as motivation,” he said.