It took a man flirting with death for footy to show us some humanity

2012-03-24 00:00

“FOOTBALL is not a matter of life and death … it’s more important than that.” Former Liverpool boss Bill Shankly’s take on the beautiful game is one of the most well documented quotes in the sport’s history. Why? Because it resonates with every player, coach and fan to ever passionately follow a football team.

But Shankly’s quote did not apply this week, as the universal footballing community united in their devastation at Fabrice Muamba’s cardiac arrest. As encouraging as it has been to see fans and players from all across the globe lending their support to a recovering Muamba, it is a shame that it took a near death experience for a glimpse of humanity to be seen again in the game that we all love so much.

Week after week we see and hear stories of racism in the game. We see professionals behaving like thugs when reacting to a ref’s decision. We see childish fights in the tunnel and we see sportsmen pretending to be injured when they’ve never felt fitter. And then somebody has a heart attack on the field and everything is put into perspective.

From Gary Cahill at Chelsea to Carlos Tevez at City — football’s superstars have shown their humane side over the last week and it has been so refreshing to see, especially in a season where the likes of Terry, Evra and Suarez have all made headlines for the wrong reasons.

Former Gunners legend Thierry Henry even made the flight from the States just to pop in and wish Muamba well.

We have been given a million reasons to despise footballers in recent times and with the likes of Mario Balotelli running around causing chaos, the reasons are likely to keep piling up.

But if this week has taught us anything it is that footy players aren’t bad guys. They are simply professionals who take Shankly’s aggressive stance to heart, and they are criticised for some of the methods they use in pursuing victory.

Hopefully when players resume Premier League duty this weekend, we will see less rolling around the pitch in “agony” and more appreciation for the gift of being healthy and able to play ball at a professional level.

One thing is for sure: you wouldn’t want to be the side playing Bolton this weekend. And unfortunately for Blackburn, today’s game is at the Reebok where fans and players will demand victory in Muamba’s name. It’s all getting very interesting down the bottom of the log. Blackburn and QPR seem to have stumbled across something of a revival, while the likes of Wolves and Wigan look dead and buried and will need something special to stay up. It doesn’t happen often, but all eyes will be at The Reebok this weekend. Muamba’s tragedy has taught us all a little something. Let’s hope it isn’t easily forgotten.

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