This week the world of football, for once, was left United. Reeling, but United. Unfortunately though it took the worst of situations to bring us all together.
Very few of you would have failed to have heard about Fabrice Muamba.
In Saturday’s FA Cup quarter final between Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers the game was abandoned at 1-1 when the Trotters midfielder Muamba collapsed just before half time. We now know that the England Under-21 international suffered a cardiac arrest and remains in hospital. His condition is much improved, but at the time anyone watching or playing in the game was met with a terrible mix of fear and confusion. We didn’t know what was happening but something was seriously, seriously wrong.
Football gets a bad rap. Its fans are known for being violent and abusive towards one another. It’s players are known for being overpaid and unethical. And the governing body is accused of being corrupt and unjust. Or so the papers would have you believe. But this tragic incident started a chain reaction of events which actually put football and football players in the papers for all the right reasons. And it started at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
36,000 fans were passionately cheering on their respective teams, hoping for progression to Wembley and an FA Cup semi final. Yet any rivalry that existed between players and fans was ceased immediately. Fans of both teams respectfully stood in silence as Muamba received crucial medical attention from club doctors of both teams, paramedics and one Spurs supporter who happened to be a Cardiologist.
The medical staff themselves have received universal praise for their efforts. Had they not have acted so quickly then Muamba would in all likelihood no longer be with us. The fans only broke their silence to applaud and chant ‘FABRICE MUAMBA’ as he was stretchered off the pitch. And the support that Fabrice has received since has been nothing short of sensational.
Even the most casual viewer of Sky Sports News would have seen the who’s who of supposed ‘opposition’ who went to London Chest Hospital to lend whatever support they could to the fallen midfielder. Ashley Cole, Jermain Defoe, Michael Essien, Didier Drogba, Johan Djourou, Emmanuel Adebayor. The list goes on and on.
Those who couldn’t be there in person took to social network sites such as Twitter to voice their support and rally others into doing so (#PRAYFORMUAMBA was trending worldwide on Saturday evening). Robin Van Persie, Tom Huddlestone, Jack Wilshire, Rio Ferdinand and many, many others tweeted.
This support has come from all over the world. Real Madrid players donned training tops bearing Fabrice Muamba’s name for their Sunday evening game against Malaga. In credit to Real Madrid it should also be pointed out that many of their players also showed support to Eric Abidal, the left back of their fiercest rivals Barcelona who will soon undergo a liver transplant.
The support has also been felt at Bolton’s Reebok stadium. Messages of support left in the form of scarves and shirts from local rivals like Liverpool and Manchester United and from as far afield as Bayern Munich litter the entrance to the ground. The Sunderland squad were also at the Reebok earlier in the week to add their own shirt to the aforementioned sea of memorabilia outside.
Bolton were meant to play at home on Tuesday of this week. Fortunately common sense prevailed and the FA allowed the game to be postponed. Bolton were understandably not in the right frame of mind to compete. Swift, logical action by the FA. No complaints either from Alex Mcleish or his Aston Villa team who had been due to play Bolton in the mid week fixture, regardless of the fact that Villa would have been preparing diligently all week for what would have been a crucial game in this seasons relegation dog fight.
They were happy to miss out this time, with football put into perspective, some things are just more important. A sentiment echoed by Blackburn manager Steve Kean who gave his unreserved support to his side's game against Bolton on Saturday being postponed, if the Bolton squad had seen fit to call the game off (it is now going ahead).
Football finally shows itself in the right light. Like we all knew it was capable of. But, unfortunately, the only person who didn’t come out of this week unscathed is the person who mattered the most, Fabrice. As of this publication, Fabrice Muamba is still in hospital, hopefully on the mend. He is responsive, joking with friends, family and team-mates. This despite doctors claiming that he was essentially dead for 78 minutes. Light at the end of the incredibly dark tunnel that was this week.
Whilst reading news stories about football’s diving, hooliganism, corruption, bankruptcy and allegations of racism it’s easy to be embarrassed or ashamed of being a football fan. But this week we can hold our heads up high, proud of all of the aforementioned who are associated with the beautiful game. Thank you.