Throughout the time Dorcas Chu spoke about her injury nightmare, her smile remained unwavering – a far cry from when she first went down with a complete tear of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), as well as second-degree tears to the Posterior Cruciate and Lateral Collateral ligaments, in her left knee.

Recalling the night of the incident, the Lion City Sailors Women’s forward had no idea at the time that her outlook on not only the sport, but also her life, was about to change.

“While icing my knee after coming off injured, I had time to myself when everyone went back to focusing on the game. I prayed for my knee but the next morning, they told me I had torn my ACL. I felt angry and asked God why he could heal others but not me. I kept thinking ‘why did it have to happen to me?’” she recounted.

“But my faith was what got me through. I realised that to purify a diamond, it has to go through fire. For me, the injury, the loneliness and the hopelessness was my fire. If not for my faith, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Dorcas recounted the incident, which happened in a training match against the Sailors’ Girls Academy squad, with great clarity, as if the moment had been forever etched in her memory.

“I got injured on 29th September 2022. I remember the date because it was my mum’s birthday,” she laughed.

“When I got the ball, it was just me and their goalkeeper. I had so much time to think ‘okay, I’m going to shoot this into the right corner. I’ll definitely score this because it’s one on one.’ But the moment I was about to shoot, a defender came in from behind really quickly. My left knee hyperextended and I felt it snap.”

Able to walk off the pitch on her own, neither Dorcas nor her teammates would find out about the severity of her injury until the following morning. It was National Team physiotherapist, Nurhafizah Abu Sujad – or Fizah as she is more commonly known — who guided her through the excruciating day.

Dorcas’ hopes of a mere sprain were dashed in the instant Fizah took one glance at the struggling forward.

“She hadn’t even touched my knee when she said ‘oh dear, that’s not good,’” Dorcas recalled.

Following an examination, the physiotherapist brought Dorcas to the doctor. As the medical professionals looked more closely into Dorcas’ injury, she quickly realised that she was facing a potentially career-altering injury.

And any glimmer of hope she was desperately holding on to was ripped away later that day.

“I was at home when I got a call from Kak-Fizah. The moment I heard that she had bad news, I knew what it was. After she told me I’d torn my ACL, all I heard was the ringing in my ears. I couldn’t hear anything else she said after,” she recounted, still smiling albeit with a hint of sadness in her eyes.

“When the call ended, I went into my room and cried. I poured it all out. It was very painful to accept.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Dorcas Chu (@dorc4s)

Getting over the initial shock of the diagnosis was only the first step. What came after was a long, arduous journey of internal conflict marked by blood, sweat and a river’s worth of tears.

And it all started on 1st November 2022: Surgery Day.

Without her mother — who had to tend to Dorcas’ ill grandmother in Thailand – everything felt harder than it already was. For the first time since she began retelling the ordeal, Dorcas’ voice trembled ever so slightly.

“I only had my dad who I’m very thankful for because he really showed up for me. My sister also meal-prepped for me and everything,” she shared.

“I also have to give credit to my teammates who were there for me. They came to my house, watched TV with me and brought me food. Beatrice (Tan) and (Ho) Hui Xin often encouraged me when I looked upset.”

Going from the highs of a historic SEA Games campaign with the Singapore national women’s football team to rock-bottom was jarring for Dorcas, then 20. It made it even worse that she was forced to miss the Asian Games.

These were all moments, though, that brought Dorcas closer to the one thing she felt – at her core – mattered most.

“It was very lonely. I would have lost my hope and motivation to continue with football because my own willpower was not enough. I had to accept that I couldn’t even run and was so broken. So in these moments, I went to God and I felt He was here for me,” she shared.

It was in July 2023 that it all came to light for her. While attending a church service, a thought —one she never imagined she would have — crossed her mind and changed her life.

“I remember saying to myself, ‘I don’t care if I ever get to play football again because all I want is You.’ I was shocked because I had been so heartbroken about not being able to play football,” she recalled.

“Everyone asked what the highlight of my career is, and it was the game against Laos at the 2022 SEA Games. The bonus was that I was the MVP, so I hold that memory very dear to my heart. Then not long after, everything was stripped away. So when I told God that I didn’t care if I could play again, he was teaching me that he didn’t care about my achievements, all he wanted was my heart. I felt so loved despite feeling like I had nothing at the time. It was the healing I needed.”

Dorcas made her return to football last season when she competed in the Women’s National League (WNL) with Mattar Sailors. Having learnt to walk again, the now 22-year-old sees the game in a whole new light.

“When I was on the way to my first WNL game, I was just thinking about my entire recovery journey from the moment that I tore my ACL, to my surgery, to my first steps and finally to kicking a ball. All these memories just came to my mind. It made the moment so much sweeter, thinking about everything I’ve been through,” she recounted.

“It was not for nothing. I felt so grateful to be able to play again.”

The rehabilitation process is widely known to be just as painful, if not more so, than the surgery itself. It was no different for Dorcas, who counted on her little victories and used them to propel her towards a full recovery.

“Little victories are so important because if you don’t focus on them, you will always feel discouraged. You can’t just look at the amount of stairs you need to take. It’s one step at a time and eventually you’ll get there without even realising it,” she said.

“For me, the biggest victory every day was showing up to rehab.”

Dorcas is finally poised for her long-awaited comeback to the top flight this season as the Sailors gear up to face Tiong Bahru in their 2024 Deloitte Women’s Premier League opener this Saturday (9 March). While the title defense and favorable results remain paramount, Dorcas is focused on her pure love for a game that she can no longer take for granted.

“Today when I play football, I’m so thankful for the opportunity. Now that I know what it’s like to not be able to walk and play, I cherish every single training session,” she shared.

“I can see the diamond and how beautiful it is. I see the clarity now and the pain is behind me. I did it.”