Originally hoping to book a place in the Polish World Cup squad, Ebi Smolarek has had a very different summer, in hospital and in front of a UEFA disciplinary committee. But after his near acquittal by UEFA, the striker can now concentrate on recovering from his recent operation. ‘It’s a mountain to climb but I’m glad I can make a start. I am very happy with the UEFA decision especially as it has been proven that I did not smoke anything.’

Smolarek is clear on what part of the UEFA ruling he attaches most importance to. The fact that it has unreservedly accepted that the player did not smoke any cannabis. ‘From the very first, that was the most important thing for me. When I was told that the cannabinol content in my sample was too high, and they also said that that had to be the result of smoking a joint, I thought, “that’s not possible, it’s impossible.” ‘But I also thought, “I can say I didn’t smoke anything a hundred times, and that I have always thought smoking was a dirty habit – people who don’t know me won’t believe it.” That was the worst thing for me. The fact that people might question my honesty. ‘With the exception of my family and friends, who believed me from the beginning. That also includes my agent Jan de Zeeuw and Feyenoord manager Jan D. Swart, who worked hard to clear my name behind the scenes, together with my lawyer Emile Vrijman. ‘Ultimately it has been proven that the increased percentage is due to the health food products I eat, which are freely available. I never saw any harm in them, but that just goes to show. Perhaps there’s a lesson for everyone. Smolarek can now get down to getting back to full fitness after recent surgery. ‘It’ll be at least six months before I recover. It’s a mountain to climb but I’m glad I can make a start. My whole day revolves around that knee. I want to get back on the pitch as quickly as possible, because I now realise how important football is for me. ‘I have tried to get as much information as I can. From Brian Pinas and Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who have had the same operation. It’s not good to come back too soon, they said. You cannot speed up the process. Impatience will just extend your layoff, look at Michael Mols, they said. He started too soon. On the other hand I am an optimist. I might have an advantage in that my cartilage wasn’t damaged and neither was the meniscus. That why I’m assuming six months at the moment. We’ll see how it pans out.

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