Emma Coolen - CF Benfica

That time the Benfica team doctor nearly cut my ear in half

Okay, I understand that this title may sound a lot like clickbait, but trust me. I couldn’t have made this crazy story up. Let’s go back in time a bit.

Off to Benfica

In May of 2015, I got to play an international tournament in Portugal with FC Eindhoven, the club I was playing for at the time. The other participants were the organizing CF Benfica (not to be confused with big brother SL Benfica), the Spanish Zaragoza CFF, and the most well-known name, the Atlético Madrid women’s team. In many ways, it became a weekend to never forget. Playing my first international match, visiting the mayor of Lisbon in our tracksuits, and that one time a teammate had convinced me she had run into that attractive Madrid player in the restroom and had told her I had the biggest crush on her: all of these are stories I think back to with a large smile on my face. But the event that probably made the biggest impression on me happened during the half time break of our match against Benfica.

‘You no play!’

When we were in Portugal, I’d had a helix-piercing (you know, one of those rings in the top part of your ear) for quite some time. Definitely not ideal for playing soccer, but in Holland a small piece of white tape was usually  enough to convince referees that it would not lead to dangerous situations during the match. In Lisbon, things were just a little bit different. Right before the match against Benfica a teammate told me that the referee ordered her to remove her similar piercing, or she wouldn’t be allowed to play.

The aforementioned referee was a strict Portuguese woman, not taller than 5 feet, with a ponytail so tight it appeared to pull all the wrinkles from her face. At first I was willing to take the bet, with my piece of tape, since I was going to start on the bench anyway. But after 45 minutes I started fearing that possible playing time could be stopped by this woman because of a piece of iron in my ear, and that just wasn’t worth it. Reluctantly, I made my way to the referee, at the beginning of half time, and asked the question I already knew the answer to. ‘No.’ she stated firmly. ‘With that, you no play.’ I surpressed the sudden need to burst out in tears, and immediately knew what needed to be done. That thing had to come out.

In search of pliers

FC Eindhoven - CF Benfica‘Pliers! Does anyone around here have pliers?’ While the 22 players that had just played a half made their way into the dressing rooms, I was running around in the hallways of the little stadium, looking for our team doctor. ‘Pliers!’ When I had finally found him, he shook his head. He didn’t have pliers. And since the ring had been in my ear for over two years and my hands were gushing with sweat, there was no way I was going to be able to remove it myself.

At that exact moment, a man walked by. He was in his late fifties, with a tan and wrinkled skin from a few too many years in the Portuguese sun without sunscreen, and he was wearing a white shirt with a large red cross on the front. Bingo. ‘Err, excuse me?’ I hesitantly tapped on his shoulder. ‘I need this,’ I pointed at my ear, ‘out!’. He appeared to understand me right away. ‘Yes, yes. Sit here!’ I sat on the bench he had pointed at and waited, while he hurried into a room a little further along the hallway. When he came back, he hadn’t only brought huge pliers, that did not look particularly sterile, but also three colleagues, all with the same large beer belly and white shoulder hair. Oh God. What had I gotten myself into?

‘There is some blood…’

Meanwhile, the second half had already started, and I just sat there. The tiny ring turned out to be screwed on more tightly than expected, and while I was sitting on the bench, head turned, I tried to keep a straight face while four Portuguese men were violently tugging on my ear. Then suddenly it happened. A final tug, a sort of clicking sound, and an immediate throbbing feeling in my ear. I barely dared to turn my head. ‘Hmm, yes…’ The first doctor said, with a strong southern European dialect. ‘There is some blood…’

In the end, all ended well. After ten minutes of icing my ear, the bleeding stopped, and I never got tempted to put piercings in places that might pose problems when playing soccer. And the game? We won, but I didn’t even get to play. Oh well. A good story is also worth something, right? 😉

Thanks for reading, talk soon! 🙂

Emma - Signature