Fabrice Muamba’s collapse in a FA Cup match between Bolton Wanderers Football Club and Tottenham Football Club on March 17, 2012 made headlines around the world. The Bolton midfielder, 23 years old, had a cardiac arrest about 40 minutes into the match, crumbling in a heap.
It is not the first time a player collapsed on the pitch, as soccer fans will remember Marc Vivien Foe, Bobsan Elejiko, and Goran Tunjic, who all died while kicking football. But for every death, we can also remember footballers who survived this phenomenon like Kanu Nwankwo, Fadiga, etc. Happily, Fabric Muamba can count himself among the latter as he is presently reported to be recuperating, though still in intensive care.
My fascination with Fabrice Muamba’s issue was not the heart problem itself but the reaction it generated in England. For days, including today, I continually read and watched weird messages of support and solidarity that left me scratching my head in wonder and fascination.
For a conservative and secular country where public, explicit religious expressions are frowned upon, I was taken aback when words like “God” and “prayers” flooded the tabloids and TV. I wondered where all the strange speeches were coming from? Pray? To who?
On the other hand, there were a few folks who told stories of how Muamba is a fighter – how he fought and overcame all odds to play football in Britain as a son of a Congolese refugee, and how he smiles and always had a compliment for everybody. As days crept by, Fabrice Muamba deeds were achieving a near-legendary status as a result of his near-death experience.
Alas, there are some who think all these kinds of remarks and behaviour over a person that is not even dead is ridiculous and has gone too long. Manchester United FC fanzine Red Issue will be selling their latest issue at tonight’s game with Fulham and it spots a controversial cover that has already sent tongues wagging on Twitter. The Red Issue editor is adamant that there is nothing wrong with the front page and that its contents are aimed at people with fake sentiments. He said: “You see it more and more. Whenever celebrities become unstuck it’s a big issue while there are people being killed in Syria and Afghanistan who are not worth a mention.”
Amidst all these arguments is Fabrice Muamba, who thankfully was able to sit, eat, and watch his teammates play at a game this past weekend. Moreover, the football governing body, FIFA, is thinking of putting forward a proposal to study cardiac arrests in football players. The proposal will be put forward on the 23 and 24 of May 2012 at FIFA’s medical conference in Budapest, Hungary.
Whatever view you hold in Muamba’s case, it is clear that death or severe illness purifies, causing us to look inwards, outwards, to the past, and into the future while trying to make things right and better for ourselves and others. Of course, there are few who do rejoice at others’ misfortunes, that is until someone close them suffers a similar fate.
Photo credit: Alex Livesey/Getty Images