'I could never fall out of love with football' - ACL injury torment no reason to be gloomy for buoyant Brazil

Ellie Brazil GFX
Getty/Twitter:@EllieBrazil_ composite
The Brighton forward, daughter of ex-Fulham player Gary Brazil, credits her family's support for keeping her positive through the hard times

Thirteen players in the top two tiers of English women’s football have suffered anterior cruciate ligament injuries this season.

It’s an injury that is terribly common in the women’s game, with just 12 players suffering the same fate across the top two tiers of English men’s football, despite that accounting for 42 teams compared to 23 in the women’s game.

Among the unlucky 13 is Brighton’s Ellie Brazil, who was one of the season’s first victims back in November.

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However, despite speaking just a day after undergoing the latest of several surgeries needed in her recovery, Brazil is in surprisingly high spirits.

The challenge that led to her injury was one that earned Brighton a penalty after just 15 minutes, leading to the first goal in a massive 3-0 win.

“My assist of the season!” the 21-year-old laughs to Goal. “My family have been great. The whole thing that I love about them is that I think they were just as gutted as me.

“It was really nice, he won’t say the same, but my grandad was in the crowd when I did it.

“When I got to him, I was on crutches, and he was like, ‘It’s alright, you’ll be running next week!’

“It was just one of those things where you just needed that, someone who was going to make you laugh and get you through it, and I definitely have that in my family.”

Family has been a central theme in Brazil’s footballing journey so far.

After all, her father, Gary, played over 600 senior games in the 1980s and 1990s, turning out for the likes of Sheffield United, Newcastle United and Fulham, among others.

He would move into coaching after his daughter was born, working as Sam Allardyce’s assistant at Notts County before going to Nottingham Forest, so it was her mother's job to drive the next footballer in the family to training and games.

And when the news broke of an ACL rupture, she was straight down to Brighton, looking after her daughter for the first three weeks of her recovery.

“[My dad has] obviously been my biggest influence when it comes to football,” Brazil says.

“He was really successful, which motivated me, but without my mum, I wouldn’t have got as far as I have. Not a chance.”

Ellie Brazil Brighton 2019

With Brazil’s older brother, Jack, also a football coach, there’s a natural passion for the game throughout the family, but that’s not to say she walked a natural path into the sport.

An avid tennis player and a successful runner in her youth, Brazil laughs as she recalls her first involvement with England: “I’ve never felt so out of my league in all of my life!

“I remember my dad being there and he was proud as punch even though we both knew I was absolutely dreadful. I was probably the worst player on the pitch!

“But we both sat there like, if I’m here at 15, I can do this.

“[England] give you that little taste and then go, this is where you could be, this is what you could do, and now it’s all up to you to get yourself there.”

Soon enough, Brazil was part of a stellar England Under-17 team, which included players such as Man City duo Ellie Roebuck and Georgia Stanway. At the U17 Euros in 2016, they made history by winning a bronze medal in a moment that drove her father to tears.

As a result, she also went to the U17 World Cup later that year, something that no-one in her family was going to miss.

“My nan flew all the way to Jordan, bless her heart,” she says.

“She was there in her England t-shirt in the crowd and when I scored [in England’s opening group game], I just saw her and my mum crying their eyes out.

“You go through psychological blocks where, if [football] starts to become more like work, it can be really hard. Then, you think of these memories. Like now, I’m just sat reminiscing about them… I could never fall out of love with the game.”

There have, of course, been lows to go with the highs. After breaking through at Birmingham, for whom she started an FA Women’s Cup final at Wembley aged 17, Brazil tried a new experience in Italy with Fiorentina.

However, she found the style of football wasn’t for her and after a year away from home at just 18 years old – a year in which she spent many weeks eating just plain pasta – she would return to England.

“I’ll never regret the decision because if I didn’t go to Florence, I wouldn’t be at Brighton,” she says.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved every team I’ve been in, but Brighton, as a whole, the players and the management, is the best team that I’ve been at.

“I think everything happens for a reason, in that sense.”

Ellie Brazil England U15 2015

It says a lot about Brazil’s character that, even in the middle of the long, arduous road to recovery she finds herself in, she can’t help but be positive.

“It was really frustrating because the pre-season of this season, I’ve been playing at probably the best [level] I’ve played,” she says.

“If I was playing like I was last year, just mediocre, it wouldn’t have hit me as hard.

“But I got back into this mindset where I was loving it, loving going to work, I was in such a good mood. I’ve tried to stay in the same head space."

For a player who went from ‘dreadful’ to a bronze medallist with England in two years, the excitement is in seeing what sort of player Brazil comes back as after the biggest of set-backs, in which she has adopted the most positive of mentalities.